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Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier, August 28, 1963
Born February 20, 1927 (1927-02-20) (age 83)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director, writer, diplomat
Years active 1943–present
Spouse(s) Juanita Hardy (1950–1965)
Joanna Shimkus (1976–present)

Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE (pronounced /ˈpwɑːtjeɪ/ or /ˈpwɑːtieɪ/; born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor, film director, author, and diplomat. He broke through as a star in acclaimed performances in American films and plays, which, by consciously defying racial stereotyping, gave a new dramatic credibility for black actors to mainstream film audiences in the Western world.

In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor[1] for his role in Lilies of the Field.[2] The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three well-received films—To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner—making him the top box office star of that year.[3] In 1999, the American Film Institute named Poitier among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking 22nd on the list of 25.

Poitier has directed a number of popular movies such as A Piece of the Action; Uptown Saturday Night, and Let's Do It Again (with friend Bill Cosby), and Stir Crazy (starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder). In 2002, 38 years after receiving the Best Actor Award, Poitier was chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Honorary Award, designated "To Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."[4]

Since 1997 he has been the Bahamian ambassador to Japan. On August 12, 2009, Sidney Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America's highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.

Contents

Early life

Poitier grew up with his family on an island called Cat Island, in The Bahamas. However, he was born in Miami, Florida, USA, where his parents, Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier,[5] traveled to sell tomatoes and other produce from their farm on Cat Island.[6] His birth was premature and he was not expected to survive, but his parents remained three months in Miami to nurse him to health.[7] Due to his stateside delivery, he automatically gained U.S. citizenship.[7]

Poitier spent his early years on Cat Island. At the age of 10, Poitier moved to Nassau with his family. Poitier still has family throughout The Bahamas. At the age of 15 he was sent to Miami to live with his brother. At age 17, Poitier moved to New York City and held a string of menial jobs. He then decided to join the United States Army. He worked as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a spot with the American Negro Theater.

Acting career

Poitier joined the American Negro Theater, but was rejected by audiences. His tone deafness made him - contrary to what was expected of black actors at the time - unable to sing or dance.[8] Determined to refine his acting skills and rid himself of his noticeable Bahamian accent, he spent the next six months dedicating himself to achieving theatrical success. On his second attempt at the theater, he was noticed and given a leading role in the Broadway production Lysistrata, for which he received excellent reviews. By the end of 1949, he had to choose between leading roles on stage and an offer to work for Darryl F. Zanuck in the film No Way Out (1950). His performance in No Way Out, as a doctor treating a white bigot, was noticed and led to more roles, each considerably more interesting and more prominent than what most black actors of the time were being cast.

Poitier's breakout role was as a member of an incorrigible high school class in Blackboard Jungle (1955). At age twenty-seven though, like most of the actors in the film, he was not a teenager.

Poitier was the first male black actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award (for The Defiant Ones, 1958). Tony Curtis is on record as saying he had approval of Poitier as his co-star. He also said the director's first choice for his role was Robert Mitchum, but Mitchum refused to work with a black man. Curtis made these comments on the 1999 program Private Screenings [9] with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.

He was also the first black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Lilies of the Field in 1963). (James Baskett was the first to receive an Oscar, an Honorary Academy Award for his performance as Uncle Remus in the Walt Disney production of Song of the South in 1948, while Hattie McDaniel predated them both, winning as Best Supporting Actress for her role in 1939's Gone with the Wind).

He acted in the first production of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959, and later starred in the film version released in 1961. He also gave memorable performances in The Bedford Incident (1965), and A Patch of Blue (1965) co-starring Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters. In 1967, he was the most successful draw at the box office, the commercial peak of his career, with three successful films, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; To Sir, with Love and In the Heat of the Night. The last film featured his most successful character, Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania detective whose subsequent career was the subject of two sequels: They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970) and The Organization (1971).

However, Poitier began to be criticized for typecasting himself as playing overidealized black characters who were not permitted to have any sexuality or personality faults, such as his character in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. Poitier was aware of this pattern himself, but was conflicted on the matter; he wanted more varied roles, but also felt obliged to set a good example with his characters to defy previous stereotypes as he was the only major black actor in the American film industry at the time. For instance, Poitier, along with his producers, was able to make Virgil Tibbs a dignified and astute detective who is capable of making errors in judgment.

Directorial career

Poitier has directed several films, the most successful being the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder comedy Stir Crazy, which for years was the highest grossing film directed by a person of African descent.[citation needed] His feature film directorial debut was the western Buck and the Preacher in which Poitier also starred, alongside Harry Belafonte. Poitier replaced original director Joseph Sargent. The trio of Poitier, Cosby, and Belafonte reunited again (with Poitier again directing) in Uptown Saturday Night. Poitier also directed Cosby in Let's Do It Again, A Piece of the Action, and Ghost Dad. Poitier also directed the first popular dance battle movie Fast Forward in 1985.

Personal life

Poitier was first married to Juanita Hardy from April 29, 1950 until 1965. He has been married to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian-born former actress of Lithuanian descent, since January 23, 1976. He has four daughters by his first wife and two by his second: Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, Gina, Anika, Sydney Tamiia.

He has written three autobiographical books, This Life (1980), The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2000) and Life Beyond Measure - letters to my Great-Granddaughter (2008). The second one became an Oprah's Book Club selection. Its translation in Traditional Chinese (ISBN 9570484969) was done by Fongfong Olivia Wei, and subsequently published by Triumph Publishing Company in Taipei, Taiwan in the year 2002.

Later life

In April 1997, Poitier was appointed as ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan, a position he currently holds. He is also the ambassador of the Bahamas to UNESCO. During the period of 1998 to 2003, he served as a Member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company.[10]

In 2001, Poitier received an Academy Honorary Award for his overall contribution to American cinema.

In August 2009, Poitier received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Filmography

Actor

Year Film Role Notes
1947 Sepia Cinderella Extra uncredited
1949 From Whence Cometh My Help Himself documentary
1950 No Way Out Dr. Luther Brooks
1951 Cry, The Beloved Country Reverend Msimangu
1952 Red Ball Express Cpl. Andrew Robertson
1954 Go, Man, Go! Inman Jackson
1955 Blackboard Jungle Gregory W. Miller
1956 Good-bye, My Lady Gates
1957 Edge of the City Tommy Tyler Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Something of Value Kimani Wa Karanja
Band of Angels Rau-Ru
The Mark of the Hawk Obam
1958 Virgin Island Marcus
The Defiant Ones Noah Cullen BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Berlin Film Festival: Silver Bear for Best Actor[11]
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
1959 Porgy and Bess Porgy Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1960 All the Young Men Sgt. Eddie Towler
1961 A Raisin in the Sun Walter Lee Younger Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Paris Blues Eddie Cook
1962 Pressure Point Doctor (Chief Psychiatrist)
1963 The Long Ships Aly Mansuh
Lilies of the Field Homer Smith Academy Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Berlin Film Festival: Silver Bear for Best Actor[12]
1965 The Bedford Incident Ben Munceford
The Greatest Story Ever Told Simon of Cyrene
A Patch of Blue Gordon Ralfe Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
The Slender Thread Alan Newell
1966 Duel at Diablo Toller (contract horse dealer)
1967 To Sir, with Love Mark Thackeray
In the Heat of the Night Det. Virgil Tibbs Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Dr. John Wade Prentice
1968 For Love of Ivy Jack Parks
1969 The Lost Man Jason Higgs
1970 King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis Narrator documentary
They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! Virgil Tibbs
1971 Brother John John Kane
Not Me Boss!!
The Organization Detective Lieutenant Virgil Tibbs SFPD Homicide
1972 Buck and the Preacher Buck
1973 A Warm December Matt Younger
1974 Uptown Saturday Night Steve Jackson
1975 The Wilby Conspiracy Shack Twala
Let's Do it Again Clyde Williams
1977 A Piece of the Action Manny Durrell
1979 Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist Narrator short subject
1988 Shoot to Kill Warren Stantin
Little Nikita* Roy Parmenter
1992 Sneakers Donald Crease
1994 A Century of Cinema Himself documentary
1996 Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick Himself documentary
1997 The Jackal FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston
2001 Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey Narrator documentary
2004 MacKenzie Himself documentary
2008 Mr. Warmth:The Don Rickles Project Himself documentary

Director

Year Film
1972 Buck and the Preacher
1973 A Warm December
1974 Uptown Saturday Night
1975 Let's Do it Again
1977 A Piece of the Action
1980 Stir Crazy
1982 Hanky Panky
1985 Fast Forward
1990 Ghost Dad

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1991 Separate but Equal Thurgood Marshall Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
1995 Children of the Dust Gypsy Smith
1996 To Sir, with Love II Mark Thackeray
1997 Mandela and De Klerk Nelson Mandela Nominated - Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
1998 David and Lisa Dr. Jack Miller
1999 The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn Noah Dearborn
Free of Eden Will Cleamons
2001 The Last Brickmaker in America Henry Cobb

Awards and recognition

See also

References

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sidney Poitier (born 1927-02-20) is an Academy award-winning Bahamian-American actor, director, author and diplomat.

Sourced

  • The older we get the less afraid we are.

External links

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Simple English

Sidney Poitier
File:Poitier
Poitier at a 1963 Civil Rights March at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial
Born February 20, 1927 (1927-02-20) (age 84)
Miami, Florida, United States
Years active 1943–present
Spouse Juanita Hardy (1950–1965)
Joanna Shimkus (1976–present)

Sidney Poitier (born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor, film director, author, and diplomat. He became a star in American films and plays, which went against defying racial stereotypes, and made black actors more respected in mainstream roles.

Contents

Early life

Poitier was born in Miami, Florida, USA and grew up with his family on remote Cat Island, in the Bahamas. His mother was called Evelyn and his father was called Reginald James Poitier.[1] They had a farm.[2] Poitier's birth was premature and people did not expect him to survive, but his parents stayed three months in Miami until he became well.[3] Because he was born in Miami, Poitier automatically gained U.S. citizenship.[3]

When he was 15, Poitier's parents sent him off Miami to live with his older brother. At 17, he moved to New York City and got several menial jobs. During this time, he was arrested for vagrancy (being homeless) after having to leave his home for not paying rent. He decided to join the United States Army. He worked as a dishwasher until he got a job with the American Negro Theater.

Acting career

Poitier was tone deaf, and could not sing or dance. This is what black actors did at the time, so audiences did not like him.[4] He worked very hard to improve his acting skills, and to get rid of his Bahamian accent. He eventually got a leading role in the Broadway play called Lysistrata and he got excellent reviews. At the end of 1949, he got a job working for Darryl F. Zanuck in the film No Way Out (1950). He played a doctor treating a white bigot. After this job, he soon got more film roles. The acting jobs he got were better and more interesting than the roles most black actors played at the time.

In 1955, he played a member of an badly behaved high school class in Blackboard Jungle. This was an important role in Poitier's career.

Poitier was the first black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Lilies of the Field in 1963).

He acted in the first production of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959, and later starred in the film version released in 1961. He was also in The Bedford Incident (1965), and A Patch of Blue (1965) co-starring Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters. In 1967, he was the most successful actor at the box office, with three successful films, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; To Sir, with Love and In the Heat of the Night. The last film featured his most successful character, Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania detective.

However, Poitier began to be criticized for typecasting himself, playing black characters who had only good personalities, like his character in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. Poitier agreed with this but although he wanted more different roles, but also wanted to set a good example with his characters and go against the negative stereotypes that had come before. He was the only major black actor in the American film industry at the time.

Directing career

Poitier has directed several films, the most successful being the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder comedy Stir Crazy. The first film he directed was the western Buck and the Preacher. He was also the star, with Harry Belafonte. Other films he has directed are Uptown Saturday Night, Let's Do It Again, A Piece of the Action, and Ghost Dad.

Personal life

Poitier was first married to Juanita Hardy from April 29, 1950 until 1965. He has been married to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian-born actress, since January 23, 1976. He has four daughters by his first marriage and two by his second.

He has written three autobiographical books, This Life (1980), The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2000) and Life Beyond Measure - letters to my Great-Granddaughter (2008).

Later life

In April 1997, Poitier was became ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan. He is also the ambassador of the Bahamas to UNESCO. From 1998 to 2003, he was a Member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company.[5]

In 2001, Poitier received an Academy Honorary Award for his overall contribution to American cinema. In August 2009, he received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

References

  1. Sidney Poitier Biography (1927-)
  2. Tavis Smiley interviews Sidney Poitier
  3. 3.0 3.1 Adam Goudsouzian, Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (2004), p.8.
  4. Goudsouzian; Sidney Poitier; pp. 69, 133
  5. Actor Takes Center Stage as Disney Trial Grinds On







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