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Remembering Sidney Poitier

January 8, 2022

So much accomplished; brilliantly acting, active in civil rights and in an exponentially complex and ongoing racial situation, able to beat the line, causing long lines, at least in the north to see his great work–Sidney Poitier, who died days back at age 94, is a transcendent figure.

I will start with “just” (some “just,” as he proved marvelous, early on in ( “No Way Out” “Blackboard Jungle” and in his Academy Award winning role in “Lillies of the Field”) and later in seminal roles in “The Defiant Ones,” “Raisin in the Sun,” “In The Heat of the Night,” and “Guess Who’s Coming Dinner”) his amazing performances.

He looked so great, could go mellow and assertive, the latter in brilliant fashion via “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” in “The Heat of the Night” and to his father played by Cy Fere in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” “You think of yourself as a Black man, I think of myself as a MAN.

Additionally in 1967, (Clayton Davis of Variety, was/is it too much to get the historic year correct, not 1968 as you said on WCBS radio?!) Mr. Poitier starred in 3 big hits and became top box office in a still very backward racially (still is, but despite what I heard from racist old timers days back, in a local Burger King, there has been progress) time, Poitier starred in 3 highly successful films, the aforementioned “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “In The Heat of the Night,” as well as “To Sir With Love.”

As cited, the films were both commercially successful and of great quality.

Mr. Poitier was very active in the civil rights movement, once taking a call from the great activist/talent and Sidney’s friend, Harry Belafonte, and journeying into the dark, dangerous, southern night, to help register voters.

An NPR segment on “Weekend Saturday,” featuring critic Bob Mondello’s review of Mr. Poitier’s career is sensational and informative (a link) hopefully to be posted below.

I close with some personal notes. The first involves a family friend, Ira Michaels, a good man who died far too young in 1972, telling us how great and brave, battling serious illness, that would soon take his life, Spencer Tracy, was in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” climaxed by his extraordinary work as the movie ended. Poitier, more than holding his own with the great cast that also included Katherine Hepburn, was a major part of so much classic, that emerged from that Stanley Kramer film.

Finally at an Award Ceremony for Sidney Poitier that reviewed and of course, praised his great career, I met Sidney Poitier, shook his hand (see below) and told him without the “Sir” of my “Love” of his work and presence.

I did not dare sing it, but Lulu, who did so in “To Sir With Love,” did sing that song, on that memorable night. It was a fitting, moving moment honoring a man, who moved us forward so many times!

 

Sidney Poitier Gala At The Film Society Of Lincoln Center 152[1]
Left to right, Sidney Poitier and Andy B.


Below click to hear Bob Mondello’s excellent look back at the career and accomplishments of Sidney Poitier.


Actor Sidney Poitier, who changed the face of Hollywood, dies at 94


 

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