Stage and screen Richard Roundtree, who died on October 24 at age 81, starred in numerous movies and TV programs in his 60-year-plus acting career, including the films Se7en and Maniac Cop; the TV series Being Mary Jane and the 1977 TV miniseries Roots, to name just a handful.
But the smooth-voiced actor was best known as the sauve, saucy and sexy private detective John Shaft. Starring in the title role of the Gordon Parks-helmed flick, Roundtree, the “first Black action hero” threw open the door for actors of color to headline action movies and established a franchise that has delighted viewers for decades.
We’re all “talkin’ ’bout Shaft,” so here are the Shaft movies Roundtree appeared in his lifetime.
Roundtree gained international fame by portraying John Shaft, the sleek and soulful private detective known for his tough demeanor, and the film’s iconic theme song. Directed by Gordon Parks, Roundtree’s breakthrough role has become a significant part of cinematic history.
Shaft’s Big Score! (1972)
In the second installment in the original Shaft film series, Roundtree reprised his role as the enterprising detective who goes back to the streets to solve the murder of an old friend.
Shaft in Africa (1973)
Shaft heads to the motherland to break up a criminal ring smuggling immigrants into Europe and turning them into indentured servants. The movie, which was a modest success, spawned the Shaft TV series starring Roundtree.
Returning to his iconic moniker 25 years later, Roundtree is now the perceived uncle of John Shaft II (Samuel L. Jackson) and patriarch to a new legion of Shaft detectives cleaning crime from the mean streets. The late John Singleton directed, co-wrote and co-produced this film revival.
Like father, like son. John Shaft II, revealed to be the son of John Shaft (not his nephew), meets his legacy, John Shaft Jr. III (Jessie T. Usher). This cyber security expert gets help from his dad and grandpops to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death.
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