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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."
Poitier was first married to Juanita Hardy from April 29, 1950, until 1965. They raised their family in Stuyvesant, New York, in a house on the Hudson River. In 1959, Poitier began a nine-year affair with actress Diahann Carroll. He has been married to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian former actress, since January 23, 1976. He has four daughters with his first wife (Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, and Gina) and two with his second (Anika and Sydney Tamiia). In addition to his six daughters, Poitier has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.When Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in September 2019, Poitier's family had 23 missing relatives.
Sidney Poitier was the youngest of seven children, born to Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, Bahamian farmers who owned a farm on Cat Island. The family would travel to Miami to sell tomatoes and other produce. Reginald also worked as a cab driver in Nassau, Bahamas. Poitier was born unexpectedly in Miami while his parents were visiting. His birth was two months premature and he was not expected to survive, but his parents remained in Miami for three months to nurse him to health. Poitier grew up in the Bahamas, then a British Crown colony. Owing to his unplanned birth in the United States, he was automatically entitled to American citizenship.Poitier's uncle believed that the Poitier ancestors on his father's side had migrated from Haiti, and were probably among the runaway slaves who established maroon communities throughout the Bahamas, including Cat Island. He noted that Poitier is a French name, and that there were no white Poitiers from the Bahamas. However, there had been a white Poitier on Cat Island; the name came from planter Charles Leonard Poitier of who had immigrated from Jamaica in the early 1800s. In 1834, his wife's estate on Cat Island had 86 slaves, who kept the name Poitier, a name that had been introduced into the Anglosphere since the Norman conquest in the 11th century.Poitier lived with his family on Cat Island until he was 10, when they moved to Nassau. There he was exposed to the modern world, where he saw his first automobile, first experienced electricity, plumbing, refrigeration, and motion pictures. He was raised a Roman Catholic but later became an agnostic with views closer to deism.At age 15, he was sent to Miami to live with his brother's large family. At 16, he moved to New York City and held a string of jobs as a dishwasher. A waiter sat with him every night for several weeks helping him learn to read the newspaper. During World War II, in November 1943, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to a Veteran's Administration hospital in Northport, New York, and was trained to work with psychiatric patients. Poitier became upset with how the hospital treated its patients, and feigned mental illness to obtain a discharge. Poitier confessed to a psychiatrist that he was faking his condition, but the doctor was sympathetic and granted his discharge under Section VIII of Army regulation 615-360 in December 1944.After leaving the Army he worked as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a spot with the American Negro Theater.
Movies & TV Series
Scandalize My Name: Stories from the Blacklist
A documentary look at the confluence of the Red scare, McCarthyism, and blacklists with the post-war activism by African Americans seeking more and better roles on radio, television, and stage. It beg...
The Simple Life Of Noah Dearborn
A 91 years old carpenter, who is still in completely good health, has to fight developers who are trying to force him to sell his land.
Mandela and de Klerk
Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine both received Emmy nominations for their performances in this made-for-TV movie. The plot follows Nelson Mandela's 27-year struggle to end apartheid.
Hired by a powerful member of the Russian mafia to avenge an FBI sting that left his brother dead, a psychopathic hitman known only as The Jackal proves an elusive target for the people charged with t...
A series of thirty-two trailers put together to illustrate the film industry's attitude to and packaging of African-American screen imagery.
1 TV Series
Roy Parmenter is an FBI agent in San Diego; 20 years ago his partner was killed by a Soviet spy, nicknamed Scuba, still at large. Scuba is now trying to extort the Soviets; to prove he's serious, he's...
Shoot to Kill
When a cunning murderer vanishes into the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest, pursuing FBI agent Warren Stantin must exchange familiar city streets for unknown wilderness trails. Completely out...
Let's Do It Again
Clyde Williams and Billy Foster are a couple of blue-collar workers in Atlanta who have promised to raise funds for their fraternal order, the Brothers and Sisters of Shaka. However, their method for ...
The Wilby Conspiracy
Having spent 10 years in prison for nationalist activities, Shack Twala is finally ordered released by the South African Supreme Court but he finds himself almost immediately on the run after a run-in...
A report on the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana, in 1972, a historic event that gathered Black voices from across the political spectrum, among them Jesse Jackson, Dick Grego...
Buck and the Preacher
A wagon master and a con-man preacher help freed slaves dogged by cheap-labor agents out West.
An enigmatic man (Sidney Poitier) returns to his Alabama hometown as his sister is dying of cancer and incites the suspicion of notable town officials.
After a group of young revolutionaries break into a company's corporate headquarters and steal $5,000,000 worth of heroin to keep it off the street, they call on San Francisco Police Lieutenant Virgil...
1 Movie · 1 TV Series
The Dick Cavett Show
The Dick Cavett Show is a talk show hosted by Dick Cavett on various television networks.
For Love of Ivy
When it was released in 1968, For Love of Ivy was the first mainstream Hollywood film to depict a mature romantic relationship between a black man and woman. Sidney Poitier stars as Jack Parks, a truc...
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
When their daughter brings home a fiancée who is black, Matt and Christina Drayton are challenged by their attitudes.
To Sir, with Love
The idealist engineer-trainee taught a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London's East End.
In the Heat of the Night
An African American detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racist southern town.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The life of Jesus Christ, from his birth in Bethlehem to his death and eventual resurrection, is given an all-star treatment in this epic retelling. The execution of all the newborn males in Egypt by ...
The Slender Thread
Alan is a Seattle college student volunteering at a crisis center. One night when at the clinic alone, a woman calls up the number and tells Alan that she needs to talk to someone. She informs Alan sh...
The Bedford Incident
A reporter is given permission to interview a hardened cold-war warrior and captain of the American destroyer during a routine patrol. The reporter got more than he bargained for when the captain bega...
A Patch of Blue
A blind, uneducated white girl is befriended by a black man, who becomes determined to help her escape her impoverished and abusive home life.
A Raisin in the Sun
Walter Lee Younger is a young man struggling with his station in life. Sharing a tiny apartment with his wife, son, sister and mother, he seems like an imprisoned man. Until, that is, the family gets ...
Ram Bowen and Eddie Cook are two expatriate jazz musicians living in Paris where, unlike America at the time, Jazz musicians are celebrated and racism is a non-issue. When they meet and fall in love w...
A British woman marries an American writer in spite of her family's disapproval and goes to live with him on a tropical island.
Porgy and Bess
Set in the early 1900s in the fictional Catfish Row section of Charleston, South Carolina, which serves as home to a black fishing community, the story focuses on the titular characters, crippled begg...
Band of Angels
Amantha Starr is a young woman who lived in Kentucky prior to the Civil War. She is sent to the best schools by her widower father, who is a wealthy plantation owner. Amantha's world was turned upside...
Something of Value
As Kenya's Mau Mau uprising tears the country apart, former childhood friends Kimani (Sidney Poitier), a native, and Peter (Rock Hudson), a British colonist, find themselves on opposite sides of the s...
The Mark of the Hawk
The man called Obam struggles with the increasingly hostile forces facing each other in a colonial African country. The African natives want their land and lives back from the British colonists. Obam'...
Edge of the City
An army deserter and a black dock worker join forces against a corrupt union official.
1 Movie · 1 TV Series
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and Th...
Good-bye, My Lady
An old man and a young boy who live in the southeastern Mississippi swamps are brought together by the love of a dog.