Black Action Movie hero “Shaft” star Richard Roundtree

LOS ANGELES — The iconic actor Richard Roundtree, celebrated for his groundbreaking portrayal of the suave private investigator in a series of “Shaft” movies that debuted in the early 1970s, has passed away at 81.

Richard Roundtree’s dedicated manager, Patrick McMinn, disclosed that the actor had been battling pancreatic cancer and sadly passed away in his Los Angeles residence on Tuesday.

In a previous health challenge, Richard Roundtree had confronted breast cancer in 1993 and had undergone a double mastectomy.

Richard Roundtree manager

Patrick McMinn, Richard Roundtree’s manager, mentioned that Richard’s contributions and profession marked an excellent milestone for main African-American actors. The impact he exerted on the enterprise remains immeasurable.

Hailing from New Rochelle, New York, Roundtree earned recognition as the inaugural Black action hero. He ascended to prominence as an outstanding parent inside the blaxploitation style way to his portrayal of the street-clever John Shaft, directed by Gordon Parks, in the 1971 film.

Remarkably, Richard Roundtree’s role as John Shaft marked his debut in feature films at the young age of 28, following his initial career as a model.

“Shaft,” starring Richard Roundtree, played a pivotal role in reshaping the perception of Black films in Hollywood. During that era, Black actors were often overlooked, particularly for prominent positions in movie projects. Blaxploitation films primarily catered to African-American audiences, and Richard Roundtree’s “Shaft” marked a shift in this cinematic landscape.

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Richard Roundtree’s man or woman adeptly maneuvered via a treacherous underworld of criminals inside the movie. He often added memorable one-liners, which include the iconic

“I should please that booty.”

Reflecting on his role, Richard  Roundtree characterized the movie as a conventional Saturday afternoon movement spectacle at some stage in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press.

Isaac Hayes’ iconic theme song for “Shaft,” featuring the memorable line, “You a bad mother— (Shut your mouth),” significantly contributed to embedding the original movie in the collective pop culture consciousness.

You a bad mother

The renowned singer, who sadly passed away in 2008, likened the song’s impact to “the ‘shot heard round the world.” Hayes’ single earned the prestigious Academy Award for Best Song in 1971 and garnered two Grammy Awards the subsequent year.

Shaft’s Big Score

Following the film’s triumph, Richard Roundtree reprised his role in two sequels: “Shaft’s Big Score” in 1972 and “Shaft in Africa” in 1973. That same year, he took on the role of the resourceful detective once more in the CBS television series “Shaft,” which unfortunately had a brief run of only seven episodes.

Richard Roundtree revisited his character in the 2000 “Shaft” movie, a revival featuring Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role. In this big-budget film designed for a wider audience, Richard Roundtree played the role of Jackson’s uncle. The dynamic duo returned to reprise their roles in the 2019 film, featuring Jessie T. Usher in a central role.

“Man Friday

In a heartfelt social media post, Jackson hailed Roundtree as the “prototype” and the “final master” of his craft. He paid tribute to Roundtree because of the innovative pressure at the back of the iconic legacy of “SHAFT.” Jackson’s phrases emphasized that Roundtree’s passing left a profound void in his coronary heart and, additionally, the hearts of many others.

Throughout his remarkable five-decade career, Roundtree graced the screen in several noteworthy films, such as “Earthquake,” “Man Friday” alongside Peter O’Toole, “Roots,” “Maniac Cop,” “Se7en,” and “What Men Want” featuring Taraji P. Henson. He left an indelible mark on television as well, appearing in series like “Magnum P.I.,”

“The Love Boat,” “Being Mary Jane,” and once again, “The Love Boat.”

In a testament to his enduring impact, Roundtree was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the MTV Movie & T.V. Awards 1995.

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