At 94 years old, Renowned actor Sidney Poitier died, the first African-American star to win an Oscar, who paved the way for black artists in Hollywood.
The successive successes of actors like Denzel Washington or the stardom of others like Will Smith are probably common in recent decades (beyond some racist outbreaks that reappeared at one point). But when Sidney Poitier appeared in the foreground of Hollywood productions, for many he was a “rarity.”
The truth is that between the vigorous struggles for civil rights, the strong changes since the late 1960s, and increasing integration, the barriers gradually faded. And Poitier’s brilliance had little to envy other film figures of his time.. His performance in “The Lilies of the Valley” (Ralph Nelson film, in 1963) catapulted him to the Oscar as best actor, thus being the first black to achieve it, at a time when the other nominees were called Paul Newman, Albert Finney, Richard Harris, and Rex Harrison. Nothing less. Poitier had already been nominated in 1958 for his role in Stanley Kramer’s “Fugitives”, and would appear again almost a decade later in what was, perhaps, his most praised and remembered film: “To the teacher with affection”, in production British.
Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier. AFP photo.
“They taught me that I had a right like any human being, that I was someone. We knew we had no money, no electricity or running water, but they taught me that I was someone “, she once recounted, on the Oprah Winfrey interview show. He was referring to a humble life in the Bahamas – still a British protectorate – and where he lived with his parents. They had a small farm and traveled to Miami to place their products. And it was precisely there that Sidney Poitier was born, on February 20, 1924. Part of his luck began to change at the age of 15, since he returned to Miami with his brother and, shortly after, with his arrival in New York where he worked. as a glasswasher. He also enlisted in the Army and showed his artistic calling by joining the American Negro Theater., debuting in 1946 with a version of “Lysistrata”, by Aristophanes.
His film debut occurred in 1950 with “No way out” (A ray of light ”, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, where Poitier plays a doctor who suffers from racial discrimination. This opened the doors to a string of calls for relevant directors, including the aforementioned“ Fugitives. ”But also in those late 1950s her role is told in “Seeds of Evil” (by Richrad Brokks, 1955), “Blood on Earth” (by the same director, 1956), “The Free Slave” (Raul Walsh, 1956) and the film version of the opera “Porgy and Bess”, performed by Otto Preminger in 1959. He also received great recognition for “One day I’ll be back” by Ritt (1961).
“To the teacher with affection” ended up defining him as one of the most outstanding actors of his generation and from the same time, tapes such as “In the heat of the night”, by Norman Jewison, and “Do you know who’s coming to dinner?” by Stanley Kramer.
But Poitier also began to dabble in directing and production, although without much impact. With less emphasis on the social, he played in thrillers and comedies and had actors such as Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in “Smash Crazy,” one of the early 1970s films. However, he did not give up acting and he was one of the first to play the role of Mandela: in his case in the tape for TV “Mandela and De Klerk” (1997), where the role of the white leader is played by Michael Caine.
Sidney Poitier with the Oscar award in his hands. AP Photo.
With great prestige -both artistic and social- was distinguished with numerous awards: another Oscar (Honorary) in 2002, the Prince of Asturias for the Arts (1987), an honorary BAFTA in Great Britain (he had already won it as an actor for “Fugitives”) half a century earlier. The Bahamas appointed him ambassador to Japan and UNESCO in the late 1990s. And in the United States, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Earlier, the British crown had appointed him Commander-Knight of the Order of the Empire for his artistic contributions. Married to Juana Hardy in his youth, and to Canadian actress Joanna Shikus in 1976, he had six daughters.
“To the teacher with affection”, emblematic film
The British production “To the teacher with affection”, directed by James Clavell (1967), was the one that definitely marked Sidney Poitier’s career as a notable actor. Based on the novel of the same name, by ER Briathwaiter, it was about an unemployed black engineer – played by Poitier – who finds his destiny as a teacher for a group of troubled students at a London school. For many, it is a true hymn to the teaching vocation (at least, how it was interpreted at that time, with a sincere, protective, paternal teacher, without yielding in the demarcation of the limits with the boys).
Actor Sidney Poitier and former boxer Muhammad Alii in New York.
Suzy Kendall and Judy Geeson are other actresses in that remembered movie, which also had a multi-award-winning song, performed by Lulu and ranked number one on Billboard. “These schoolgirl days are gone / but I know that in my mind / those days will be present, over and over again,” he sang.
Three decades later there was a TV sequel directed by Peter Bogdanovich, recently deceased, although without much success.
LV – AFG
Reference from clarin