Sunday, November 13, 2011


This punchline may register more strongly for those of you who have seen the ending of 1968's Night of the Living Dead.

But speaking of classic American cinema...

Richard Roundtree as Shaft

Who's the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks?


Who's the Caucasian author and journalist who first conceived the character of John Shaft and won an NAACP Image Award for his troubles?

Ernest Tidyman, creator of Shaft

Yes, it may seem difficult to believe, but the indelible character of John Shaft was actually created by Cleveland-born novelist, reporter, and screenwriter Ernest Tidyman (1928-1984). A writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and New York Times, Tidyman also penned the scripts for The French Connection (which won him an Oscar), High Plains Drifter, and the TV movie Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. But what Tidyman is probably most famous for today is his series of Shaft novels. The first one became the basis of the famous 1971 film, but Tidyman authored numerous sequels as well. I invite you now to browse through a mini-gallery of Shaft paperback covers. While you peruse these cultural artifacts, please listen to Isaac Hayes' indelible theme, which also won an Oscar. (Tidyman himself was apparently no fan of the music and found the movie too tame and sanitized, but I'm guessing he cashed the checks anyway.)

Shaft (April 1971)

Shaft Among the Jews (June 1972)

Shaft's Big Score! (August 1972)

Shaft Has a Ball (April 1973)

Goodbye, Mr. Shaft (1973)

Shaft's Carnival of Killers (September 1974)

The Last Shaft (1975)

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