Sidney Poitier - Actors and Actresses





Nationality: American. Born: Miami, Florida, 20 February 1924 (some sources say 1927), grew up in the Bahamas. Education: Attended Western Senior High School and Governor's High School, both in Nassau. Family: Married 1) Juanita Hardy, 1950, daughters: Beverly, Pamela, Sherry, Gina; 2) the actress Joanna Shimkus, 1976, two children. Career: 1942–45—served in the U.S. Army as a physiotherapist; member of the American Negro Theater: in Days of Our Youth and other plays; 1946—Broadway debut in Lysistrata in all-black production; 1948—toured with play Anna Lucasta ; 1949—film debut in Signal Corps documentary From Whom Cometh My Help ; 1950—fiction film debut in No Way Out ; 1959—in stage play A Raisin in the Sun , and in film version, 1961; 1968—directed Broadway play Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights ; 1969—co-founder, with Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand, First Artists Productions; 1972—first directed film, Buck and the Preacher . Awards: Best Actor, Berlin Festival, and Best Foreign Actor, British Academy, for The Defiant Ones , 1958; Best Actor Academy Award, and Best Actor, Berlin Festival, for Lilies of the Field , 1963; Life Achievement Award, American Film Institute, 1992; Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, 2000. Address: c/o Verdon Productions, 9350 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.


Films as Actor:

1949

From Whom Cometh My Help (Signal Corps doc)

1950

No Way Out (Mankiewicz) (as Dr. Luther Brooks)

1952

Cry, the Beloved Country (Korda) (as Reverend Msimangu); Red Ball Express (Boetticher) (as Corporal Andrew Robertson)

1954

Go, Man, Go! (Howe) (as Inman Jackson)

1955

Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks) (as Gregory Miller)

1956

Goodbye, My Lady (Wellman) (as Gates)

1957

Edge of the City (Ritt) (as Tommy Tyler); Something of Value (Richard Brooks) (as Kimani); Band of Angels (Walsh)(as Rau-ru)

1958

Mark of the Hawk (Audley) (as Obam); The Defiant Ones (Kramer) (as Noah Cullen); The Virgin Island (Jackson)(as Marcus)

1959

Porgy and Bess (Preminger) (as Porgy)

1960

All the Young Men (Bartlett) (as Towler)

1961

A Raisin in the Sun (Petrie) (as Walter Lee Younger); Paris Blue (Ritt) (as Eddie Cook)

1962

Pressure Point (Cornfield) (as Doctor)

1963

Lilies of the Field (Nelson) (as Homer Smith)

1964

The Long Ships (Cardiff) (as Ali Mansuh)

1965

The Greatest Story Ever Told (Stevens) (as Simon of Cyrene); The Bedford Incident (Harris) (as Ben Munceford); A Patch of Blue (Green) (as Gordon Ralfe)

1966

The Slender Thread (Pollack) (as Alan Newell); Duel at Diablo (Nelson) (as Toller)

1967

To Sir with Love (Clavell) (as Mark Thackeray); In the Heat of the Night (Jewison) (as Virgil Tibbs); Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Kramer) (as John Prentice)

1968

For Love of Ivy (Daniel Mann) (as Jack Parks)

1969

The Lost Man (Arthur) (as Jason Higgs)

1970

They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (Douglas) (title role)

1971

The Organization (Medford) (as Virgil Tibbs); Brother John (Goldstone) (as John Kane)

1975

The Wilby Conspiracy (Nelson) (as Shack Twala)

1988

Shoot to Kill ( Deadly Pursuit ) (Spottiswoode) (as Warren Stantin); Little Nikita ( The Sleeper ) (Benjamin) (as Roy Parmenter)

1991

Separate but Equal (Stevens Jr.—for TV) (as Thurgood Marshall; Children of the Dust (David Greene—for TV) (as Gypsy Smith)

1992

Sneakers (Robinson) (as Donald Crease)

1996

Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (Robinson); To Sir With Love 2 (Bogdanovich—for TV) (as Mark Thackeray)

1997

Mandela and de Klerk (Sargent—for TV) (as Nelson Mandela); The Jackal (Caton-Jones) (as Preston)

1998

David and Lisa (Kramer?—for TV) (as Dr. Jack Miller)

1999

Free of Eden (Ichaso) (as Will Cleamons + exec pr); The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn (Champion—for TV) (as Noah Dearborn)




Films as Director:

1972

Buck and the Preacher (+ ro as Buck)

1973

A Warm December (+ ro as Matt Younger)

1974

Uptown Saturday Night (+ ro as Steve Jackson)

1975

Let's Do It Again (+ ro as Clyde Williams)

1977

A Piece of the Action (+ ro as Manny Durrell)

1980

Stir Crazy

1982

Hanky Panky

1984

Shootout

1985

Fast Forward

1990

Ghost Dad




Publications


By POITIER: books—


Sidney Poitier: an American Film Institute Seminar On His Work , 1976. This Life , New York, 1980.


By POITIER: articles—

"They Call Me a Do-It-Yourself Man," in Films and Filming (London), September 1959.

"Talking of Corruption," in Films and Filming (London), August 1961.

"Entertainment, Politics, and the Movie Business," interview with G. Noble, in Cineaste (New York), Winter 1977–78.

Sidney Poitier and Lilia Skalia in Lilies of the Field
Sidney Poitier and Lilia Skalia in Lilies of the Field

"Walking the Hollywood Color Line," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), April 1980.

Interview with Frank Spotnitz, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September/October 1991.


On POITIER: books—

Rollins, Charlemae, Famous Negro Entertainers of Stage, Screen, and TV , New York, 1967.

Newquist, Roy, A Special Kind of Magic , New York, 1967.

Ewers, Carolyn H., Sidney Poiter: The Long Journey , New York, 1969.

Hoffman, William, Sidney , New York, 1971.

Null, Gary, Black Hollywood: The Negro in Motion Pictures , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1975.

Marill, Alvin H., The Films of Sidney Poitier , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1978.

Keyser, Lester, and Andre Ruszkowski, The Cinema of Sidney Poitier: The Black Man's Changing Role on the American Screen , San Diego, 1980.

Kelley, Samuel L., The Evolution of Character Portrayals in the Films of Sidney Poitier, 1950–78 , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1983.

Bergman, Carol, Sidney Poitier , Los Angeles, 1990.


On POITIER: articles—

Current Biography 1959 , New York, 1959.

Cripps, Thomas, "Death of Rastus: Negro in American Films since 1945," in Phylon , Fall 1967.

Mason, Clifford, "Why Does White America Love Sidney Poitier So?," in the New York Times , 10 September 1967.

Sanders, Charles L., "Sidney Poitier: Man behind the Superman," in Ebony (Chicago), April 1968.

Hall, D. J., "Pride without Prejudice," in Films and Filming (London), December 1971 and January 1972.

Kael, Pauline, "Sidney Poitier," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.

Kelley, Samuel, "Sidney Poitier: héros intégrationiste," in CinémAction (Paris), January 1988.

American Film , September-October 1991.

Everschor, Franz, "Keine Angst vor Schwarzen," in Film-dienst (Frankfurt/Main), 7 April 1992.

Radio Times (London), 23 April 1994.

Norman, Barry, "Liberty, Equality, and Sidney Poitier," in Radio Times (London), 16 August 1997.


* * *


As the Hollywood film industry ended the twentieth century, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, and Denzel Washington could be counted as major movie stars. But they owe a major part of their success to Sidney Poitier's pioneering efforts three decades earlier. In the late 1950s and through the 1960s Poitier singlehandedly transformed the Hollywood movie's image of the black man from the racist "coon" to the positive hero.

During the 1960s Poitier was the symbol of the liberal Hollywood, a black actor with dignity. But this had not been achieved "overnight," without struggle. During the early 1950s he took what parts he could land, from Joseph Mankiewicz's No Way Out , where he played an educated, bright, and dedicated doctor caught in a heated racial situation, to James Wong Howe's sole credit as a director, the creaky portrait of the Harlem Globetrotters' basketball enterprise, Go, Man, Go! Richard Brooks's somewhat sanitized portrait of inner-city America, Blackboard Jungle , made Poitier a star. Thereafter his presence became a symbol to the rising consciousness about racial segregation in the United States. Noted producers cast him in roles designed for his new image. Most self-conscious was Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones , with black and white chained together trying to escape from a brutal Southern prison camp. Otto Preminger's Porgy and Bess was the director's homage to black life in the South, while in Lilies of the Field Poitier assisted a group of nuns, a "feel good" classic.

During this period he was much honored, winning many awards, from prizes from the Venice and Berlin Film Festivals to a New York Film Critics Award for best actor to the William J. German Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Congress. He won a much-deserved Oscar for Lilies of the Field , and so became a top box-office draw for A Patch of Blue , To Sir, with Love , In the Heat of the Night , and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? In 1967 Poitier was rated number seven on a list of top moneymaking stars; the following year he ranked first.

By 1969 he had done so well he was able, with Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Steve McQueen, and Dustin Hoffman to create the First Artists Film Production Company. He had decided then to work within the Hollywood system and become a director, but Buck and the Preacher , A Warm December , and Uptown Saturday Night made precious little money. He returned to acting, with little success. Little Nikita ended his career as a leading man.

Poitier had become a member of the establishment, penning a celebrated autobiography in 1980. His black detective from the North made so famous with In the Heat of the Night was considered radical in the late 1960s. Two decades later no one commented on his roles as an FBI agent. In 1989 he was elected to the Board of Trustees for the American Museum of the Moving Image. In 1992 he was honored with the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, in 1994 he earned the National Board of Review Career Achievement Award, and in 1995 he was honored with the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.

—Douglas Gomery



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