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Sir Sidney Poitier - A Class Act to the End

Marion Charatan

Posted on January 7, 2022 19:28

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The passing of Sidney Poitier will leave a gap in the creative arts. His performances conveyed dignity and humility--and paved the way for increased opportunities for Black artists.

This morning I was saddened to read of the passing of the incomparable Sidney Poitier. The classic film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner came out in 1967 and was a box office success. It tackled the subject of interracial marriage and prejudice. The screenplay was compelling and humorous.

Poitier played Dr. John Prentice who fell in love with the luminous Katherine Houghton, the actual niece of Katherine Hepburn, who was her mother in the movie. Spencer Tracy rounded out the lead cast: I don't need to say more. There was undeniable chemistry between the young Poitier and Houghton--but Hepburn and Tracy's chemistry jumped off the big screen.

I am not a film critic but I would highly recommend Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to those who have not seen it. If I listed the best films of all time, I would include this thought-provoking production.

Sir Sidney Poitier was born in Florida, unexpectedly on February 20, 1927, when his parents took a trip to sell tomatoes in Miami. He automatically became a U-S citizen. Poitier's upbringing was unusual: his family owned a tomato farm on Cat Island in the Bahamas. He was the youngest of seven children.

Poitier was bitten by the acting bug early on. When he was just 15, he moved to Miami. A year later, he relocated to Manhattan and joined the American Negro Theater. That was the catalyst for his first film role in 1955 in Blackboard Jungle, playing a high school student. In 1968, Poitier starred alongside Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones, a film about escaped chain-gain inmates.

Poitier received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor--the first time a Black actor had ever achieved that honor. He did not win the Oscar but received a BAFTA award from The British Academy of Film and Television Arts for The Defiant Ones

But in 1964, he garnered the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for Lilies of the Field. Poitier played a godly handyman who built a chapel for German-speaking nuns. To Sir with LoveA Patch of Blue and Raisin in the Sun are other notable Poitier movies. The films are timeless and well worth seeing.

Poitier's classic looks, screen charisma, and skilled character portrayal set him apart from other actors. He opened the door for Black performers to be hired in films, challenging stereotypes that often cast them as servants or criminals.

Queen Elizabeth knighted Poitier in 1974. Through 2007, Poitier served as Ambassador from the Bahamas to Japan and UNESCO. Poitier was also a director and civil rights advocate. He was an inspiration to millions of fans and aspiring Black artists, who wanted to act or direct. Former President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter that Poitier "epitomized dignity and grace."

Sidney Poitier leaves behind his wife of 46 years, actress Joanna Shimkus, 6 daughters, 8 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. Lulu conveyed it much better than I have...

Marion Charatan

Posted on January 7, 2022 19:28

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