Why John Daniels didn’t appear in more films of the 1970s is intriguing when you see how good what little work was when he did do it. John Daniels is among just a handful of actors included in our 28 For 28 list who made a major impact in a limited number of roles.
The Candy Tangerine Man and Black Shampoo are two blaxploitation titles typically not mentioned when the genre is highlighted in a cable-news-style, quick snapshot overview as it is usually presented. That’s unfortunate, because John Daniels is brilliant in both.
In the Candy Tangerine Man Daniels is The Baron, a hard-ass pimp who spends his days playing the role of legit business man and father.
Baron is ruthless. He’s also lucky. The cops who chase him narrowly miss catching him in the act of a crime repeatedly throughout the movie, and they believe the pimp might be carrying a horseshoe up his ass to keep his lucky streak going.
The cops can try to catch him all they want, but if they know what’s good for them, they’ll just keep their distance and not get on his bad side. Nobody wants to be on the bad side of an angry pimp who drives a Rolls Royce with driver’s side switches that open up machine-gun headlights.
The Candy Tangerine Man is a perfect example of what was so great about these movies in general. it has style, originality, a blurred line separating good guys and bad guys, and marvelous slang-filled dialog.
John Daniels famously played another character who had to reconcile his seemingly dual lives in the film Black Shampoo.
In Black Shampoo Daniels plays Mr. Jonathan, the Sunset Strip’s most popular beautician. His bitches can’t get enough of his hair magic until the mob begins leaning on Mr. Jonathan and his business, forcing him to defend his livelihood.
Daniels whips gangster ass throughout both films and delivers performances that are not only tough to forget, but performances capable of enhancing the alcohol consumption experience with action and style.
Why We Love and Respect Him: John Daniels will fuck you up, then fuck your girlfriend when he’s done. In his two starring roles in blaxploitation films, John Daniels played characters who weren’t always constrained by the stereotypes common during those days. He wasn’t just a hard-ass pimp, he was also a family man. He wasn’t just mob-fighting vigilante in Black Shampoo, he was a hairdresser whose work was so popular women would line up around the block to let him do their hair. He was constantly at war with himself, but more than any other actor of the era, his characters were truly fighters and lovers of equal quality.
Best Known For: Beautifying bitches and blowing away gangsters
Blaxploitation Role Call:
The Candy Tangerine Man (1975) as The Baron, Pimp/Father: The Baron is under the watchful eye of the police and he knows it, but he does whatever is necessary to protect his stable of hos and his turf, even if that means fighting the law. Then there is the other Baron, whose wife and kids have no idea he becomes a ruthless pimp when the sun goes down. Another awesome aspect of this movie is pointed out in the opening credits, where it says, “Starring as themselves: The actual ‘Hookers’ and ‘blades’ of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.”
Black Shampoo (1976) as Mr. Jonathan, Hairdresser/Badass: Jonathan has his way with women. He’s a legendary lover in Hollywood, and can have just about any woman he wants. Not only is he sought after for his prowess in that regard, it’s nearly impossible to get an appointment at his salon because he’s also the best in the business in that world too. Who would ever imagine the town’s hottest hairdresser would also be willing and able to battle the mob to protect his girlfriends.
Not only does Samuel L. Jackson like the movie, he allegedly borrowed from it for one of his roles.
Here are two great quotes taken from the IMDB page.
[on acting in blaxploitation movies] To me, it was amusement and I looked at it like this: I basically played myself. I never did anything that I had to go outside myself to do. Playing yourself isn’t the easiest thing in the world, because you have to be very relaxed and be conscious of what you do in order to do what they want and do both well at the same time. I think real actors, when you talk about James Earl Jones and people like that, they can play other people. Their craft is to be somebody else perfectly. I played myself and I sincerely believe that Fred Williamson plays himself. That’s the way I saw it.
Could I ever be a good actor? I think I could be very good if I decided to concentrate on it. When you become really aware of the tremendous amount of work that you have to put in to reach the level of performance that Jack Nicholson or James Earl Jones or any of the real greats, you have to say to yourself, “I’m not willing to do that.” I’m not willing to do that. I’m thankful and grateful for having participated as much as I did, just being me. And I never regretted being away from it. I never had any recriminations or laments, none at all. I’m flattered when somebody even begins to remember something like that. It’s amazing that it can mean more 25 years later than it did while it was happening.