To Sidney, With Love | Vanity Fair

Just a week after the start of 2022, another cinema titan has fallen. On Thursday, January 6, Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win the Oscar for best actor, died at the age of 94. The moment of Poitier’s loss echoes poetically and painfully that of another black icon of cinema, Cicely Tyson, who died in January. from last year. Like Tyson, Poitier projected superhuman levels of grace both on and off camera. They both became civil rights activists, not necessarily by choice but because their times demanded it, and used their influence as movie stars to advocate for tangible change for black people across the country. country. Tyson and Poitier were both synonymous with black excellence, a testament to not only how much we could accomplish, but how much we could do for others in the process.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Poitier knew that as the only black man in Hollywood, everyone was constantly looking at him, looking for him to lead by example. Poitier was “the only one,” he said. “I really felt like I represented 15, 18 million people with every move I made,” he once wrote. While that responsibility might seem overwhelming, Poitier rose to the challenge, imbuing all of his roles with a dignity that extended beyond the character he played, whether doctor or prisoner.

And while he is certainly remembered for his composure, it would be a shame to forget how versatile, nuanced and engaging an actor Poitier was. To sir, with love; In the heat of the Night; and Guess who’s coming to dinner—Three very different movies — all came out in 1967, making him Hollywood’s top box office star at the time. In the first, Poitier played Mark Thackeray, an immigrant to Britain and an involuntary high school teacher tasked with getting a class of unruly students on his side. With Mark, Poitier used his gentle charm, stoic patience and imposing presence to effectively create the archetype of the “inspiring teacher” who films as Circle of Missing Poets and Mona Lisa smile have since imitated.

Contents

This content can also be viewed on the site from which it originates.

And then there is In the heat of the Night, where Poitier played Virgil Tibbs, the nail-tough Philadelphia detective who finds himself investigating a murder in Mississippi. Looking straight at the racism of the South, Poitier never loses his temper, whether he slaps the owner of the Endicott plantation on the jaw or, after being called an insult, utters the most iconic phrase of the movie: “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” This incredible composure resonated with black and white audiences, winning In the fire of the night the Oscar for best film.

Contents

This content can also be viewed on the site from which it originates.

Into the drama of interracial marriage Guess who’s coming to dinner Poitier plays Dr John Wade Prentice – a once model minority who upsets his family by marrying a white woman – and shows his fiery passion, the seriousness that has made him a force to be reckoned with. In a rousing monologue, Poitier speaks for an entire generation – in fact, each generation struggling against the archaic and narrow ways of the past. He lets go; he tears up ; he roars after his father, played by Roy E. Glenn Sr., fighting for his right to love whoever he wants. “I don’t belong to you,” Poitier spits. “You and your whole lousy generation think the way it was for you is the way it should be.” And it’s only when your whole generation is lying down and dead that your dead weight will no longer be on our backs. “

Contents

This content can also be viewed on the site from which it originates.

Whether calm and restrained or overflowing with emotions, Poitier has touched the public with its power and skill. From his Oscar-winning performance as Homer Smith in Field lilies to my favorite, his heartbreaking turn as Walter Lee Younger in the Lorraine Hansberry classic A raisin in the sun, Poitier brought an overwhelming and piercing humanity to all of his roles, changing preconceptions about what a black man could not only do, but be, at a pivotal moment. The paths he mapped out and the legacy he built would never have been, without the talent and the deep dignity with which he instilled in every performance. He has earned this legacy “brick by brick”, role by role.

This article has been updated.

More great stories from Vanity Fair

– TV star Sarah Wynter’s battle with postpartum psychosis
– The Celtic conquest of Caitríona Balfe, from the foreigner at Belfast
– The best streaming movies and shows on Netflix this month
– 21 wardrobe winners inspired by And just like that …
– What Vivian Vance didn’t like I love lucy
– The Life and Death of Rosanne Boyland, a Capitol Rioter
Unsafeby Natasha Rothwell Can Do It All
– Extract from the archives: Joan Didion, Notre-Dame de LA
– Sign up for the “HWD Daily” newsletter for must-see industry and awards coverage, as well as a special weekly edition of “Awards Insider”.

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *