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Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier (; born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor, film director, and ambassador. In 1964 Poitier became the first black male and Afro-Bahamian actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, having been nominated for the award twice. He is the oldest living and earliest surviving Best Actor Academy Award winner. In addition, he was nominated six times for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor (four times under Motion Picture Drama, and once for both Miniseries or Television Film, and Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) for Best Foreign Actor, winning each once. From 1997 to 2007, he served as the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.His entire family lived in the Bahamas, then still a British colony, but Poitier was born unexpectedly in Miami while they were visiting for the weekend, which automatically granted him American citizenship. He grew up in the Bahamas, but moved to New York when he was 16. He joined the North American Negro Theatre, landing his breakthrough film role as an incorrigible high school student in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle. In 1958, Poitier starred with Tony Curtis in the critically acclaimed The Defiant Ones as chained-together convicts who escape and must cooperate. Each received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor, with Poitier's being the first for a black actor, as well as nominations for the BAFTAs, which Poitier won. In 1964, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field (1963) in which he played a handyman who stays with and helps a group of German-speaking nuns build a chapel. Poitier also received critical acclaim for A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and A Patch of Blue (1965). He continued to break ground in three successful 1967 films, each dealing with issues of race and race relations: To Sir, with Love; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night, making him the top box-office star of that year. He received nominations for the Golden Globes and BAFTAs for the latter film, but not for the Oscars, likely due to vote splitting between his roles. After twice reprising his Virgil Tibbs character from In the Heat of the Night and acting in a variety of other films, including the thriller The Wilby Conspiracy (1975), with Michael Caine, Poitier turned to acting/directing with the action-comedies Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), and A Piece of the Action (1978), all co-starring Bill Cosby. During a decade away from acting, he directed the successful Stir Crazy (1980) starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, among other films. He returned to acting in the late 1980s and early 1990s in a few thrillers and television roles. Poitier was made an honourary Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. (The knighthood was honorary as he was no longer a British Subject at the time, the Bahamas having become independent in 1973; so he can use the postnominal letters "KBE" but he is not called "Sir Sidney.") In 2009 Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor.In 2016, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Poitier 22nd on their list of Greatest Male Stars of classic Hollywood cinema. He is one of only two living actors on the AFI list, the other being Italian actress Sophia Loren. In 2002, Poitier was chosen to receive an Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his "remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."
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