I don’t know whether to say Julius Harris had the face of a movie gangster, or whether movie gangsters over the years have aspired to have a face like his. It’s the proverbial chicken and egg scenario as far as I’m concerned.
At the risk of offending Samuel L. Jackson, seeing Harris now in movies, always makes me think of Ving Rhames for some reason. They do have some similarities, and that’s probably why both have done well as character actors in films.
His looks helped him land the job of being Capt. Bollin in Shaft’s Big Score. Then he flipped to the world of crime for several movies in a row.
He’s most well known in blaxploitation circles for playing Scatter in Super Fly.
Scatter is a standout character for Harris, in that Scatter is reluctant to get back in the crime game, and the only reason he does is as a favor to a friend. Scatter risks everything to help Priest and his partner score a big shipment of cocaine.
None of his other blaxploitation roles really gave him the opportunity to be as vulnerable as he was in Super Fly.
Harris would go on to be in tons of stuff up until his death in 2004.
Why We Love and Respect Him: When Julius Harris is on screen, no matter how many other people are on screen with him, he’s the one you’re gonna look at. He demands attention with just his presence. Power like that deserves respect.
Best Known For: being Tee-Hee, the hook-handed villain in the James Bond movie, Live and Let Die. He gets a lot of love for his portrayal of Scatter in Super Fly too.
Blaxploitation Role Call:
Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) as Capt. Bollin: One of Shaft’s good friends is murdered, and he’s out to find out what happened with or without the help of Capt. Bollin, the detective assigned to work the case. Bollin expects Shaft to give him updates and share any information he gets while doing his job as a private dick.
Super Fly (1972) as Scatter: Scatter runs the restaurant where Priest and Eddie go to score a kilo of cocaine to up their drug dealing game. The endeavor gets all three into trouble. This is bad news for Scatter who came out of retirement to do the favor of setting up the big deal for Priest and Eddie. The trio then battle corrupt cops and criminals while trying to find their way on the streets.
Trouble Man (1972) as Big: Chalky and Pete’s dice games keep getting knocked over by thugs, so they hire T to help stop it. At the same time, the sleazy pair are setting T up for a confrontation with another gangster in town known as Big. Big is at war with Chalky and Pete, but soon finds himself fighting with T too.
Black Caesar (1973) as Papa GIbbs: Tommy Gibbs’s father wasn’t around when he was a kid. In part, that’s how he became involved with the mob. When his father, Papa Gibbs, comes back and tries to make amends, Tommy pushes him away in favor of continuing his ascent into underworld power.
Hell Up In Harlem (1973) as Papa Gibbs: Papa Gibbs and Tommy start to patch things up, and soon after, the cops lean on Papa to snitch on his son. When the cops push too hard, Papa has no choice but to handle his business. After crossing that line, Papa becomes Tommy’s associate in his crime family. The tension between the two continue as they take on other crime families.
Friday Foster (1975) as Monk Riley: Monk Riley is the editor of Glance Magazine and he wants a picture of the elusive Blake Tarr, the black Howard Hughes, and sends Friday Foster to get it. While trying to get the pic, Foster uncovers a conspiracy to kill prominent black political figures.
Julius Harris makes an appearance in this short documentary about Super Fly. Whether you’re interested in Harris or not, the documentary gives some good insight into what went into making a blaxploitation film.
Julius Harris’s Obituary; Los Angeles Times (2004)
A special thanks to 1000MisspentHours.com for helping jog my memory on films I haven’t watched in several years. This site was among the resources I used to write character-specific summaries for movies in the Bio section. This sounds much easier than it actually is, especially when an actor might have a bit part in the film.