Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree is a cultural icon always remembered for his iconic performance in the title role in the movie “Shaft” in 1971.   He was born in 1942 in New York.   He also starred  in the sequels “Shaft’s Big Score” and “Shaft in Africa”.   Other movies include “Embassy”, “Escape to Athena” with Roger Moore and David Niven, “A Game for Vultures” with Richard Harris and Joan Collins and “Brick” in 2005.

TCM overview:

This handsome black lead made his name as the smooth title character in the classic action film “Shaft” (1971), which while not exactly a blaxploitation movie itself, spawned a generation of them. Richard Roundtree subsequently starred in two sequels–“Shaft’s Big Score” (1972) and “Shaft in Africa” (1973)–as well as a CBS TV series, “Shaft” (1973-1974) before settling in as a second lead and occasional star of various projects. There were years during the 1980s when the “Shaft” stigma seemed to put an early end to Roundtree’s career, but he bounced back in the 90s with numerous films and TV shows. He was tapped to lead an ensemble cast, playing the head of a center for troubled teens in the Fox drama series “413 Hope Street” (1997).

Roundtree was a virtual unknown, having appeared only in “What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?” (1970), when he was chosen by Gordon Parks to play “Shaft”. Based on his success, he landed a variety of roles that included the manager of a daredevil motorcycle rider in “Earthquake” (1974). In 1975, he co-starred with Peter O’Toole in the title role of “Man Friday”, a retelling of the “Robinson Crusoe” story in which Friday is not “civilized,” and Crusoe commits suicide. After appearing in the disastrous “Inchon” (1982), film roles in the 80s became sporadic and Roundtree found himself generally playing law enforcement types, like the police commissioner in “Maniac Cop” (1988) and the police captain in both “Party Line” (1988) and “A Time to Die” (1991). After a supporting role in David Fincher’s “Seven” and a turn as an iceman who sparks a racial incident in Tim Reid’s “Once Upon a Time…When We Were Colored” (both 1995), he joined Bernie Casey, Fred Williamson, Pam Grier and other stars of 70s black action films in “Original Gangstas” (1996), in which the older stars–now somewhat paunchy–return for one last go-round. It put some spark into Roundtree’s feature film career, as in 1997, he co-starred in both “Steel” (as the junkyard-owning mentor to the title character) and “George of the Jungle” (as the jungle leader Kwame).

On TV, Roundtree had one of his best opportunities in the breakthrough miniseries “Roots” (ABC, 1977), playing a handsome, well-groomed carriage driver with whom Kizzy (Leslie Uggams) falls in love until she sees that when the master (George Hamilton) calls, Roundtree grovels. Roundtree also starred in the miniseries “AD” (NBC, 1985), before having another shot at a series with a supporting role in “Outlaws” (CBS, 1986-1987) as Ice McAdams. By 1990, Roundtree was out of primetime and in the cast of the short-lived multi-racial NBC daytime drama “Generations”, playing a doctor forced to live in hiding for 15 years for a murder he did not commit. He co-starred in two “Bonanza” revival movies, “The Return” (NBC, 1993), and “Under Attack” (NBC, 1995), and, during the 1995-1996 season, hosted the UPN specials “Cop Files”. Roundtree tried his hand at sitcoms in 1996, playing Dave Chappelle’s father in the short-lived “Buddies” (ABC). In 2001, Roundtree was cast in the comedy-crime feature “Corky Romano” and one year later, he toured with the play “Men Cry In The Dark

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

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