Sidney Poitier Biography

Sidney Poitier is an actor, director and diplomat who was the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. This biography provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Sidney Poitier
Quick Facts

Birthday: February 20, 1927

Nationality: Bahamian, American

Famous: Black Actors African American Men

Age: 92 Years, 92 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Pisces

Also Known As: Sir Sidney Poitier

Born Country: United States

Born in: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Height: 1.89 m

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Joanna Shimkus (m. 1976), Juanita Hardy (m. 1950–1965)

father: Reginald James Poitier

mother: Evelyn

siblings: Cyril Poitier

children: Anika Poitier, Beverly Poitier-Henderson, Gina Poitier, Pamela Poitier, Sherri Poitier, Sydney Tamiia Poitier

U.S. State: Florida

More Facts

education: New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, Stella Adler Studio of Acting

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Sir Sidney Poitier is an actor, director and diplomat best known for being the first black person to have been awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor. He won this award for his portrayal of Homer Smith, an African American worker in the film, ‘Lilies of the Field’. This was a very significant achievement in the 1960s when racism was rampant in the United States. Born to poor Bahamian farmer parents, he received little formal education. As a teenager he was turning towards street crime when his father sent him to the United States to start life anew. He received a huge cultural shock in New York where he witnessed widespread racism and chasm between the classes. After struggling to make ends meet as a dishwasher, he joined the American Negro Theater. Through his determination and hard work he soon became a much sought after theatre artist and soon stared receiving film offers. In his debut film ‘No Way Out’ he played a doctor who treats a white bigot. This role got him noticed and he received several offers. After establishing himself as a successful actor, he branched into direction as well. He was named as one of the Greatest Male Stars of All Time by the American Film Institute in 1999.

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Sidney Poitier
Childhood & Early Life
  • He was born prematurely to Bahamian parents who were vacationing in Miami; his parents remained in Miami for three months to nurse the weak infant back to health. His parents, Reginald James Poitier and Evelyn were farmers.
  • He grew up in poverty and was showing signs of becoming delinquent. Concerned, his father sent him to live with his brother in New York. He worked as a dishwasher to make ends meet. He never received any formal education and was taught to read by a Jewish waiter who coached him after working hours.
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Career
  • He joined the American Negro Theater but struggled initially due to his inability to sing and his strong Bahamian accent. He trained hard for the next several months to overcome his weaknesses.
  • He was given a leading role in the Broadway production, �€˜Lysistrata�€™. His performance was highly acclaimed and he went on to become a popular stage actor. He soon started receiving offers for films.
  • In 1950 he acted in the film �€˜No Way Out�€™ in which he portrayed a doctor, Dr. Luther Brooks who tends to a white racist patient who dies in the midst of a medical procedure. The role got him rave reviews.
  • After playing supporting roles in several other films during the early 1950s, he got his breakthrough role in the 1955 social commentary, �€˜Blackboard Jungle�€™, a film based on a novel of the same name by Evan Hunter. Poitier played a student who engages in anti-social behavior.
  • In 1958 he played Noah Cullen, an escaped prisoner, in the movie �€˜The Defiant Ones�€™. The plot revolves around two escaped prisoners, one black and one white who are shackled together and must co-operate in order to survive. Poitier received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
  • He starred along with Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands and Roy Glenn in the 1961 drama film �€˜A Raisin in the Sun�€™ which was based on the play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry.
  • The year 1963 was a very significant one for him. He played Homer Smith in the film �€˜Lilies of the Field�€™ which was produced and directed by Ralph Nelson. His performance was critically appreciated and he won several awards and accolades.
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  • He appeared in the super hit film �€˜A Patch of Blue�€™ in 1965 which was about the relationship between a black man and a blind white girl, and the challenges they face when they fall in love in a racially segregated America.
  • In 1967 he appeared in the dramatic mystery film �€˜In the Heat of the Night�€™ He played the police officer Virgil Tibbs who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a racist small town. The movie was followed by two sequels �€˜They call me MISTER Tibbs!�€™ in 1970 and �€˜The Organization�€™ in 1971 �€” he reprised the role in both the films.
  • He made his directorial debut in 1972 with the western film �€˜Buck and the Preacher�€™ in which he also starred as a trail guide. After this movie he went on direct several other successful movies including the comedy �€˜Stir Crazy�€™ in 1980.
  • He was appointed the Ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan in April 1997, a position he currently holds. He also serves as the Ambassador of the Bahamas to UNESCO.
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Major Works
  • He is best known for his Academy Award winning performance in �€˜Lilies of the Field�€™ in which he played an itinerant worker who helps a group of nuns to build a new chapel. He received several awards for this highly appreciated role.
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Awards & Achievements
  • He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film �€˜Lilies of the Field�€™ in 1963.
  • He was presented with the Academy Honorary Award in 2002 "for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence".
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • His first marriage was to Juanita Hardy from 1950 to 1965. The couple had four daughters.
  • He married actress Joanna Shimkus in 1976 with whom he has two daughters.
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Trivia
  • This great black actor is the oldest living man to have won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
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1. A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

  (Drama)

2. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

  (Drama, Crime, Thriller, Mystery)


3. A Patch of Blue (1965)

  (Drama, Romance)

4. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

  (Comedy, Drama)



5. To Sir, with Love (1967)

  (Drama)

6. Lilies of the Field (1963)

  (Drama)




7. The Defiant Ones (1958)

  (Crime, Drama)

8. No Way Out (1950)

  (Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller, Drama)





Awards

Academy Awards(Oscars)
1964 Best Actor in a Leading Role Lilies of the Field (1963)
Golden Globe Awards
1969 World Film Favorite - Male Winner
1964 Best Actor - Drama Lilies of the Field (1963)
BAFTA Awards
1959 Best Foreign Actor The Defiant Ones (1958)
Grammy Awards
2001 Best Spoken Word Album Winner

See the events in life of Sidney Poitier in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Sidney Poitier Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/sidney-poitier-4140.php
Last Updated
- September 26, 2017

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