“Who is the man who will risk his neck for his brother, man? Shaft! Can you dig it?” -Isaac Hayes, “Theme from Shaft”
Actor Richard Roundtree, the iconic actor who became famous for playing private investigator “John Shaft” from the popular Shaft blaxploitation film series passed away on October 24th, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. At a time when leading Black men in American films was very rare, Richard Roundtree came through and changed the game completely playing a powerful Black action hero draped in his now iconic black leather trench coat. Keeping the streets of Harlem, New York safe from gangsters and goons was no easy job but John Shaft did it with finesse! Shaft which was directed by legendary photographer Gordon Parks debuted on June 25th, 1971. The film would shoot Richard Roundtree to instant fame and would also prove to be a hit in the box office grossing a huge $13 million dollars on a cheap $500,000 budget. The film’s popularity would also prevent MGM from filing for bankruptcy that year.
Although Richard Roundtree would go on to play in several more films in his career, Shaft would prove to be the character that set him apart from the rest. Richard Roundtree’s manager Patrick McMinn stated to Variety magazine: “Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African-American leading men in film. The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated.” Thank you so much Richard Roundtree for your contribution to not only African-American culture but to American culture, as well! Rest In Power! -xoxo <3 <3 <3