28 For 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends – Day 20, Roger E. Mosley

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Roger E. Mosley has a face you can’t forget. I don’t know what it is about him, but he just has one of those faces to me. It is distinctive. So much so, every time I see him in a movie, I impulsively point at the screen and yell out, “Oh, shit! Mosley!”

I don’t get that excited when I see him on screen in the many television shows he’s done in his career, but real-deal, classic movies of the 1970s are a different thing entirely.

In addition to making a small splash in blaxploitation films, he found his way into much higher profile films as well, including a role in McQ, one of John Wayne’s final films released in 1974.

Many of Mosley’s roles are just plain fun.

His role as a hit man disguised as a reverend who tries to muscle his way in on the mob in Sweet Jesus, Preacherman, is a character that frequently seeks laughs and gets them. His character Huey was continually outsmarted by Tyrone Tackett and provided some much needed comic relief to the dark, dark, dark, plot of Hit Man. Then there’s Darktown Strutters, which is one of those films that defy explanation.

Why We Love and Respect Him: Roger E. Mosley wasn’t afraid to take risks. One year he might appear in movies with John Wayne and Jeff Bridges, and then show up as the boyfriend of a woman leading a motorcycle gang who dress like Solid Gold dancers the very next year.

Best Known For: Flying Magnum PI around Hawaii, but for blaxploitation fans, he’s best known for being Goldie’s brother in The Mack.

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Hit Man (1972) as Huey: Huey is one of the thugs sent to see to it Tyrone Tackett takes the fast track out of town. The only problem is every time Huey and his buddy try to come down on Tackett, he makes the two stooges look like clowns.

The Mack (1974) as Olinga: Olinga is Goldie’s nagging brother who doesn’t like the fact Goldie pimps hos downtown. Olinga is a black nationalist whose group is determined to rid the ghetto of drug dealers and pimps. This puts Olinga and Goldie at odds with each other. The two do reconcile long enough to avenge their mother’s violent death.

Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973) as Holmes/Lee: Rev. Jason Lee isn’t what he appears. This preacher isn’t out searching for lost souls, he’s out searching for a new racket and he’s found one in this town. He slips in as a preacher, and then slowly starts muscling in on the local thugs who control things. It soon becomes a violent battle of wills the preacherman refuses to lose.

Sweet Jesus Preacher Man

Darktown Strutters (1975) as Mellow: Mellow is Syreena’s boyfriend, but isn’t worth much when it comes to tracking down the missing folks in town and stopping the conspiracy threatening the community. For a movie as goofy as this one, that description sounds so serious doesn’t it?

How about we try…

Mellow’s girlfriend is leading a motorcycle gang in a revolution against a Colonel-Sanders lookalike who is using a chain of rib joints to gain the trust of the black community only to do cloning experiments on them in an effort to create voters who will pull the right lever at the polls. Mellow’s girlfriend is also on the hunt for her missing mother and several other prominent members of the black community.

Film Threat sums it up pretty well in their ode to Dark Town Strutters.

Big Time (1977) as J.J.: Don’t know much about it, never seen it. This is what IMDB says:

“A small time con-artist gets between the FBI and a suitcase filled with money. (Josiah Howard, ‘Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide.’)”

And here’s a clip featuring J.J….

He also did two biographical roles in the mid-1970s I didn’t include here because I don’t believe they should be considered blaxploitation. The first was his portrayal of Leadbelly in the movie Leadbelly. Second, was his portrayal of Sonny Liston in a Muhammed Ali bio pic starring Ali as himself.

Bio Links:

Roger E. Mosley IMDB

Roger E. Mosley Wiki

Roger E. Mosley and Antonio Fargas interviewed at a party for stunt men

Sounds boring, but Mosley saves thing with his wit. They talk about stunt men and Bill Cosby for most of the interview. Mosley gets passionate near the end when discussing black stunt men breaking into the business to do stunts for Fred Williamson and Jim Brown.

Mosley Hosting Evening at the Improv

He’s got jokes.

28 For 28: Day 11, Rudy Challenger

Rudy Challenger2

Looking back on Rudy Challenger’s work, it always seemed like he was in the background as the beginning, but became a key player by the end of it.

He wasn’t a leading man during the blaxploitation era, but Challenger made a nice career out of supporting roles and minor parts. He eventually focused his efforts on doing television work. When he dropped out of acting in 1993, he left behind a resume that gives a snapshot of popular network television shows of the day.

Eventually he would be known for playing the politician, businessman, or other suit-wearing character in a position of authority, but he made his biggest splash in the world of blaxploitation in one of his early roles, the preacher-turned safe cracker, Roy Harris in Cool Breeze.

Challenger is among the criminals in Cool Breeze, who might very well be the first gang of criminals to wear Nixon masks while committing the crime. Can’t verify it, but I highly suspect it to be so given this was released in March 1972, three months before the Watergate break-in even happened

This role outshined most of his other roles in blaxploitation classics like Hit Man, Sheba, Baby, Detroit 9000, and The Slams with Jim Brown.

RudyChallengerFIlmStrip

Why We Love and Respect Him: We love when a strong 6th man, or 12th man depending on which stupid sports analogy you prefer, has no problem stepping off the bench and playing those small roles that make the difference between winning or losing but don’t necessarily show up on the stat line.

He will always be one of the best actors to play a politician, or authority figure, we’ve ever seen aside from Morgan Freeman. Challenger’s portrayal of Michigan’s first black gubernatorial candidate Aubrey Dale Clayton in Detroit 9000 is strong evidence of that.

Rudy Challenger did that quite a few 1970s films, and we’re much better off for it.

Best Known For: Looking all official and shit, and getting shot in the head (See Harlem Nights and Hit Man.)

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Cool Breeze (1972) as Roy Harris: Roy Harris might look like you’re average reverend, but he’s not. He has the gift of safec racking at his disposal, and because of this, gets lured back into the criminal life for one more big score driven by somewhat noble motives.

Detroit 9000 (1973) as Aubrey Hale Clayton: Clayton is Michigan’s first black gubernatorial candidate, and he’s running during a time when the state’s inner cities are volatile ground. There’s also a cool jewel heist in the plot.

Hit Man (1972) as Julius Swift: Julius Swift is an old friend of Tyrone Tackett, but Tackett soon learns his friend isn’t as he seems. Swift is deeply involved in an underground porn-making racket, and is one of the men filmed raping Tackett’s niece. Tackett don’t go for that shit.

Sheba, Baby (1975) as Andy Shane: Sheba Shane is back in town and she’s looking for the loan sharks who keep leaning on her dear ol’ dad, and being a general nuisance around Louisville. Andy Shane just got in too deep.

Bio Links:

Rudy Challenger IMDB

Rudy Challenger WIki

Rudy Challenger TCMDB (I’m starting to like these better than the IMDB pages)