Monday, 10 January 2022

Sidney Poitier (1927 - 2022) [updated]


One of my heroes has just died, at the age of 94. In every role he played, actor Sidney Poitier was the very model of dignity, intelligence and resolve. And he invariably had a twinkle in his eye too. 

If you haven't before, I strongly recommend you catch up with my three favourites of all his films:

  1. In the Heat of the Night
  2. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and
  3. Raisin in the Sun.

It's literally true to say that they don't make them like this anymore. Neither the films, nor the man.


Sidney Poitier on the press's reductive focus on his 'blackness' [hat tip @FreeBlackThought]: 
"You ask me one-dimensional questions about...the Negro-ness of my life. I am artist, man, American, contemporary. I am an awful lot of things, so I wish you would pay me the respect due."
"Why is it that you guys are hounds for bad news? At this moment, you could ask me many questions about many positive & wonderful things that are happening in this country. But we gather here to pay court to sensationalism... to negativism."

Julie Burchill on 'The Beauty and Importance of Sidney Poitier':

As Martin Scorsese put it, ‘He had a vocal precision and physical power and grace that at moments seemed almost supernatural’....

He played men of science and of academia and of action. Virgil Tibbs, from In the Heat of the Night, was a detective and expert in forensic deduction who insisted on being called Mr Tibbs. In To Sir, With Love, Poitier tells his delinquent, mainly white, teenage pupils, ‘You will show respect to me and each other at all times. You will address me as “Sir” or “Mr Thackeray”. Boys will be addressed by their last names; the girls will be likewise addressed, and as “Miss”.’ ...

Poitier was a man of immense self-possession... At a time when the segregation and fetishisation of race is being pushed as a radical act, we have lost a shining example of the fact that the colour of our skin is one of the least interesting aspects of our fascinating humanity.


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