Under all that leather, Shaft is a complicated guy Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Under all that leather, Shaft is a complicated guy
Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Give me some Scotch, man*: Richard Roundtree returns to Shaft

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Cue the immortal theme song by Isaac Hayes, and pour us a Scotch while you’re at it. Forget Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie Usher: we’re watching the new Shaft movie for Richard Roundtree, who played the badass PI in the original 1970s films.

Just in time for Father’s Day, the first black action hero is back as John Shaft I, progenitor of a crime-fighting tradition carried on by his son and grandson. (They’ve also adopted his turtlenecks and leather trench coats.) “Back in the day, we didn’t need guns,” he tells Shaft III (Usher). “All we needed was our bare knuckles.”

And a dram, apparently. “Shaft is the sort of man who can drink five fingers of Scotch without gagging or his eyes watering,” New York Times film critic Vincent Can wrote of the first movie in 1971.

Can you dig it?

Besides fighting crime onscreen that decade, Roundtree helped sell Scotch to his fellow African-Americans. He sat—tweed-jacketed and cross-legged in an armchair—for a 1970 Ballantine’s ad that appeared in Ebony magazine.

Such efforts were part of a push to draw black consumers that whiskey makers have recently revived, the Times notes. Fellas, it isn’t too late to ask Mr. Roundtree back.

 *With apologies to Shaft in Africa

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