Poitier, Sir Sidney

Poitier, Sir Sidney, 1927–2022, Bahamian-American actor, b. Miami, raised in the Bahamas, returned to the United States at 14. Poitier served in the 1267th Medical Detachment during World War II (1943-45), working in a hospital in Long Island, and then settled in New York working to establish himself in the theater. The first African-American actor to achieve leading man status in Hollywood films, Poitier combined attractiveness and poise with an innate projection of dignity and self-assurance. Many of his plays and films directly addressed issues of race, including his Broadway triumph, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (1959, film 1961), and such films as the pioneering No Way Out (1950), his movie debut; the internationally acclaimed Cry, the Beloved Country (1951), after Alan Paton's novel; The Defiant Ones (1957), the film that established Poitier's reputation; Lilies of the Field (1963; Academy Award); Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967), which treated the subject of interracial marriage; and In the Heat of the Night (1967). Poitier was also active in the civil rights movement. He turned to directing in 1971; among his films are Buck and the Preacher (1972), A Patch of Blue (1973), and Stir Crazy (1980). In 1991 he portrayed Thurgood Marshall in the Emmy-winning television film Separate but Equal. Knighted in 1968, he was appointed the Bahamas' ambassador to Japan in 1997, serving for ten years. His many honors included a Kennedy Center Honor (1995), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oscars (2002, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009).

See his autobiographical works This Life (1980), The Measure of a Man (2000), and Life beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-granddaughter (2008); biography by A. Goudsouzian (2004).

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