If my count is correct, Jeannie Bell is the eighth woman to appear on our 28 For 28 list of blaxploitation legends, and when it comes to the number of blaxploitation films she appeared in, she was among the busiest of the era.
Just to reiterate here, our list does not include the likes of Pam Grier, Fred williamson, Richard Roundtree, JIm Brown, or Superfly Ron O’Neal. We decided to focus on the names and faces seen supporting these superstars, or those who simply starred in the many lower budget hits made in the 1970s.
Jeannie Bell played several bit-part roles in blaxplotation films before getting her big chance to star in TNT Jackson, a Cleopatra Jones/Coffy clone. The big difference between TNT Jackson and the others is TNT is allegedly more skilled at kung fu, which is displayed prominently in the movie’s Hong Kong setting.
If we’re going to be honest here, TNT Jackson is probably the weakest of the super badass leading woman films of blaxploitation. The karate is kind of weak, the film is nowhere near the quality of the others, but Jeannie Bell is certainly a nice bit of eye candy, and that is probably what led to the film’s limited popularity.
Bell was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Playboy Magazine — kind of.
She was on the January 1970 cover with four other women, but her image is the only one of the four to be cut in half, as she is situated near the spine of the magazine. She is in essence split right down the middle.
No worries though. She was the centerfold in the October 1969 issue of the magazine.
She turned those appearances into acting roles quite quickly.
In 1970 she appeared in five episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies among the honeys in several of Mr. Drysdale’s schemes, one of which being the creation of a slave girl/harem auction in an effort to fleece Clampett relative Shorty from his cash.
She suddenly disappeared from acting in the late 1970s. According to some online sources, this was about the time she met mutli-millionaire, and future husband, Gary Judis.
Why We Love and Respect Her: We love her looks, and respect her attempts to be an action superstar.
Best Known For: being TNT Jackson, the other blaxploitation action heroine — the one who would put you in traction.
Blaxploitation Role Call:
Melinda (1972) as Jean: Minor role, listed around 20th in the credits order, in this film starring Calvin Lockhart, Vonetta McGee and Rosalind Cash, about a DJ the mob is trying to frame for murder. If you’ve seen Melinda, and know her role, we’d like to hear about it. Can’t recall it without watching it again.
Black Gunn (1972) as Lisa: Bell is billed 28th in the credits of this Jim Brown feature about a nightclub owner who is embattled between family and the mob.
Cleopatra Jones (1973) uncredited: The fact Bell’s appearance didn’t even earn a credit says a lot about her importance to the plot of this film about a super badass federal agent determined to put an end to dope pushers. I’ve seen this one multiple times, although it’s been several years since my last viewing, and I don’t recall her even being in it.
TNT Jackson (1974) as Diana TNT Jackson: BOOM! This remains Bell’s breakout performance, and first opportunity to play the lead in a film, after doing bit parts, and lesser roles for several years. TNT Jackson is in Hong Kong, where she is searching for her missing brother. Her brother, per usual in many blaxploitation films, was mixed up in mob business before going missing. TNT Jackson uses her karate skills to kick and chop her way to a resolution.
Three the Hard Way (1974) as Polly: Three the Hard Way was the big collaboration between Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, and JIm Brown, where they save the nation from a polluted water supply that is only toxic to the black population.
The Muthers (1976) as Kelly: This is Jeannie Bell’s second starring role in a feature-length motion picture. Kelly and Anggie are out to save Kelly’s sister from imprisonment by a coffee plantation owner. To do this, they go to jail themselves. There they meet another badass named Marcie, who is played by Trina Parks of Darktown Strutters fame.
Disco 9000 (1977) as Karen: Karen is Fass Black’s girl, and Fass Black is the man who not only owns the hottest discos in Los Angeles, but he also runs the record label whose songs his popular dance clubs play. Others are getting tired of his monopoly on the disco scene and try to squeeze in on his action.