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Richard Roundtree, “first black action film hero”, has died

Richard Roundtree, “first black action film hero”, has died
Richard Roundtree attends the premiere of "Shaft" on June 10, 2019, in New York.   -  
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Charles Sykes/Invision/AP


American actor Richard Roundtree, considered the "first black action film hero" for his 1971 role in "Shaft", died Tuesday at the age of 81.

Known for opening new doors for black actors, Richard Roundtree died with his family "after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer."

"Shaft" , in which he plays the eponymous private detective John Shaft, was immensely successful upon its release and led to several sequels and series.

More than fifty years later, Richard Roundtree still appeared on screen, notably in the series “Cherish the Day” , and the comedy “Moving On” in 2022.

“Richard's work and career served as a turning point for the first African-American male roles in cinema,” said his agent Patrick McMinn, in a statement to Variety magazine.

“Shaft” is considered a cult film and founder of “ Blaxpoitation” . This 1970s genre was sometimes praised for having upgraded the image of African Americans in the United States, while its detractors claim that it only reinforced certain stereotypes.

“I saw it as a double-edged sword,” Richard Roundtree said of “Shaft” on NPR radio in 2019.

“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 added.

“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,” the actor testified.

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