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Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

62 Movies · 3 TV Series

Biography

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."

Personal Life

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.

Early Life

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

2017.

2 Movies

2014.

1 Movie

2013.

1 Movie

2012.

1 Movie

2007.

1 Movie

2001.

1 Movie

2000.

2 Movies

1998.

1 Movie

1997.

3 Movies

1996.

1 Movie

1995.

1 TV Series

1992.

1 Movie

1991.

1 Movie

1990.

1 Movie

1988.

2 Movies

1985.

1 Movie

1982.

1 Movie

1980.

1 Movie

1979.

1 Movie

1977.

1 Movie

1975.

2 Movies

1974.

1 Movie

1973.

1 Movie

1972.

2 Movies

1971.

2 Movies

1970.

1 Movie

1969.

1 Movie

1968.

1 Movie · 1 TV Series

1967.

3 Movies

1966.

1 Movie

1965.

4 Movies

1964.

1 Movie

1963.

1 Movie

1962.

1 Movie

1961.

2 Movies

1960.

1 Movie

1959.

2 Movies

1958.

1 Movie

1957.

4 Movies

1956.

1 Movie · 1 TV Series

1955.

1 Movie

1954.

1 Movie

1952.

1 Movie

1951.

1 Movie

1950.

1 Movie
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