Moses Gunn played the role of Bumpy Jonas, a character who belongs in the Blaxploitation Movie Gangster Hall of Fame, in the first two Shaft movies. Bumpy was a bad guy, but Bumpy wasn’t all bad. He did try to do some good for the community while managing his crime syndicate.
Bumpy might be one of primary characters in Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score, but there was a gangster named Bumpy with many of those same attributes in the real world. Bumpy Johnson, a crime boss from Harlem, died in 1968, just a few short years before Shaft began shooting.
It makes you wonder if Moses Gunn might have been walking on some thin ice with the real Bumpy’s boys if he had done a poor job of being Bumpy on film. Thankfully he never had to find out, because Moses Gunn nailed it.
Gunn is a pillar in one of the films the house of blaxploitation was built upon, and fortunately he was strong enough of a performer to hold up his end.
Why We Love and Respect Him: We love the fact he had no issue playing a character so obviously linked to a real-life crime boss who died just two or three years earlier. That just sounds ballsy.
Best Known For: Just Being Bumpy
Blaxploitation Role Call:
Shaft (1971) as Bumpy Jonas: Bumpy rules the game in Harlem, but the Italian mafia is trying to creep in and push him out. Things turn violent between the warring factions, Bumpy’s daughter is kidnapped, and the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks gets called in to help.
Shaft’s Big Score (1972) as Bumpy Jonas: Bumpy continues defending his turf and Shaft finds himself right in the middle of the action. This time there’s more than $200,000 at stake.
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