SIDNEY POITIER BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Sidney Poitier was born prematurely, on February 20th, 1927 in Miami, Florida. He grew up in the Bahamas in a very poor family. His father was a tomato farmer and The family moved from the tiny village of Cat Island to Nassau, the Bahamian capital, when Poitier was 11 years old. It was in Nassau that Poitier first experienced the magic of cinema.
Poitier attended school, but had to drop out at the age of twelve to help his family out financially. He found work as a laborer, but soon was encouraged by his father to move to the United States in search of a better life.
At just fifteen years old, Sidney moved to the US and joined an older brother of his who had already immigrated. Since Sidney was born in Miami, he already had citizenship. He luckily found work in Miami, but was not used to the segregation he was experiencing that was not typical in Nassau. He spent one summer working as a dishwasher and then decided the south was not for him, and therefore, he moved to New York City.
It was a treacherous journey, as he was robbed along the way and barely 16 years old. He slept in bus stations, and other odd places until he earned enough money to afford to rent a room. Life was so difficult for him, he ended up lying about his age and entering the army, however, the army made him feel just as out of place as Miami did and so he claimed insanity and was discharged.
Upon return to New York, he attempted to audition for Harlem's American Negro Theater, but the theater's director ridiculed his Caribbean accent and poor reading skills. This was a turning point for Poitier. He was determined to learn to read better. He continued working as a dishwasher and any free moment he got, he would red newspapers and listen to the radio and repeat every word he heard.
Poitier then returned to the American Negro Theater, persuading its directors to hire him as a janitor in exchange for acting lessons. In the beginning, his teachers had little faith in him, however, when Poitier was asked to fill in for a play, he was eager to do so, and a Broadway director just happened to see his performance.
He was offered a small part in an all-black production of, "Lysistrata" and his performance caught the eye of not only his acting teachers but also critics were pleasantly surprised. This play did not last too long, but Poitier was offered another acting job with the touring company of Anna Lucasta. This play ended up touring for quite a few years and really helped Poitier get known with other African American actors.
Finally, in 1950, Poitier had his big break with a feature film debut in, "No Way Out" co-starring with Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell and Stephen McNally, where he portrayed a doctor. Normally, African American men were cast in roles of servants etc, but that was not the case with this film. He continued to work steadily in such films as, "Cry, The Beloved Country", "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955) starring alongside Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Vic Morrow and Richard Kiley, "Band of Angels" (1957) starring with Clark Gable and Yvonne De Carlo, "The Defiant Ones" (1958) co-starring Tony Curtis and "Porgy and Bess" (1959) also starring Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Brock Peters, Diahann Carroll, Clarence Muse and Pearl Bailey.
With the Civil Rights Movement taking place in the 60's, Poitier began to make his biggest impact on American culture. He continued to work on films such as, "A Raisin in the Sun" (1961) starring with Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Louis Gossett Jr. and Ivan Dixon and "Lillies of the Field" (1963), which earned him a best actor statuette at the Academy Awards, making him the first black actor to earn this honor. Poitier continued to work as an actor, but he was also breaking down stereotypes and barriers in the industry that had never been done before.
In 1965 he appeared in the role of Simon of Cyrene in the historical drama epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told" with an ensemble cast second to none including Max von Sydow, John Wayne, Dorothy McGuire, David McCallum, Claude Rains and Jose Ferrer just to name a few.
In "To Sir With Love" (1967) he portrayed a school teacher and in, "In the Heat of the Night" (1967) co-starring with Rod Steiger and Warren Oates, he portrayed a black police detective. This film is one he is very well known for. Even more impressive was the comedy, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", (1967) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, where for the first time ever on American film, did a black man woo a white woman and have a interracial kiss on stage.
Entering in to the 70's and 80's, Poitier tried his hand at directing. His first film as a director was, "Buck and the Preacher" (1972) and also starring alongside Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Clarence Muse and Cameron Mitchell. Followed with a few comedies, "Let's do it Again" (1975) and "Stir Crazy" (1980) starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.
In the early 90's, he returned to acting appearing in numerous films such as, "Sneakers" (1992), "The Jackal" (1997) also starring Richard Gere and Bruce Willis and "Children of the Dust" (1995). He also worked on a groundbreaking television film, "Separate but Equal" (1991) starring as NAACP attorney and later to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall with Burt Lancaster and Richard Kiley, "To Sir With Love II" ( 1996) and the Showtime docudrama, "Mandela and De Klerk" (1997).
Poitier was married twice, first to Juanita Hardy in 1950 and they divorced in 1965, but had 4 children together first, Beverly, Pamela, Sherri and Gina. Then in 1975, he married Joanna Shimkus and together they had two children, Anika and Sydney.
Poitier also received many awards and had many accomplishments throughout his career as an actor. Some of which were being appointed as ambassador to Japan from the Bahamas in 1997 and winning an honorary Oscar in 2002. He was also a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995, and in 2002 Poitier was given a special Academy Award saluting his career. In 1994, he was named to the board of directors of Walt Disney Cooperation. He was also a key activist for civil rights. Poitier also wrote a memoir, "Measure of a Man" and his audio version won Grammy for best spoken Word Album. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) honored him with a lifetime achievement award and in 1999 he was named one of the 50 greatest screen legends. In 2009, President Barack Obama selected Sidney Poitier to get the nations highest Civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame has a star for Sidney Poitier in recognition for his contributions to the Motion Picture Industry.
1949 No Way Out
1952 Cry, the Beloved Country
1952 Red Ball Express
1955 The Blackboard Jungle
1956 Good Bye My Lady
1957 Edge of the City
1957 Something of Value
1958 The Defiant Ones
1958 Mark of the hawk
1959 Porgy and Bess
1960 All the Young Men
1961 A Raisin in the Sun
1961 Paris Blues
1962 Pressure Point
1963 Lilies of the Field
1964 The Long Ships.
1965 The Bedford Incident
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told
1965 A Patch of Blue
1965 The Slender Thread
1967 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
1967 In the Heat of the Night
1967 To Sir, With Love
1968 For Love of Ivy
1969 The Lost Man
1970 They Call Me Mr. Tibbs
1970 Brother John
1972 Buck and the Preacher
1973 A Warm December
1974 Uptown Saturday Night
1974 The Wilby Conspiracy
1975 Let's Do It Again
1977 A Piece of the Action
1988 Shoot to Kill
1988 Little Nikita
1996 Black History: The Classics
1997 The jackal
1997 Mandela and De klerk
2001 Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey