Sidney Poitier, the first black actor to win an Oscar, dies

The 94-year-old actor Sidney Poitier has died without communication of the causes, as has been publicly reported by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas. Mitchell was a close friend of the family, according to the local press.

Poitier, a Miami-born Bahamian, built a career spanning more than 50 years with fifty films, including Classroom rebellion, In the heat of the night The Guess who is coming for dinner tonight. He earned his first Oscar nomination for his role in Fugitives (1958), a thriller prison run by Stanley Kramer. It was the first time that an African-American actor entered the shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Actor; in addition, it won a Golden Globe and a Bafta award. Poitier was becoming the first black idol of the star system in Hollywood, one of the highest paid and a guaranteed blockbuster.

He did not win the prestigious Hollywood accolade on that occasion. It took several years for him to win the statuette in 1963 for The lilies of the valley an event not only cinematographic but symbolic in the field of civil rights in the United States. The timing of the delivery, announced by actress Anne Bancroft, aroused great applause in the theater. “Because it has been a long journey to get to this moment, I am indebted to an innumerable number of people”, were his first words, visibly nervous, when he took the stage. The people he excitedly named were the film’s director, Ralph Nelson, screenwriter James Poe, and the author of the novel that the film was inspired by, William E. Barrett.

Although Poitier was born in Miami in 1927 (prematurely during a trip by his parents, which earned him US citizenship), he lived until the age of 15 in the Bahamas, on his father’s tomato farm on Cat Island. At that age he moved to the United States, to the home of one of his father’s brothers in Florida. He lied to get a job in the Navy and did all kinds of jobs, including washing dishes, to pay for acting classes. He first began acting on Broadway, taking advantage of a replacement due to illness of what would later become a great friend Harry Belafonte. Later, he landed his first leading role in the movie. Seed of evil 1955, starring Glenn Ford. From the Oscar nominations, his career took off, the actor chose the scripts with great care and his fame was reinforced with the opportune Guess who’s coming tonight (1967), a hit romantic comedy with racial conflict in the background, directed by Stanley Kramer and co-starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Both this actress and the script both deserved Academy Awards. It was in the year the film was released when the race riots in Detroit took place, the bloodiest of all those that happened in 1967, five days that left more than 40 dead and a thousand wounded.

Also in 1967 he premiered In the heat of the night Directed by Norman Jewison (The Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar), whose action takes place in a Mississippi town where a murder occurs. Shortly afterwards a black man – interpreted by Poitiers – is arrested as a suspect, when in reality he is a police inspector. In the same key year Classroom rebellion by James Clavell (The last valley), a British production in which Poitiers plays an unemployed engineer who accepts a job at a troubled school on the London outskirts.

Interesting movies kept coming, like Now they call me Mr. Tibbs (1970), a crime genre film with Martin Landau, a sequel to In the heat of the night (and that had a continuation in Inspector Tibbs v. The Organization, 1971, as well as a television series).

Soon, Poitier also launched himself into directing, with little success, making films that during the 1970s he played himself, such as Buck and the phony (1972) with Harry Belafonte, A warm december (1973) or three titles in which he gave the reply to Bill Cosby: It happened on a saturday (1974), Two lucky cheats (1975) and By profession scammers (1977).

Poitiers had six daughters during two marriages, and published three memoirs and a novel. Between 1997 and 2007 he served as a non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan. “We have lost an icon, a hero, a mentor, a fighter, a national treasure,” said Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Chester Cooper, according to The Nassau Guardian. In 2009, Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded in the United States, for being “extraordinary agents of change that remind us that each of us carries within the power of making dreams come true. to facilitate the dreams of others and to remake the world for our children, “said the former president of the country.

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