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Poll: They Called Him Mister Poitier.

Sidney Poitier, the actor whom Morgan Freeman referred to as his "own heaven", just passed away... and it's a terrible loss for Cinema.

He was one of the first African-American actors to be given truly substantial leading roles, to win an Oscar for one of them, to play characters who were beyond all the archetypes related to his ethnic background. Still, there was more in Poitier's characters, it wasn't just the experience of a Black man confronted to prejudices, but also a man of integrity, who carried his heritage with pride but always willing to prove that it takes more than a pigmentation to define him.

Now, every movie lover is aware of the trailblazing symbol that Mr. Poitier incarnated and his sad passing is an opportunity to salute the record of all African-American or minority actresses and actors in Hollywood, for which he was the ultimate inspiration... as well as the epitome of class, charisma and gentleness.

One can't ignore the legacy of Poitier, one of the last of AFI's Legends, and through this poll, let's celebrate ten of his most famous movie roles. Which one is your personal favorite?

After voting, you might discuss the list here

Make Your Choice

  1. Vote!
     

    Blackboard Jungle (1955)

    In that seminal school movie tackling many taboo-subjects for its time, Poitier's talent emerges in the body of a young man respected for his naturalness as a leader and a sensitive fellow worthy of the trust of struggling teacher , Mr. Dadier. Ironically, Poitier would later play a similar idealistic teacher facing a rebellious class in "To Sir, With Love".
  2. Vote!
     

    The Defiant Ones (1958)

    Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as fugitives from a chain gang, a white and a black man shackled together and forced to cooperate and trust each other. The chain would become such a symbol that during Sidney Poitier's AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, Curtis asked him to lift his left hand, Poitier did the same, and it was just as if the chain magically reappeared as the symbol of a brotherly bond transcending the color of the skin.
  3. Vote!
     

    Porgy and Bess (1959)

    Well, that one is a challenge. The original source material is certainly more celebrated than the film version and the performance of Poitier as Porgy, the good-hearted but crippled beggar. And while it's difficult to see Poitier playing a 'diminutive' character, and indulging in a film that reinforced some Black stereotypes, one should look at it as a concession he made that allowed him to star in Kramer's "Defiant Ones", a pivotal point in his career. "Porgy and Bess" is by no means a bad film but a reflection on the very roles Poitier detached himself from to finally build his legend in the 60s.
  4. Vote!
     

    A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

    The pioneer of 'Black Angry' cinema... and Poitier's most 'passionate' role as a limousine chauffeur who wants his slice of the American dream and is misunderstood in his own home. More than any other role he had, he's given many occasions to show how angry and hungry he is, his furor almost turns into a frantic dance at times. Indeed, when reason fails, dancing, gesticulating, crying are options even the sanest one can't resist... when we've been waiting for a break for years... or centuries...
  5. Vote!
     

    Lilies of the Field (1963)

    The year Martin Luther King had "a dream", Sidney Poitier built one... and became the first Black actor to receive an Academy Award in Best Leading Role. it's still ironic that the movie that earned him the ultimate honor after such a "long journey" is the least known. This is a simple film about simple yet complex people: a handyman and foreign nuns bound together by strong beliefs and ideals that no matter how debatable they can be, inspired the best of them. The recurring "Amen!" line is less an endorsement for a specific faith than a recognition of the way faith can bring people from different horizons together and allow them to achieve miracles.
  6. Vote!
     

    A Patch of Blue (1965)

    Is it a coincidence that the girl had to be blind to make that romance ever possible? Maybe it takes two to be blind, one not to see and one not to tell what is to be seen... the whole irony is that Poitier tells everything the girl needs to 'see', except that he's black. The soul of the relationship lies in that question: is it essential or is it a detail? That question encapsulates Poitier's whole career: did his skin color matter or not? It did for the plot, but never for the character's arc and that's exactly the point... Poitier never traded the 'race' card for sympathy from viewers but he earned it the regular way, by being a man of integrity and in that very case, a man of true compassion toward a poor blind girl.
  7. Vote!
     

    Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

    In 1967, American society was needing changes, if not in actions at least in perceptions. The idea of a Black President was mentioned as a silly possibility but that was toward this 'silliness' that society had to tend to and to ultimately achieve. Sidney Poitier is so close to perfect that he could be a President regardless of any racial consideration, not because of the symbol, but the competence. As he told his father in the film's most emblematic scene: "You see yourself as a colored man. I see myself as a man".
  8. Vote!
     

    In the Heat of the Night (1967)

    Cinema followed the steps paved by Rosa Parks when Sidney Poitier slapped the racist Endicott. Norman Jewison film bravely breaks the ultimate taboos in terms of racial depictions because the thought-provoking aspect is less in the slap than the way it is shown. For us viewers, Tibbs acts as the spokesperson of a whole community, while Tibbs only reacts as a man whose dignity was offended (the man, not the colored man) and in a spirit that echoes "The Defiant Ones", the film ends on smiles exchanged by men who learned to respect each other and overcome their personal prejudices in the heat of 1967.
  9. Vote!
     

    To Sir, with Love (1967)

    After playing a doctor and a police officer, it's all the more natural that Poitier embodies the noblest and most idealistic of all the vocations; a teacher. In a high school located in the slums of London's East End, he faces a classroom of white students whose prejudices can be forgiven in the name of ignorance and because it's obviously a wall that can be broken. In the end, Poitier's 1967 films were not only significant but necessary to educate some closed-minded viewers, and it's quite fitting that Poitier incarnates here, a teacher
  10. Vote!
     

    Paris Blues (1961)

    This spot is dedicated to any other movie of Mr. Poitier that you would hold as your personal favorite.

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