Wednesday 25 October 2023

Richard Roundtree, Star of Shaft, dies at 81

Richard Roundtree, Star of Shaft, dies at 81
I was saddened to learn this morning that 70’s star Richard Roundtree had died, he was 81. In addition to playing the street-smart private eye Shaft, he was memorable in Roots, Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored, Man Friday and Clint’s film City Heat. 

Chris Koseluk of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: Richard Roundtree, the ultracool actor who helped open the door to a generation of Black filmmakers and performers with his portrayal of private eye John Shaft, “the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about,” died Tuesday. 

Roundtree died at his home in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, his manager, Patrick McMinn, told The Hollywood Reporter.

He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and had a double mastectomy. “Breast cancer is not gender specific,” he said four years later. “And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it, and it’s been quite a number of years now. I’m a survivor.”

Roundtree also portrayed the title character opposite Peter O’Toole as Robinson Crusoe in Man Friday, was featured as an army sergeant opposite Laurence Olivier as Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Korean War drama Inchon (1981), and played Burt Reynolds‘ partner in a private-eye business in City Heat (1984).

On the 1977 ground-breaking ABC miniseries Roots, Roundtree took on the pivotal role of carriage driver Sam Bennett, who falls for Leslie Uggams’ Kizzy. (He said George Hamilton apologized to him for years for the scene that required Hamilton’s character, a slave owner, to whip Bennett.) 

Roundtree once revealed that he was most proud of his work in Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored (1996) about a Black Mississippi family confronting inequality in the south. His father, who had become a Pentecostal minister, had refused to see any of his son’s movies until this one.
Dubbed the first Black action hero, Roundtree became one of the faces of the 1970s blaxploitation movement when he starred as the street-smart New York sleuth in Shaft (1971), directed by Gordon Parks. Apart from a brief turn in the 1970 comedy What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?, it marked his first big-screen appearance.

Based on a 1970 novel by Ernest Tidyman, Shaft was originally conceived to be fronted by a white actor. It was Parks who insisted on casting Roundtree, a former model, after spotting him during a cattle call.
“Gordon Parks is Shaft,” Roundtree told radio station WBUR in a 2019 interview. “The way he moved, the way he talked. He is the most sophisticated, smooth person that I have ever met. And to be in his presence and to be a part of something that he has his stamp on is magical to me.” Shaft was one of only three MGM movies in 1971 to turn a profit.

“Shaft is not a great film, but it’s very entertaining,” Vincent Canby wrote in his review for The New York Times. “Shaft is the sort of man who can drink five fingers of scotch without gagging or his eyes watering. He moves through Whitey’s world with perfect ease and aplomb but never loses his independence or his awareness of where his life is really at.
“When a friend of his — a white homosexual bartender — gives him a rather hopeful caress, Shaft is not threatened, only amused. He has no identity problems, so he can afford to be cheerful under circumstances that would send a lesser hero into the kind of personality crisis that in a movie usually ends in a gunfight, or, at the least, a barroom brawl.”

“I’ve had so many people from all over the country — and all over the world, actually — come up and say what that film meant to them back in ’71,” he said. “It’s heavy.”
Roundtree returned for Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973) and played the detective on a 1973 CBS series that lasted just seven episodes.
He was born on July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York. His father, John, worked as a garbage collector and caterer, and his mother, Kathryn, was a maid and a nurse. He attended New Rochelle High School and played for its undefeated football team.

After graduating in 1961, Roundtree headed to Southern Illinois University and landed a football scholarship as a walk-on, but he left in 1963 to pursue a modelling career. He was hired by Eunice W. Johnson to appear at the Ebony Fashion Fair and posed for print ads for Salem cigarettes and Duke hair products.
He was in a Philadelphia theatre portraying the boxer in a production of The Great White Hope when he heard about the Shaft audition. Thanks to Parks, the first film’s cultural impact went far beyond a simple crime drama premise. Shaft was one of the first big-screen Black characters to be his own man and not kowtow to anyone, no matter the skin color. Shaft‘s success was fuelled by its title tune, written and sung by Issac Hayes; he performed it at the 1972 Academy Awards ceremony and won the Oscar for best original song. Roundtree revisited his blaxploitation roots by appearing in Original Gangstas (1996), a homage to the genre that also starred Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Pam Grier.
His other features included Earthquake (1974), Escape to Athena (1979), Opposing Force (1986), Maniac Cop (1988), Seven (1995), George of the Jungle (1997), Corky Romano (2001), Brick (2005), Speed Racer (2008) and What Men Want (2019).

On television, he played private eye “Ice” McAdams on CBS’ Outlaws, the disgraced doctor Daniel Reubens on the NBC daytime soap opera Generations, a fire station commander on the WB Network’s Rescue 77, the cold-blooded Mr. Shaw on ABC’s Desperate Housewives and the cryptic Charles Deveaux on NBC’s Heroes. His small-screen résumé also included recurring roles on Soul Food, Roc, Chicago Fire, Being Mary Jane and Family Reunion.
Roundtree was married to Mary Jane Grant from 1963-73 and to Karen Michelle Ciernia from 1980-98. Survivors include his daughters, Kelli, Nicole, Tayler and Morgan, and a son, John.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to his friends and family, RIP. 

Tuesday 24 October 2023

The Passing of Roxanne Tunis

The Passing of Roxanne Tunis 

Sometimes, news reaches me a little late, and a little unexpectedly. Sadly, this was the case today when I received news that actress, dancer and model Roxanne Tunis had died back on June 23rd. She was aged 93.

Roxanne was born on April 13th, 1930 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Clint and Roxanne met during the filming of Rawhide and were in a relationship from 1959. Confirming the death, her daughter Kimber Eastwood said that her father was as sad as she was. She further said, “Our lives are forever changed.”

A daughter of Latino immigrants, Pietro Trunzo and Theresa Costa, Roxanne met Clint on the set of the television show where she worked as a stuntwoman. They fell in love immediately. But at that time, Roxanne was married to Jack Watson Scheck Jr. and Eastwood was married to Maggie Johnson.

Clint made sure that Roxanne was well cared for helped her in her career. She became a guest star in Hang 'em High in 1968. Later, she appeared in Eastwood’s directorial venture Breezy in 1973 and the action comedy Every Which Way but Loose in 1978. Roxanne also appeared in other movies such as Take her, she's mine (1963) and Blue City (1986).

Kimber was born to Roxanne and Clint on the 17th June 1964, shortly after Clint arrived in Rome to begin filming A Fistful of Dollars. In 1980 Roxanne moved to Denver, Colorado and lived a peaceful life. She dedicated her life to meditation and taught many courses on the subject.

Roxanne, to her credit, never felt the need to exploit or expose details about her relationship with Clint. It was both private and personal, and because of that she never felt the need to speak to any form of media. 

Our respect, thoughts and condolences go to all of Roxanne’s family and friends. RIP

Below: Roxanne with daughter Kimber

Monday 23 October 2023

Fairy tales in New York: Badge 373 / Coogan’s Bluff Double-Bill

Fairy tales in New York: Badge 373 / Coogan’s Bluff Double-Bill

Here’s an incredibly rare UK 60” x 40” poster teaming up Badge 373 (1973) with Coogan’s Bluff (1968). It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what year this double-bill was shown, although it was probably around 1974. Badge 373 was not a success, either at the box office or with the critics. The New York neo noir crime thriller film inspired, as was The French Connection, by the life and career of Eddie Egan, here called "Eddie Ryan". Ryan (Robert Duvall), a tough, no-nonsense, abrasive and racist Irish NYPD cop, has to turn in his badge after scuffling with a Puerto Rican suspect who then falls to his death from a rooftop, but that doesn't stop him from heading out on a one-man crusade to find out who killed his partner. Like The French Connection, the film again starred the real-life Eddie Egan, this time as Lt. Scanlon.

Badge 373 was a Paramount picture, so fell under the European CIC banner (Cinema International Corporation) which distributed both Paramount and Universal pictures. So, it probably made sense to team the film up with an Eastwood movie, if only to try and pull back some of it’s fairly poor box-office. As Coogan’s Bluff was set in New York and a crime thriller (and a Universal film) – it seemed like a perfectly logical pairing.  

In fact, this was not the only time that Badge 373 was teamed up with an Eastwood movie and perhaps reflected Paramount desperation to try and retrieve some sort of revenue on their film. It was probably around the same time that it was also doubled up with Play Misty for Me (1971) also a Universal Picture.

I’m not sure if either of these double-bill pairings ever materialised outside of the UK, but their limited showings here certainly resulted in a couple of seriously rare posters. 

My thanks to Davy Triumph.

Below: The UK Quad featuring Badge 373 with Play Misty for Me

Below: The UK Quad version of Badge 373 with Coogan's Bluff

Propstore Auction: Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction: London 2023

Propstore Auction: Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction: London 2023
On Nov 9th 2023, The Propstore in London will begin their live auction. Among an incredible selection of original items will be a few very nice pieces from some Eastwood classics. Included among the treasures are: 

Lot #109: COOGAN'S BLUFF (1968) - Walt Coogan's (Clint Eastwood) Costume. Bidding for this lot will end on Thursday, November 9th. The auction will begin at 3:00PM BST and lots are sold sequentially via live auctioneer; tune in to the live streaming broadcast on auction day to follow the pace. Note other lots in the auction may close on Friday, November 10th, Saturday, November 11th or Sunday, November 12th.
Walt Coogan's (Clint Eastwood) costume from Don Siegel's crime thriller Coogan's Bluff. Arizona deputy sheriff Coogan wore his signature suit throughout the film as he tried to apprehend fugitive James Ringerman (Don Stroud) in New York.
Custom-made by Nudie's Rodeo Tailors, this chocolate-brown suit is made from a cotton-polyester blend. The jacket has three front buttons, dual flap pockets, double vents, rear shoulder pleats, single-point front Western yokes and a three-point back yoke. Completing the ensemble are a pair of matching dress trousers with "C.E." handwritten on the inner seam. A stitched label inside the trousers features Eastwood's name and size, "35-34". A small section of the left jacket sleeve has been restitched, but overall, the suit is in very good condition.

The lot includes 14 glossy black-and-white Universal Studios publicity photos, some of which have scene notes appended to the back. Also included are six colour film posters, each featuring a different still from the film.
Estimate: £4,000 - 8,000

Lot #166: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) - Angel Eyes' (Lee Van Cleef) Hat. Bidding for this lot will end on Thursday, November 9th. The auction will begin at 3:00PM BST and lots are sold sequentially via live auctioneer; tune in to the live streaming broadcast on auction day to follow the pace. Note other lots in the auction may close on Friday, November 10th, Saturday, November 11th or Sunday, November 12th.

Angel Eyes' (Lee Van Cleef) hat from Sergio Leone's epic spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Angel Eyes (aka "The Bad") was a ruthless mercenary who wore his hat throughout the film, which is widely considered one of the greatest Westerns of all time. Angel Eyes also wears his hat on most of the posters and promotional material from the film's release.
The consignor became close friends with Van Cleef and his wife Joan during filming at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. The couple were regular visitors to the consignor's home, and Van Cleef gifted the consignor various personal items, the most prominent being this hat, which as well as appearing in the film, can be seen in relaxed personal family photographs featuring Van Cleef.
Wardrobe items from this iconic movie never usually come to market and this is the first main-character wardrobe item to do so, making it a sought-after piece of cinema history. Van Cleef was a regular in Westerns throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, appearing in classics such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, For a Few Dollars More, Death Rides a Horse, Sabata and many more.
The hat is a black Eddy Bros. bolero with a black band and brown leather sweatband, which is marked "5XXXXX", "Beaver Quality" and "Water Repellent".
The hat is accompanied by a black-and-white photograph of Van Cleef smoking a pipe, which has been inscribed by the actor with "to my friends for life, love Lee Van Cleef", as well as copies of the photographs of Van Cleef and the consignor's family featuring the hat. The hat has some wear from production use and age, including some scuffing. The band has faded over time, and some of the leather has flaked off the sweatband, which remains in a fragile condition. Dimensions: 40.5 cm x 37.5 cm x 10.5 cm (16" x 14 3/4" x 4 1/4")
Estimate: £50,000 - 100,000

Lot #281: PALE RIDER (1985) - The Preacher's (Clint Eastwood) Hero Remington Revolver, Rig and Spare Cylinder. Bidding for this lot will end on Thursday, November 9th. The auction will begin at 3:00PM BST and lots are sold sequentially via live auctioneer; tune in to the live streaming broadcast on auction day to follow the pace. Note other lots in the auction may close on Friday, November 10th, Saturday, November 11th or Sunday, November 12th.
The Preacher's (Clint Eastwood) hero Remington revolver, rig and spare cylinder from Eastwood's Western Pale Rider. The Preacher retrieved his weapons from a bank box and used them to protect a group of defenceless prospectors.
This Remington 1858 New Model Army revolver was one of six rented to the production by Stembridge Gun Rentals, to be used as The Preacher's primary firearm. It is made of steel with a wooden grip, and has been sympathetically deactivated. The hammer, trigger and cylinder all move. The revolver is accompanied by a leather rig, featuring a holster, spare bullets and a spare cylinder. The rig has "40" handwritten inside, with other faded handwriting. The spare cylinder is also deactivated. It should be noted that The Preacher changed out the cylinder on camera during the climactic gunfight, which is a rarity in film history.

The lot also includes two certificates of deactivation (one for the revolver, one for the spare cylinder), a photocopy of both certificates, and a copy of the original rental agreement, which shows the gun's serial number among those rented. Dimensions (revolver): 35 cm x 4 cm x 12.5 cm (13 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 5")
Firearm deactivated; see firearm deactivation notice in the Buyer's Guide.
Estimate: £30,000 - 60,000

My thanks to Dave Worrall. To visit the Propstore Auction site click HERE