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Archives On The Air 113: Can You Dig It? – Ernest Tidyman Papers

Cover of Shaft by Ernest Tidyman, circa 1970. Box 71, Ernest Tidyman papers.

Writer Ernest Tidyman said he was a newspaper reporter by age 14 and an alcoholic by age 15. He later adapted his own book into the 1971 film Shaft.

Isaac Hayes auditioned for the title role. Instead he was asked to write the soundtrack. The soundtrack became just as iconic as the film. Hayes became the first African American to win the Oscar for best original song. Richard Roundtree played the title detective.

The movie was a massive success. It was shot with a budget of just half a million dollars. The film grossed $13 million.

The popularity of Shaft led to the rapid growth of Blaxploitation films. These films tried to cash in on the success of Shaft with violent and exploitive revenge plotlines featuring black actors.

The Ernest Tidyman papers are available at UW's American Heritage Center. Can you dig it?