Sidney Poitier is an actor, director, and diplomat well known for being the first black person to have been rewarded the Academy Award for Best Actor. He earned this award for his representation of Homer Smith, an African American employee in the film, Lilies of the Field. This was a very symbolic achievement in the 1960s when discrimination was wanton in the United States. Born to underprivileged Bahamian farmer parents, he got little formal education. As a teenager, he was turning towards roadway crime when his father sent him to the United States to initiate life anew. He collected a huge cultural shock in New York where he watched boundless racism and rift between the classes.
After struggling to make finishes meet as a dishwasher, he followed the American Negro Theater. Through his determination and the hard struggle he soon became a much followed after-theatre artist and soon started receiving film offers. In his debut film No Way Out, he performed as a doctor who manages a white bigot. This appearance got him noticed and he earned certain offers. After establishing himself as a successful actor, he branched into the direction as well. He was called as one of the Greatest Male Stars of All Time by the American Film Institute in 1999.
Sidney Poitier Wiki/Bio[table id=785 /]
A native of Cat Island, The Bahamas (although born, two months prematurely, in Miami during a visit by his parents), Poitier raise up in poverty as the son of farmers Evelyn (nee Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, who also run a cab.
He had little formal education and at the age of 15 was sent to Miami to live with his brother, in order to forestall a growing tendency toward delinquency. In the U.S., he faces the racial chasm that divides the country, a great shock to a boy coming from a society with a mostly of African descent.
At 18, he went to New York, did tiny jobs, and slept in a bus terminal toilet. A brief stint in the Army as a worker at a veteran’s hospital was followed by more menial jobs in Harlem. A great audition at the American Negro Theatre was rejected so forcefully that Poitier dedicated the next six months to overcoming his accent and improving his performing skills. On his second attempt, he was accepted.
Focused in rehearsal by a casting agent, he won a bit part in the Broadway production of “Lysistrata”, for which he earned good reviews. By the end of 1949, he was having 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 as a doctor treating a white bigot got him plenty of notice and led to more roles.
Nevertheless, the characters were still less interesting and prominent than those white actors timely obtained. But seven years later, after turning down several projects he considered demeaning, Poitier got a number of roles that catapulted him into a category rarely if ever achieved by an African American man of that time, that of a leading man.
One of these films, The Defiant Ones (1958), earned Poitier his first Academy Award nomination as Best Actor. Five years later, he won the Oscar for Lilies of the Field (1963), the first African American to win for a leading role.
Sidney Poitier Net Worth
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Sidney Poitier had a net worth of $20 million at the time of his death.[table id=786 /]
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Sidney Poitier Movies And TV Shows
- Poitier made his Hollywood debut in the 1950 feature film No Way Out, and he followed in 1951 with Cry, the Beloved Country, a drama set in South Africa during the time of apartheid.
- He loved a career breakthrough in 1955 with the popular Blackboard Jungle, portraying a troubled but gifted student at an inner-city school.
- Poitier’s success as an actor reached new heights when he scored an Academy Award nomination for the 1958 crime drama The Defiant Ones, with Tony Curtis.
- The following year, he lit up the screen as a leading man in the musical Porgy and Bess, co-starring with Dorothy Dandridge. Both this film and his impressive turn in the 1961 film adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun helped make the actor a top star.
- In 1964, Poitier claimed the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Lilies of the Field (1963)—the first win by an African-American actor in this category.
- In 1967, Poitier delivered three very different yet equally strong performances. He played Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs in the Southern crime drama In the Heat of the Night. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, he played a black man engaged to a white woman in this groundbreaking look at interracial marriage.
- While he helped break down the color barrier in film and brought dignity to the portrayal of noble and intelligent characters, Poitier found himself under fire for not being more politically radical in the late 1960s.
- He was especially upset by a harsh article about him in The New York Times and decided to step out of the spotlight, choosing to live in the Bahamas for a time before making his return to Hollywood.
- In 1972 Poitier made his directorial debut and co-starred with his friend Harry Belafonte in the Western Buck and the Preacher. The pair also appeared together in the 1974 comedy Uptown Saturday Night, the first of several Poitier-directed efforts that featured Bill Cosby.
- In 1980, Poitier helmed the Richard Pryor–Gene Wilder comedy Stir Crazy, which became the highest-grossing film by an African-American director for many years.
- After a roughly 10-year absence from the big screen as an actor, in 1988 Poitier returned with a pair of dramas—Shoot to Kill and Little Nikita. Other notable later films include Sneakers (1992) and One Man, One Vote (1997).
- On the small screen, Poitier earned accolades for portraying some of history’s famous men. He played U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Separate but Equal in 1991 and opposite Michael Caine as South African leader Nelson Mandela in Mandela and De Klerk in 1997.
Books and Honors
Turning his attention to sharing his many personal experiences, Poitier in 2000 published The Measure of a Man, which was billed as a spiritual autobiography. That same year he picked up a Grammy Award for best-spoken word album for the audio version of the book. He later shared his years of wisdom for future generations with 2008’s Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter.
Poitier has received numerous honors during his legendary career. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1974, which entitles him to use the title “sir,” though he chooses not to do so.
In 2009 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. Two years later he was feted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, earning the organization’s Chaplin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Poitier has also served as non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan and to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
- Nominated for two Academy Awards and won one. Also received an honorary Oscar.
- Nominated for two Grammy Awards and won one.
- Nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards.
- Grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas. The family later moved to Nassau. His parents sent him to live with relatives in Miami at age 14. After an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan, he left Miami at age 16 and moved to New York.
- Lying about his age, he joined the Army at age 16. He feigned insanity to obtain a discharge after nine months, and later admitted the ruse in his book, “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.”
- A heavy Bahamian accent and limited reading ability cost him an acting job at Harlem’s American Negro Theater. He overcame the accent by imitating radio announcers and improved his reading skills by studying newspapers.
- Has dual citizenship in the United States and the Bahamas.
Poitier’s First Marriage, To Model Juanita Hardy, Produced Four Daughters (Now 28 To 19) And Ended During His Nine-year Affair With Actress Diahann Carroll. In 1976 He Wed Canadian-born Actress Joanna Shimkus, Who Had Played Opposite Him In The Lost Man In 1969.
Sidney Poitier Was, For A Long Time, The Only Black Man In A Rarefied White World: He Was Hollywood’s One Black Movie Star. Now, At The Age Of 60, After A Self-imposed 10-year Absence From The Screen, He Is Once Again Acting In A Movie. Poitier Stopped Acting 10 Years Ago To Write His Autobiography.
With The Death Of Ernest Borgnine In 2012, He Became The Oldest Living Man To Have Won The Academy Award For Best Actor. On March 2, 2014, Poitier Appeared With Angelina Jolie At The 86Th Academy Awards, To Present The Best Director Award.
Sidney Poitier’s Daughter Died Suddenly And Her Kids Are Keeping Their Late Mom’s Legacy Alive. The Family Of The Iconic Actor Sidney Poitier Suffered A Grievous Blow When His Daughter Gina Poitier-Gouraige Passed Away On May 27, 2018, At The Age Of 57.
Mr. Poitier Stopped Acting 10 Years Ago To Write His Autobiography. ”I Thought There Were Times In My Life In Hollywood That Needed To Be Set Down, Because Of Its Uniqueness,” He Said. ”Sidney Found The Parts He Was Being Offered Were The Same Kinds Of Parts He Had Already Played.
Sidney Poitier, Who Broke The Colour Barrier In The U.S. Motion-picture Industry By Becoming The First African American Actor To Win An Academy Award For Best Actor (For Lilies Of The Field ) And The First Black Movie.