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Sidney Poitier Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (46)  | Personal Quotes (5)  | Salary (4)

Overview (3)

Born in Miami, Florida, USA
Birth NameSidney L. Poitier
Height 6' 2½" (1.89 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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 veteran's 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumble@jimprodigy.net>

Spouse (2)

Joanna Shimkus (23 January 1976 - present) ( 2 children)
Juanita Hardy (29 April 1950 - 1965) ( divorced) ( 4 children)

Trivia (46)

In 1963, he became the first black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role for his role as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field (1963). The first black man to win an Academy Award was James Baskett (although an Honorary Award) for his role in Song of the South (1946).
When he came to New York from the Caribbean to become an actor, he was so impoverished at first that he slept in the bus station. To get his first major role in No Way Out (1950), he lied to director Joseph L. Mankiewicz and told him he was 27, when actually only 22 years old.
Sits on USC School of Cinema-Television's Board of Councilors.
Stanley Kramer approached him about co-starring in The Defiant Ones (1958), which made him a bigger star, but admitted that if he did not take the role of "Porgy" in Porgy and Bess (1959) for Samuel Goldwyn it might kill his chances to get the role in The Defiant Ones (1958) as Goldwyn had that much clout in Hollywood.
He was awarded an honorary knighthood of the Order of the British Empire in 1974. As an honorary knight, he is not entitled to call himself or to be known as "Sir Sidney Poitier" but he may use the postnomials (KBE or K.B.E.) if he so chooses.
His Stir Crazy (1980) was the highest grossing film directed by a black filmmaker until Scary Movie (2000), directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans almost 20 years later.
While trying to sing with some fellow actors in Off-Broadway theatre he found he was tone deaf.
Younger brother of Cyril Poitier. Former brother-in-law of light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore.
In the 1960s, for many of his films, he was paid in a way known as "dollar one participation" which basically means he begins collecting a cut of the film's gross from the first ticket sold.
Has an honorary doctorate degree from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
Speaks Russian fluently.
First black actor to place autograph, hand, and footprints in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre (June 23, 1967).
Premiere magazine ranked him as #20 on a list of the Greatest Movie Stars of All Time in their Stars in Our Constellation feature (2005).
Was named #22 greatest actor on the 50 Greatest Screen Legends by the American Film Institute.
Was nominated for Broadway's 1960 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "A Raisin in the Sun", a role that he recreated in the film version of the same name, A Raisin in the Sun (1961).
Future wife Joanna Shimkus encouraged him to direct his first film, Buck and the Preacher (1972), after he and the original director could not agree creatively.
His performance as Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night (1967) is ranked #55 on Premiere magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night (1967) is ranked #20 on Premiere magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
During the early 1980s, a man named David Hampton conned his way into the homes of several wealthy and prominent New Yorkers (including a dean at Columbia University) by falsely claiming to be Poitier's son. Playwright John Guare, fascinated by the way the story illustrated the magic that the mere mention of Poiter's name held for people of his generation (especially white people), based his play "Six Degrees of Separation" on Hampton's story. The play was adapted into the movie Six Degrees of Separation (1993), with Will Smith as the character based upon Hampton.
Along with Gary Cooper, is the most represented actor on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time, with five of his films on the list. They are: A Raisin in the Sun (1961) at #65, The Defiant Ones (1958) at #55, Lilies of the Field (1963) at #46, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) at #35, and In the Heat of the Night (1967) at #21.
His performance as Detective Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night (1967) is ranked #19 on the American Film Institute's 100 Heroes & Villains.
Along with his name uttered in the lyrics, a photograph of Poitier is held by Busta Rhymes in the music video "Gimme Some More" (1998).
Received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award.
His role in The Bedford Incident (1965) marked the first time he would play a role in which his character's race was not an issue.
Considered for the male lead for The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), opposite Diana Sands, who had played the role of "Doris" on Broadway.
Prostate cancer survivor.
Has four grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. [2008]
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7065 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 1, 1994.
Appointed as ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan (he was born in the United States but is a citizen of the Bahamas). [April 1997]
Member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company. [1998]
He was the visual inspiration for the original illustrations of superhero Green Lantern/John Stewart (created in 1971), the first Afro-American to be member of the Corps. Poitier was 44 years old at the time.
With the death of Maximilian Schell on February 1, 2014, he is the earliest surviving actor to have won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He received his award for playing Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field (1963) at The 36th Annual Academy Awards (1964).
When Sidney won his Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field (1963), the statuette was presented to him by Anne Bancroft (Santa Monica Civic Auditorium / April 13, 1964).
Became a father for the first time at age 25 when his first wife Juanita Hardy gave birth to their daughter Judith Schirman on July 5, 1952.
Became a father for the second time at age 27 when his first wife Juanita Hardy gave birth to their daughter Pamela Poitier on April 12, 1954.
Became a father for the third time at age 29 when his first wife Juanita Hardy gave birth to their daughter Sherri Poitier on July 12, 1956.
Became a father for the fourth time at age 34 when his first wife Juanita Hardy gave birth to their daughter Gina Poitier on May 1, 1961.
Became a father for the fifth time at age 45 when his partner, later second wife, Joanna Shimkus gave birth to their daughter Anika Poitier on February 29, 1972.
Became a father for the sixth time at age 46 when his partner, later second wife, Joanna Shimkus gave birth to their daughter Sydney Tamiia Poitier on November 15, 1973.
Longtime friends with fellow actor and activist Harry Belafonte. They were born nine days apart. They met in New York at age 20 before either was in show business.
As of 2018, has starred in four Oscar Best Picture nominees: The Defiant Ones (1958), Lilies of the Field (1963), In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). In the Heat of the Night won.
Actor Carroll O'Connor co-starred in two films starring Sidney Poitier: The Defiant Ones (1958) and For Love of Ivy (1968). O'Connor later headlined the In In the Heat of the Night (1988), which was based on the Poitier film of the same name.
In November 1943, 16-year-old Sidney Poitier lied about his age and entered the Army as he was homeless and the military took him in out of the cold. He served as a medical attendant at a mental hospital in New York. Disliking Army life, Poitier attempted to fake insanity in an attempt to get discharged. After he was threatened with shock therapy treatments, he admitted to lying about his age. After several weeks of Army-mandated therapy sessions, he was discharged from the Army.
Despite starring in three of his greatest critical and commercial successes all in the same year (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), In the Heat of the Night (1967) and To Sir, with Love (1967)) Poitier was not a Best Actor Oscar nominee for 1967. One theory is that votes were split among all three performances, with no single title getting enough ballots for him to be nominated.
He has appeared in six films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Blackboard Jungle (1955), Porgy and Bess (1959), A Raisin in the Sun (1961), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) and King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1970).
In September 2019, he was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.

Personal Quotes (5)

We all suffer from the preoccupation that there exists ... in the loved one, perfection.
I decided in my life that I would do nothing that did not reflect positively on my father's life.
[on writer/director Richard Brooks] He was both intense and very feeling, very human. He had a wonderful, wonderful sense of other people. He was not particularly enamored of himself. He was the kind off guy who had a sense of fairness, and he employed that sense in his life, and in his work, so that some people were surprised at him, some people deeply loved him, and some people were just put off by him.
[from Sidney Poitier's speech about Widmark at the D.W. Griffith Award for Lifetime Achievement] The generosity of spirit that lights his way will also warm your heart...
[saluting film writers and directors, at the 2002 Academy Awards] They knew the odds that stood against them. Still those filmmakers persevered, speaking through their art to the best in all of us. And I benefited from their effort. The industry benefited from their effort. America benefited from their effort. And, in many ways, the world has also benefited from their effort.

Salary (4)

No Way Out (1950) $3,000
Porgy and Bess (1959) $75,000
In the Heat of the Night (1967) $200,000 + 20% of the gross profits
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) $200,000 and % of the gross profits

See also

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