They say that death comes in threes. It happened around the time Don Knotts died. First it was him and then it was those two other cats that were well known in their day, even if I had only remotely heard of them. It just happened again. Kirby Puckett, then Mrs. Superman and then Gordon Parks.
Gordon was significant to me for more than a couple of reasons. First of all, he was a fellow Kansan. Right from Kansas City too. The first movie that he ever made, "The Learning Tree", was about his experience growing up there. The unique thing about that movie is with that, he became the first African American to direct a film for a major Hollywood studio. He would set a precedent to pave the way for the works of Spike Lee, John Singleton and the Hughes brothers. Even before that, he was the first African American photographer for Life Magazine.
Most importantly, to me anyway, was he the one responsible for bringing to the big screen one of the most significant cinematic figures of all time: Shaft. As much as I like Samuel Jackson's work, his retooling of tha man did not do nearly enough justice to the rugged coolness that Richard Roundtree made famous in 1971. The only thing the kids of today will even remember is that remake. Of course, that's the problem with today's generation is too few of them have little appreciation for the past.
Now I'm not going to lie, even I was too young to remember "Shaft" when it would have first came out in theaters. However, that's the wonderful thing about cable television is you get to relive the past in all its glory. When I first saw it, I thought it did have some of the corniest fighting I had ever seen. Then again, all the movies of that era did. There was denying though that Shaft was a bad mutha....I'm just talking about Shaft.
That movie had a HUGE impact on the Hollywood scene that would forever change its landscape. Black audiences were largely ignored until "Shaft". Gordon Parks knew that he was creating a pivotal point in the formation of the African American male archetype. Every movie with a brotha in the lead playing the hero will forever by compared in some facet to that body of work. Thank you, Mr. Parks.