“To Sir, With Love” – “Lilies of The Field”

Sidney Poitier was a light in Hollywood and in life, illuminating the path for Black actors who came after him and providing the framework for creating a meaningful and remarkable career.

At 94 years old, the trailblazing actor has died in the Bahamas. Eugene Torchon Newry was acting director general of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was confirmed by the Associated Press.

Poitier broke barriers throughout his five-decade career with roles that addressed race in film before mainstream Hollywood did the same. In 1958, he was the first African American actor to win an Academy Award for best acting. Six years later, he became the first. Black man to win an Academy Award For “Lilies of the Field.”

Denzel Washington presented Sidney Poitier with his honorary Oscar at the 74th annual Academy Awards on March 24, 2002.

“Before Sidney, African American actors had to take supporting roles in major studio films that were easy to cut out in certain parts of the country. But you couldn’t cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture,”Denzel Washington stated at the 2002 Academy AwardsPoitier received an honorary Oscar. “He was the reason a movie got made: the first solo, above-the-title African American movie star.”

Poitier’s film history legacy is also that of an icon. We are looking back on some of his most memorable movies in honor of Poitier’s life and career. 

Obituary:Sidney Poitier (the trailblazing star, first Black man ever to win the best actor Oscar) dies at 94

“Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

Poitier starred as the love interest opposite Katharine Houghton in this 1967 film, which offered a positive depiction of interracial couples during a time when more than a handful of states still had laws prohibiting interracial marriage.  

Sidney Poitier, Kathryn Houghton, and Katharine Hepburn star in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."

A milestone in its day, this earnest and well-acted — if rather tame — drama with comic moments was the first mainstream film to explore the complexities of an interracial relationship. It is a fascinating tale that explores subtler forms racism among educated people who are tolerant.

2017 “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”Inducted into the Library of Congress.

‘Lilies of the Field’

Poitier won his first Academy Award for this 1963 film, which made him the first Black actor to win an Oscar. 

He plays Homer Smith, who is a handyman that meets German nuns on his journeys. They believe they’ve been sent by God to help him build a new church.

Actor Sidney Poitier is photographed with his Oscar statuette at the 36th annual Academy Awards in Santa Monica, California, on April 13, 1964. He won best actor for his role in "Lillies of the Field."

In 2020, the film became another of Poitier’s works selected by the National Film Registry to be immortalized in the Library of Congress.

“‘Lilies of the Field’ stirs up such great remembrances in our family, from the littlest Poitiers watching a young and agile ‘Papa’ to the oldest – Papa Sidney himself!”Poitier stated in a statement to The Library of Congress.

“The Defiant Ones”

Poitier was the first African American actor nominated to win an Academy Award for best actor. “The Defiant Ones”1958

"The Defiant Ones" was Stanley Kramer's film about a white and black convict – Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier – who must learn to work together after escaping custody while chained together.

Tony Curtis is and Poitier are two escapees, one black and one white, who are held together in chains. Curtis and Poitier must be nice in order to survive at a time of high racial tensions and seemingly having nothing in common. Their cooperation initially serves only to survive, but they eventually form a deep love and bond.

‘To Sir with Love’

In this 1967 film, Poitier plays an American engineer-turned-teacher at a London high school school with rowdy teens who’ve run off about every other teacher they’ve had. He slowly won them over with his character Mark Thackeray’s new teaching method that is centered on respect.

Poitier retook the role in 1996. “To Sir, with Love II.” Peter BogdanovichPoitier died just days after Poitier directed the film.

In 1996's "To Sir, with Love II, " Sidney Poitier reprises his roles as Mark Thackeray.

“In the Heat of the Night.”

One of Poitier’s most legendary films, the actor stars as Black detective Virgil Tibbs from Philadelphia who is forced to solve a murder in a racist town in Mississippi alongside an equally racist police chief.

“In the Heat of the Night”It is also the film in which Poitier said his famous line: “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” He says it after the police chief insults Poitier’s character by asking him what they call him in Philadelphia, because “Virgil is a funny name.”

The 1967 film won five Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Rod Steiger, who played Chief of Police Bill Gillespie.

“He taught us how to reach for stars”:Oprah, Tyler Perry, Viola Davis, more honor Sidney Poitier

“Shoot to Kill”

This 1988 movie marked Poitier’s return to the big screen after being absent from films for 11 years.

Poitier plays FBI agent Warren Stantin and stars alongside Tom Berenger and Kirstie Alley in this thriller, where Poitier’s character is hunting down a thief who’s taken Alley’s character hostage.

The film has a 100% rating Rotten Tomatoes,It is a rare find.

Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, Claudia Puig

‘An icon’:Sidney Poitier becomes the name of a new school for filmmaking, a milestone that is unprecedented

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