Sidney Poitier Biography, Wiki, Age, Career, Death, Cause of Death | Who was Oscar Winner Sidney Poitier?

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Who was Sidney Poitier?

Sir Sidney Poitier (February 20, 1927 – January 6, 2022) was a Bahamian-American actor, film director, activist, and ambassador. In 1964, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, becoming the first Black male and Bahamian actor to win the award. 

He received two further Academy Award nominations, ten Golden Globes nominations, two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, six BAFTA nominations, eight Laurel nominations, and one Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination.

Poitier was one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, and after the death of Kirk Douglas in 2020, was the oldest living and earliest surviving male Academy Award winner until his own death in 2022. From 1997 to 2007, Poitier served as Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.

Oscar winner and groundbreaking star Sidney Poitier dies

Oscar winner and groundbreaking star Sidney Poitier dies
Oscar winner and groundbreaking star Sidney Poitier dies

Sidney Poitier, the groundbreaking actor and enduring inspiration who transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen and became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for the best lead performance and the first to be a top box-office draw, has died. He was 94.

Poitier, winner of the best actor Oscar in 1964 for “Lilies of the Field,” died Thursday in the Bahamas, according to Eugene Torchon-Newry, acting director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Bahamas.

Few movie stars, Black or white, had such an influence both on and off the screen. Before Poitier, the son of Bahamian tomato farmers, no Black actor had a sustained career as a lead performer or could get a film produced based on his own star power. Before Poitier, few Black actors were permitted a break from the stereotypes of bug-eyed servants and grinning entertainers. Before Poitier, Hollywood filmmakers rarely even attempted to tell a Black person’s story.

Messages honoring and mourning Poitier flooded social media, with Whoopi Goldberg writing on Twitter: “He showed us how to reach for the stars.” Tyler Perry on Instagram wrote: “The grace and class that this man has shown throughout his entire life, the example he set for me, not only as a Black man but as a human being will never be forgotten.” And musician Lenny Kravitz wrote that Poitier “showed the world that with vision and grace, all is possible.”

Poitier’s rise mirrored profound changes in the country in the 1950s and 1960s. As racial attitudes evolved during the civil rights era and segregation laws were challenged and fell, Poitier was the performer to whom a cautious industry turned for stories of progress.

He was the escaped Black convict who befriends a racist white prisoner (Tony Curtis) in “The Defiant Ones.” He was the courtly office worker who falls in love with a blind white girl in “A Patch of Blue.” He was the handyman in “Lilies of the Field” who builds a church for a group of nuns. In one of the great roles of the stage and screen, he was the ambitious young father whose dreams clashed with those of other family members in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Debates about diversity in Hollywood inevitably turn to the story of Poitier. With his handsome, flawless face; intense stare and disciplined style, he was for years not just the most popular Black movie star, but the only one.

Sidney Poitier Biography, Wiki

A native of Cat Island, the Bahamas (although born, two months prematurely, in Miami during a visit by his parents), Poitier grew up in poverty as the son of farmers Evelyn (nee Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, who also drove 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 experienced the racial chasm that divides the country, a great shock to a boy coming from a society with a majority of African descent.

At 18, he went to New York, did menial jobs, and slept in a bus terminal toilet. A brief stint in the Army as a worker at a veterans’ hospital was followed by more menial jobs in Harlem. An impulsive 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 try, he was accepted. Spotted 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 roles were still less interesting and prominent than those white actors routinely 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 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.

He remained active on stage and screen as well as in the burgeoning Civil Rights movement. His roles in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and To Sir, with Love (1967) were landmarks in helping to break down some social barriers between blacks and whites.

Poitier’s talent, conscience, integrity, and inherent likability placed him on equal footing with the white stars of the day. He took on directing and producing chores in the 1970s, achieving success in both arenas.

Sidney Poitier Biography, Wiki
Sidney Poitier Biography, Wiki
BornFebruary 20, 1927
Miami, Florida, U.S.
DiedJanuary 6, 2022 (aged 94)
The Bahamas
CitizenshipBahamian, American
Spouse(s)Juanita Hardy​​(m. 1950; div. 1965)
​Joanna Shimkus ​(m. 1976)​
Domestic partnerDiahann Carroll (1959–1968)
Children6; including Sydney
OccupationActor, director, ambassador

Sidney Poitier Career

Poitier served as an understudy (one who learns a performer’s lines in case that performer is unable to perform) for actor-singer Harry Belafonte (1927–) in a play called Days of Our Youth, and an appearance one night led to a small role in a production of the Greek comedy Lysistrata. 

On the opening night of the latter play Poitier was so nervous that he delivered the wrong lines and ran off the stage; still, his brief appearance so impressed critics that he ended up getting more work.

In the 1960s Poitier began to make his mark on American popular culture. After appearing in the film version of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, in a role he had developed on the stage, Poitier took the part of an American serviceman in Germany in Lilies of the Field (1963).

This role earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the first African American to earn this honor.

In 1967 Poitier appeared in three hit movies. In To Sir, With Love he played a schoolteacher, while in In the Heat of the Night he played Virgil Tibbs, a black detective from the North who helps solve a murder in a southern town and wins the respect of the prejudiced police chief there. In the comedy Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, also starring Spencer Tracy (1900–1967) and Katherine Hepburn (1907–), Poitier’s character is engaged to a white woman.

The film was Hollywood’s first love story between members of different races that did not end tragically. Reflecting on the feelings of filmmakers during this period, Poitier remarked to Susan Ellicott of the London Times, “I suited their need. I was clearly intelligent. I was a pretty good actor. I believed in brotherhood, in a free society. I hated racism, segregation [separation based on race]. And I was a symbol against those things.”

Of course, Poitier was more than a symbol. David J. Fox reported in the Los Angeles Times that actor James Earl Jones (1931–), at a tribute to Poitier hosted by the American Film Institute (AFI) in 1992, remembered, “He marched on Montgomery and Memphis with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [1929–1968], who said of Poitier: ‘He’s a man who never lost his concern for the least of God’s children.'” Rosa Parks (1913–), who in 1955 became a civil rights hero simply by refusing to sit in the “negro” section of a Montgomery bus, attended the tribute and praised Poitier as “a great actor and role model.”

Sidney Poitier Wife

His first marriage was to Juanita Hardy from 1950 to 1965. The couple had four daughters.

He married actress Joanna Shimkus in 1976 with whom he has two daughters.

Sidney Poitier Awards

  • He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film Lilies of the Field in 1963.
  • He was presented with the Academy Honorary Award in 2002 “for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence”.

Sidney Poitier FAQ’s

Who was Sidney Poitier?

Sir Sidney Poitier (February 20, 1927 – January 6, 2022) was a Bahamian-American actor, film director, activist, and ambassador. In 1964, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, becoming the first Black male and Bahamian actor to win the award. 

How did Sidney Poitier die?

Poitier’s death was confirmed to NBC News by a source close to the family. No cause of death has been revealed. 

How old was Sidney Poitier?

Sidney Poitier died at the age of 95.

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