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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

First Black Action Film Hero Richard Roundtree Dies at Age 81


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Renowned American actor Richard Roundtree, often hailed as the “first black action film hero” due to his iconic role in the 1971 film “Shaft,” has passed away at the age of 81.

Richard Roundtree, celebrated for his pioneering contributions to the representation of black actors, peacefully departed after a brief struggle with pancreatic cancer, surrounded by his family.First Black Action Film Hero Richard Roundtree Dies at Age 81

“Shaft,” where Roundtree portrayed the titular character, the private detective John Shaft, achieved immense success upon its release and subsequently spawned several sequels and television adaptations.

Even over fifty years later, Richard Roundtree continued to grace the screen, making notable appearances in the series “Cherish the Day” and the 2022 comedy “Moving On.”

In a statement to Variety magazine, his agent Patrick McMinn remarked, “Richard’s work and career served as a pivotal moment for African-American male roles in the world of cinema.”

“Shaft” is widely regarded as a cult classic and a key pillar of the “Blaxploitation” genre that emerged in the 1970s. This genre received both acclaim for reshaping the perception of African Americans in the United States and criticism for perpetuating certain stereotypes.

First Black Action Film Hero Richard Roundtree Dies at Age 81Reflecting on “Shaft” during an NPR radio interview in 2019, Richard Roundtree expressed, “I saw it as a double-edged sword. But so many people, from all over the country and even across the world, have come up to me and told me what this film meant to them in 1971.”

He further noted, “The other side of the coin was that I was typecast for a while, and then I worked hard to establish a different side to the way I play.” Roundtree’s commitment to diversifying his roles is a testament to his enduring impact on the world of cinema.


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