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

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01/07/2022

On at 17:53 CET

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Sidney Poitier, died this Friday at the age of 94, he became, even having been born in Miami (USA), the most famous Bahamian in the world, country where he grew up with his family and from which He was ambassador to Japan and to UNESCO upon completion of his award-winning career as an actor and film director.

BREAKING: Beloved Bahamian actor and former ambassador Sir Sidney Poitier has died. He was 94. A Broadway play about the trailblazing career of the visionary actor was announced last month. Sir Sidney’s death was confirmed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell. pic.twitter.com/WVJFlog3tC

– Eyewitness News Bahamas (@ewnewsbahamas) January 7, 2022

Endowed with an elegant image before the camera, he played various roles, most of them breaking stereotypes towards people of color like when he was fiancé to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn’s daughter in ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Tonight’.

In addition to his film career, He has published two autobiographies: ‘This life’ (1982) and ‘The Measure of a man, a spiritual autobiography’ (2000).

He was born in Miami on February 20, 1927, but grew up and was educated with his family, who were tomato farmers, on Gato Island, Bahamas.

At age 14 he moved to Miami and at 17 he joined the Army to serve in the WWII. Later, in 1943 he went to Harlem, where he held various trades until he was selected by the ‘American Negro Theater’ and made his Broadway debut in 1946 in a small production entitled ‘Lisistrata’.

He started in show business as a stand-in for Harry Belafonte in ‘Days of our youth’. He made his debut as a film actor in 1950 with ‘Un ray de luz’ by Joseph Mankiewicz, although his first success was ‘Fugitives’, by Stanley Kramer (1958), a film for which he was nominated for an Oscar for the first time and had a Globe of Silver.

For ‘Los lirios del valle’ (1963) he won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Silver Bear for Best Leading Actor. Among his other best-known films are: ‘Seed of Evil ‘(1955),’ Guess who’s coming to dinner tonight ‘(1967),’ In the heat of the night ‘(1967),’ Classroom rebellion ‘(1967),’ Now they call me Mr. Tibbs “(1970),” A double life “(1985) and” Shoot to kill “(1988).

As a film director he made his debut in 1972 with “Buck and Preacher”, and continued with “Uptown Saturday Night” (1974), “A warm December” (1973), “Let’s Do it Again” (1975), “A piece of the action “(1977),” Stir crazy “(1980),” Crazy for auction “(1982),” Hanky ​​Panky “(1982) and” The jackal “(1997).

Sidney Poitier he was the first black actor – male – to receive an Oscar for best performance, for “Los lirios del valle” (1963). Before that, the black actress Hattie McDaniel had already achieved it for “Gone with the Wind” (1939).

in 2002, Poitier received the Honorary Oscar for his brilliant performances, for his “unique screen presence” and for “representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence.”

He has also been distinguished with the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival (1962), actor of the year for the “Motion Picture Herald” (1964), Kennedy Cultural Center award (1995), honorary award from the Actors Guild ( 2000) and Trumpets Awards Living Legend Award (2002).

Poitier, who won the Cecil B. deMille AwardHe was also a screenwriter and actor in television series such as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1979) with Jim Brown and Harry Belafonte, “Separate but Equal” (1991) and Razas (1999).

In the early 1970s it constituted his own film production company alongside artists such as Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.

In 2006 he won the Britannia Award for a lifetime dedicated to the international film industry, while in 1974 he was knighted of the Order of the British Empire.

Poitier was the Bahamas’ ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2007 (later for life) and to Unesco, and received in 2009 from the hands of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the most important civil decoration in the country.

In 2014 attended the 86th edition of the Oscars and was commissioned to deliver an award together with the American actress Angelina Jolie. The legendary actor received the honorary Bafta in 2016.

In 2019, the 92-year-old actor suffered the loss of some family members after Hurricane Dorian passed through the northern Bahamas.

Sidney Poitier, considered “the most famous Bahamian in the world”, gives name to a bridge in Nassau. And in 2021, Arizona State University named its new film school after him.

He married in his first nuptials with the dancer Juanita Hardy (1950-1965), mother of his four older daughters. Then, in 1976, he married Canadian actress Joanna Shimkus, with whom he had two more daughters, and with whom he formed one of the strongest marriages in Hollywood.

That Poitier was born in the United States was fortuitous. Her parents, Bahamian citizens and owners of a tomato farm, traveled to Miami to sell the harvest when the woman went into labor prematurely.Poitier was born on February 20, 1927, but grew up alongside his six siblings on Cat Island, the humble town in the Bahamas where he spent his first ten years of life. From there he moved to Nassau and shortly after he went to Florida to live with one of his older brothers.

Only then he began to see the racism that existed in that country that was beginning to be his home, where he went with a request from his mother: “Captivate them, son. Make them neutral.”

With no education, hardly any money but with the firm determination to become an artist, Poitier traveled to New York in search of opportunities, although at first he spent more time washing dishes than learning to read.

In 1945 he entered a theatrical education program and, just five years later, landed his first film role: “Un ray de luz”, directed by a Joseph L. Mankiewicz who had set out to make films that featured African-American artists.

Later titles would comeor “Seed of evil” (1955), “Where the city ends” (1957), “Fugitives” (1958), “A place in the sun”, (1961) or “The key to the question, the borders of the skin “(1962), before he won the Oscar and linked the three films that confirmed him as a transcendent talent.

Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, he ventured into directing films such as “Buck and the Phony” and “Slam Dunk” – starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor – although he continued to appear in works such as “Shoot to kill “,” Spies without identity “,” Sneakers (The snoopers) “and” The Jackal (Jackal) “.

His last role was in the telefilm “The Last Brickmaker in America”, in 2001, a year before the Hollyood Academy presented him with the honorary Oscar from Denzel Washington, his great successor in the industry.

Poitier took the stage and, after putting his hand to his heart, said: “I accept this award in memory of all the African-American actors who fought before me in the difficult years”, with the same pose of dignity and composure with which his most remembered characters faced ignorance and hatred.

His last public appearance was at the 86th edition of the Oscars, in 2014, dwhere he presented an award with Angelina Jolie; in 2016 he was awarded an honorary Bafta.

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