Goodbye a legend. Sidney Poitier, First Black Actor to Win Oscar as Leading Role and Make History, Dies

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

Gifted with an elegant image before the camera, he played a variety of roles, most of them breaking stereotypes towards people of color such as when he was the fiancé of 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 entered the Army to serve in World War II. 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), “Rebellion in the classrooms” ( 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 was the first black actor – male – to receive an Oscar for best performance, for “The lilies of the valley” (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.”

Actor Sidney Poitier poses with an elegant image before the camera. Photo: AP

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 Award, 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, he set up 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 before Unesco, and in 2009 he received 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 he attended the 86th edition of the Oscars and was in charge of presenting an award together with the American actress Angelina Jolie. The legendary actor received in 2016 the honorary Bafta. 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 his name to a bridge in Nassau. And in 2021, Arizona State University named its new film school after him.

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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.