Sidney Poitier as John Prentice in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, released in December, 1967.
 
Sidney Poitier on Wikipedia
Sidney Poitier on the Internet Movie Database
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sidney Poitier
Forecourt Ceremony held on Friday, June 23, 1967
 
Born: February 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida
Age at the time of the ceremony: 40
 
Sidney Poitier is a Bi-National Treasure. The first black performer to really break into Hollywood stardom and acceptance, Poiter's performances in a wide range of films are truly something to savor — an exceptionally great actor, who made quite a number of ground-breaking films.

Born two months premature while his parents were visiting Miami, Florida, Poiteir's parents were farmers on Cat Island in the Bahamas. At age ten the Poitier family moved to Nassau, where young Sidney discovered the movies. At age 16, Poitier moved in with his brother in New York City, where he learned to refine his English and supported himself by washing dishes in a restaurant.

Fibbing about his age, he enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was given the task of being an attendant in a mental hospital. In 1944, he was discharged and went back to dishwashing until he got a spot with the American Negro Theatre in Harlem, where he would meet singer / actor Harry Belafonte.

Poitier stood out immediately on account of his accent and, due to being tone deaf, he was not able to use musicality in any real way. Poitier made his Broadway debut as Probulos in an all-black production of Lysistrata with Etta Moten Marten in the title role in October, 1946. The play only had four performances, but after getting a taste of film work as an extra in Sepia Cinderella (released in July, 1947), starring Billy Daniels, Poitier then played the part of Lester in a rivial of Anna Lucasta from September to October, 1947.

By this time, Sidney was already on his way to Hollywood to star in Joseph L. Mankeiwicz' film No Way Out (which played the Chinese in October, 1950). There was something about the way this actor handled himself in these roles that got him considered for films that other black actors just didn't get. He traveled to South Africa for director Zoltan Korda's film of Cry, the Beloved Country (released in November, 1951). He next was cast as the star player of the Harlem Globetrotters in Go Man Go! (released in January, 1954), directed by James Wong Howe.

But it was Poitier's multi-hued performance in Blackboard Jungle (released in March, 1955) with Glenn Ford, which made him a star. Poitier worked with director Martin Riit in a noir, Edge of the City (released in January, 1957), with John Cassavetes, then scored bigtime in direcrtorStanley Kramer's memorable The Defiant Ones (released in September, 1958), with Tony Curtis.

Now a big star, Poitier returned to Broadway to star in A Raisin in the Sun for 530 perfs from March, 1959 to June 25, 1960, with Claudia McNeil, after shooting Porgy and Bess (released in June, 1959), with Dorothy Dandridge. Poitier's singing voice was dubbed. If you have never seen this movie, there is a reason: the Gershwin Family hate it, and have prevented its circulation for years. Poitier starred in the Korean War film All the Young Men (released in August, 1960), with Alan Ladd, then wowed everyone with the film version of A Raisin in the Sun (released in May, 1961— at the Cannes Film Festival) with Claudia McNeil.

Poitier took a flyer on a low-budget movie with a wonderful part for him — as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field (released in June, 1963 — at the Berlin Film Festival, where he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor) with Lilia Skala as the head of the nunnery he encounters. Later, Poitier startled the world by winning the Oscar for Best Actor for this film.

The expensive, widescreen historical epic was still in vogue, and Poitier made one: The Long Ships (released in June, 1964) with Richard Widmark, where he played a Moorish King. It flopped. His next film was a low-key triumph: A Patch of Blue (released in December, 1965) with Shelly Winters, put him in a role where a black man is sympathetic to a white woman, while To Sir, with Love (released in June, 1967), turned Blackboard Jungle on its head, with Poitier playing a teacher in a rough school in London.

A role that Poitier will always be famous is playing a forensic detective stuck down in the south in In the Heat of the Night (which played the Chinese in August, 1967) with Rod Steiger playing a bigoted police chief trying to solve a murder. A signature film. As is Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (released in December, 1967), with Kate and Spence, which asked the question: "Would you want a black man to marry your (white) duaghter?" A lot of people said, "If he is Sidney Poitier — yes!"

And this was part of the problem. Poitier felt that he was being cast as a sort of black superman, representing the spirations of everyone and on one. He took a break, and went to Broadway to direct a play called Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights with Louis Gossett, Diane Ladd and Cicely Tyson in February, 1968. It flopped.

But Poitier was a creative mood; he wrote the story for the rom-com For Love of Ivy (released in July, 1968) with Abbey Lincoln. He would be directing soon. They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (released in July, 1970) with Martin Landau, was the first of two sequels to In the Heat of the Night, the other being The Organization (released in October, 1971) with Barbara McNair.

On Buck and the Preacher (released in March, 1972) with Harry Belafonte as a producing partner, Poitier replaced the original director, who left the picture. Poitier brought it off, and couldn't wait to direct again. The chance came with A Warm December (which played the Chinese in May, 1973) with Ester Anderson, and continued with Uptown Saturday Night (released in July, 1974), with Bill Cosby.

Bill Cosby became the actor Poitier enjoyed working with the most. Cosby, who, while accepted by white audiences, could still get down with blacks as well. They made Let's Do It Again (released in October, 1975) together with Poitier directing, same with A Piece of the Action (released in October, 1977). Poitier took a chance and directed Stir Crazy (released December, 1980) with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, even though he was not it the film. The dance contest film Fast Forward (released in February, 1985), was almost the last film he would direct.

Taking five years off, Poitier returned in the actioner Little Nikita (released in March, 1988) with River Phoenix. He would direct his old pal Bill Cosby in the comedy Ghost Dad (released in June, 1990), then Poitier spent much of the rest of his career working in television. He played Thurgood Marshall in Separate But Equal aired over ABC in April, 1991 with Burt Lancaster.

He starred in the caper movie Sneakers (released in September, 1992) with Robert Redford, and got together with director Peter Bogdanovich for To Sir, with Love II aired over CBS in April, 1996, and played a psychoanalyst to troubled teen lovers in David and Lisa aired over ABC, in November, 1998, which was produced by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions. He wound things up with two curiously similar television films, both directed by Gregg Champion: The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn aired over CBS in May, 1999 with Dianne Wiest, and The Last Bricklayer in America aired over CBS, in September, 2001. While doing all of this, Poitier was the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2007, was given an honorary Oscar in 2002, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2006.
 
 
Caption TK
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Sidney Poitier Forecourt ceremony, Friday, June 23, 1967. Mr. Poitier is discovering the joy of standing in wet cement, assisted by cement artist John Tartaglia on the right.
 
 
 
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