|Sir Sidney Poitier
Poitier at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963.
February 20, 1927 |
Miami, Florida, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, director, writer, diplomat|
|Years active||1943–2001 (acting)|
|Spouse(s)||Juanita Hardy (1950–1965)
Joanna Shimkus (1976–present)
In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field. The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three successful 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. In all three films, issues revolve around the race of the characters Poitier portrays. 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, Let's Do It Again (with friend Bill Cosby) and Stir Crazy (starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder). In 2002, thirty-eight 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." 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.
Early life 
Born in Miami while his parents were visiting, Sidney Poitier grew up on Cat Island in The Bahamas, and later moved to Miami, where his Bahamian parents, Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, traveled to sell tomatoes and other produce from their farm on Cat Island. His birth was two months premature and he was not expected to survive, but his parents remained three months in Miami to nurse him to health. Because of his birth in the U.S., he automatically gained U.S. citizenship. Poitier was raised in a Roman Catholic family. Although, later on, he became an agnostic with views closer to Deism. He grew up with his family on Cat Island, Bahamas, then a British colony. At age 10, he moved to Nassau with his family. At the age of 15 he was sent to Miami to live with his brother. At the age of 17, he moved to New York City and held a string of jobs as a dishwasher. A Jewish waiter sat with him every night for several weeks helping him learn to read the newspaper. He then decided to join the United States Army after which 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. Contrary to what was expected of black actors at the time, Poitier's tone deafness made him unable to sing. 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 good 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 (played by Richard Widmark), was noticed and led to more roles, each considerably more interesting and more prominent than those most black actors of the time were offered. Poitier's breakout role was as a member of an incorrigible high school class in Blackboard Jungle (1955).
Poitier was the first male black actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award (for The Defiant Ones, 1958). 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). His satisfaction at this honor was undermined by his concerns that this award was more of the industry congratulating itself for having him as a token and it would inhibit him from asking for more substantive considerations afterward. Poitier worked relatively little over the following year; he remained the only major black actor and the roles offered were predominately typecast as a soft-spoken appeaser.
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 popular 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).
Poitier began to be criticized for being typecast as over-idealized 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, in 1966 he turned down an opportunity to play the lead in an NBC production of Othello with that spirit in mind. In 2001, Poitier received an Honorary Academy Award for his overall contribution to American cinema. With the death of Ernest Borgnine in 2012, Poitier became the oldest living man to have won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Directorial career 
Poitier 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. 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.
From 1998 to 2003 he served as a Member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company.
Recording career 
Diplomatic career 
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 and Irish descent, since January 23, 1976. He has four daughters with his first wife and two with his second: Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, Gina, Anika, Sydney Tamiia.
Honors and awards 
- 1958 British Academy Film Award for Best Foreign Actor for The Defiant Ones
- 1958 Silver Bear for Best Actor (Berlin Film Festival) for The Defiant Ones
- 1963 Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Lilies of the Field
- 1963 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for Lilies of the Field
- 1963 Silver Bear for Best Actor (Berlin Film Festival) for Lilies of the Field
- 1974 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE)
- 1982 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award
- 1992 AFI Life Achievement Award
- 1995 Kennedy Center Honors
- 1997 Appointed non-resident Bahamian Ambassador to Japan
- 1999 SAG Life Achievement Award
- 2000 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn
- 2001 NAACP Image Award - Hall of Fame Award
- 2001 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album – Rick Harris, John Runnette (producers) and Sidney Poitier for The Measure of a Man
- 2002 Honorary Oscar – "For his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence"
- 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom
- 2011 Film Society of Lincoln Center Gala Tribute honoring his life and careers
|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|
|1991||Separate But Equal||Thurgood Marshall||Nominated — Primetime 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 — Primetime 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|
|1999||Free of Eden||Will Cleamons|
|2001||The Last Brickmaker in America||Henry Cobb|
Works about Poitier 
Poitier has written three autobiographical books:
- This Life (1980)
- The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2000)
- Life Beyond Measure – letters to my Great-Granddaughter (2008, an Oprah's Book Club selection).
Poitier is also the subject of the biography Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (2004) by historian Aram Goudsouzian.
Potier wrote the novel Montaro Caine, released in May of 2013.
Movies about Poitier 
- Sidney Poitier, an Outsider in Hollywood (Sidney Poitier, an outsider à Hollywood). Documentary film by Catherine Arnaud. Arte, France, 2008, 70 minutes.
- Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light. American Masters, PBS. USA, 2000. 60 minutes.
See also 
- List of African American firsts
- David Hampton, an impostor who posed as Poitier's son "David" in 1983, which inspired a play and a film, *Six Degrees of Separation
- Because Poitier is a citizen of The Bahamas, a Commonwealth realm, this is a substantive (as opposed to honorary) knighthood, which entitles him to the style "Sir". However, Poitier employs the title only in connection with his official ambassadorial duties.
- James Baskett won an Honorary Academy Award for his performance in Walt Disney's Song of the South (1946). The award was not competitive. See Awards for James Baskett, Internet Movie Database
- Awards for Sidney Poitier at the Internet Movie Database
- "Top Ten Money Making Stars". Quigley Publishing Co. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
- Sidney Poitier awards: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards database
- article 12 August 2009 Washington Post
- Sidney Poitier Film Reference biography
- Davis Smiley interviews Sidney Poitier[dead link]
- Adam Gourmand, Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (2004), p.8.
- Winfrey, Oprah (October 15, 2000). "Oprah Talks to Sidney Poitier". The Oprah Winfrey Show. Retrieved September 16, 2010. "I come from a Catholic family."
- Sidney Poitier (2009). Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter. HarperCollins. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-06-149620-2. "The question of God, the existence or nonexistence, is a perennial question, because we don't know. Is the universe the result of God, or was the universe always there?"
- Sidney Poitier (2009). Life Beyond Measure. HarperCollins. pp. 85–86. ISBN 9780061737251. "I don't see a God who is concerned with the daily operation of the universe. In fact, the universe may be no more than a grain of sand compared with all the other universes. ...It is not a God for one culture, or one religion, or one planet."
- "Sidney Poitier". Oprah Presents Master Class. Season 1. Episode 7. April 22, 2012. Oprah Winfrey Network. http://www.oprah.com/topics/entertainment/movies/actors/sidney-poitier.htm.
- Poitier, Sidney. The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography. (2000). New York. HarperCollins.
- Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (2004) Aram Goudsouzian, University of North Carolina Press ISBN 9780807828434 p44
- Poitier, Sidney. The Measure of a Man. (2000). New York: HarperCollins Publishers
- Chenrow, Fred; Chenrow, Carol (1974). Reading Exercises in Black History. Elizabethtown, PA: The Continental Press, Inc. p. 46. ISBN 08454-2105-5 Check
- Goudsouzian; Sidney Poitier; p 69, 133
- Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of a New Hollywood. Penguin Press. pp. 58–9.
- Ibid. pp. 81–2. Missing or empty
- Harris. p. 161. Missing or empty
- Lauren Moraski (July 10, 2012). "Ernest Borgnine's death makes Sidney Poitier the oldest living best actor Oscar winner". Celebrity Circuit. CBS News. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Black Enterprise
- "Actor Takes Center Stage as Disney Trial Grinds On" New York Times article 12 August 2004
- Poitier-Henderson Holds Book Signing - WLBT 3 - Jackson, MS:
- The New York Times > New York Region > Hundreds Mourn Ossie Davis in Harlem
- Daughters of King, Malcolm X Also Have a Message
- Atlanta News, Sports, Atlanta Weather, Business News | ajc.com
- Chronicle - New York Times
- Advice For Upn: Get Rid Of 'Abby' - New York Daily News
- "Berlinale 1958: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- "Berlinale 1963: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
- Hollywood Foreign Press Association - Cecil B. DeMille Award Jan 2015
- "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients", White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 30, 2009
- "Film Society of Lincoln Center honors the life and career of Sidney Poitier", Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts, May 2, 2011
- Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light at the Internet Movie Database
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Sidney Poitier|
- Official publisher web page
- Poitier breaks new ground with Oscar win (BBC, April 13, 1964)
- Sidney Poitier to get Marian Anderson Award (July 26, 2006)
- The Purpose Prize: Sidney Poitier The Purpose Prize: Sidney Poitier
- Overview of Sidney Poitier's life
- Sidney Poitier at the Internet Movie Database
- Artist of the Month: Sidney Poitier at Hyena Productions