Vonetta McGee was one of the go-to ladies during the height of the blaxploitation explosion of the early 1970s. She appeared in five films in just two years. In all but one of those films Vonetta was the love interest of the leading male character. She was a hooker in the other film.
McGee fell into that leading-man’s-girlfriend trap during her blaxploitation days, which is unfortunate. She did play the Danger-Prone-Daphne role to perfection, and when you do something so well, it’s hard to make people see you in another light. This might be one reason she did mostly television work after 1980 or so.
Vonetta McGee is too often overlooked for stars like Pam Grier or Gloria Hendry. She had acting chops and good looks to boot. She was every bit their equal.
McGee passed away in 2010
Why We Love and Respect Her: Vonetta McGee nailed her performances in blaxploitation movies, which is why she was continually brought back to work on project after project. Also, if she’s hot enough to give Blacula a bad case of rigor mortis in his shorts, then that’s good enough for us.
Best Known For: Being the main man’s girl and eventually being kidnapped.
Blaxploitation Role Call:
Melinda (1972) as Melinda: Melinda finds herself on the bad side of the mob by sticking her nose where it didn’t belong and ends up dead. Her disc jockey boyfriend, played by Calvin Lockhart, ain’t going to take this lying down. He rounds up some friends and fights back.
Blacula (1972) as Tina: Tina is Blacula’s modern-day love interest because she just happens to look like his wife back in the 1700s. He stalks her, makes her his, and then converts her. Blacula manages to do all of this while being chased down by a determined investigator who is looking into recent murders.
Hammer (1972) as Lois: Lois is the secretary of a shady boss who gets involved with BJ Hammer in a romantic way. She is kidnapped and used as leverage to get Hammer to take a dive in a fight, but Hammer has other plans.
Shaft in Africa (1973) as Aleme: Aleme is the daughter of the Emir Ramila, and is one of Shaft’s first contacts for the job he was hired to do in Africa. Shaft strikes up a casual romance with her while he is trying to stop a slavery ring in Africa.
Detroit 9000 (1973) as Roby Harris: Roby Harris is the hooker with a heart of gold. The Detroit Police Department is investigating a major robbery. Harris is questioned by an officer of DPD, and shares some valuable information with him. Her pimp finds out she squealed and she ends up dead. The robbery investigation continues after her demise.
Thomasine and Bushrod (1974) as Thomasine: Thomasine is the Bonnie to Bushrod’s Clyde. The duo are on the run and determined to stay out of jail. Their Robin-Hood-like exploits make them small-time celebrities.
Vonetta McGee dies at 65; film actress during 1970s blaxploitation era; LA Times; July 15, 2010
Vonetta McGee, Film and TV Actress, Dies at 65; NY Times; July 16, 2010
Vonetta McGee doing a promo for Black Power Films: