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Happy 85th Birthday Sir Sidney Poitier! Your Favorite On Screen Memories Of The Man, Actor, Icon

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 20, 2012 12:33 PM
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Today in history... February 20th, 1927, Sidney Poitier, a man who I'm sure needs absolutely no introduction on this website, was born in Miami, Florida.

Happy 85th birthday Sir Poitier! And I call him "Sir Poitier" because he was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1974, which entitles him to the "Sir" that precedes his name; although he rarely includes it.

I've seen nearly all of his films, although it's been months since I last revisited any of them. The last Sidney Poitier film I watched was Buck And The Preacher, some time last year. It's one of my favorite Poitier films, along with In The Heat Of The Night, For Love Of Ivy, and Let’s Do It Again, the 2nd in the comedy/action trilogy of films he made with Bill Cosby in the 1970s.

I'd say that my preference leans towards his latter films - specifically those he had some creative control over, whether writing or directing, as the above films I listed indicate (In The Heat Of The Night aside).

Buck And The Preacher was his directorial debut (although it wasn’t originally planned that way), and a fine job I’d say he did with it. He also starred in the film, as Buck, alongside Harry Belafonte as the nutty preacher. It’s a different Poitier on screen – not the usual conservative, brooding, unconventional hero, or the restrained, near-Christ-like everyman we’d seen in several of his previous films.

Buck feels much more "real" to me, fuller, thoughtful – aged even. You could tell that he had some control over the material, much more-so than he had in previous films he only starred in.

It’s certainly no Sweet Sweetback; but, the characters, overall, felt more alive than usual – especially Harry Belafonte as the preacher, who I thought was a revelation here.

Ruby Dee rounds out the cast.

The entire film is apparently on YouTube.

85-year old Sidney Poitier has earned his place, not just in black cinema history, but cinema history broadly.

On this, his 85th birthday, closing in fast on the big 9-0, what are your favorite works of his and why?

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  • Elizabeth Lindsay | February 21, 2013 12:17 AMReply

    Happy Birthday Sidney! I didn't discover you until the 80's when I got to see To Sir With Love and that started me off. I'm pretty sure I've seen every movie you've starred in. To Sir is my favorite followed by In the Heat of the Night. I have never been able to discover what is a 'bearer' or barrow from To Sir.... and have thought of writing many times to you or that wonderful writer of same movie, to find out. Best wishes to you today and always.
    P.S. You are 6 months my senior! So I figure I can call you Sidney. Please forgive my being informal.

  • a | February 22, 2012 9:59 PMReply

    A Patch of Blue is my fav movie!

  • urbanauteur | February 22, 2012 8:52 PMReply

    [Brother John] his performance was so subdue, that his tempered anger that simmered beneath his skin seem like it was about to pop out and grab any chump who made a false move, great range;-)

  • Donella | February 21, 2012 3:51 PMReply

    The slap heard around the world--In the Heat of the Night. But I also enjoyed Buck and the Preacher, a funny kind of western.

  • Waddup Doe | February 20, 2012 6:18 PMReply

    As Terri Francis mentioned, "The Slap" from In The Heat of The Night. I also loved his performance in The Defiant Ones as well as his turn as Walter Lee in A Raisin In The Sun, especially him ridiculing Lou Gossett for his white shoes.

  • OSCAR WILLIAMS | February 20, 2012 5:27 PMReply

    The Sidney (because there is only one) is one the finest actors ever. He has work with some of America's greatest actors, and carried many film on his own shoulders. It is an honorable man who keeps his family harm's (Hollywood) reach.
    We will always love Sidney for what he has done to pave the road, and he is still standing. That is truly a star!

  • Eugine Francis | February 20, 2012 4:53 PMReply

    Happy Birthday Sir Sydney, you are truly a man of stature and is commended for all the great works you have done in the film industry. I love Lillies of the Field, Sneakers, Guess whose coming to dinner, They call me Mr. Tibbs just to name a few. All the movies were great and your Knighthood was truly deserved. May God continue to bless and keep you and your family and may you live to see many more birthdays.

    All of them were good movies

  • Tamara | February 20, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    "To Sir With Love" - something about the film was charming and whimsical and just good. "Uptown Saturday Night", "Let's Do it Again" - Poitier and Cosby and everyone else, hijinks, hi-rollers, high-fades and Madame Zenobia's.

  • Terri Francis | February 20, 2012 12:53 PMReply

    In the Heat of the Night ... the greenhouse sequence. Endicott slaps Mr. Tibbs who slaps him right back. There's a pause, anything can happen, and then Mr. Tibbs cooly and assuredly adjust his jacket -- and it seems loud as a gunshot--before walking past the sheriff and the butler, mouths agape. Ah the composure ...

  • Tami Sawyer | February 20, 2012 12:41 PMReply

    To Sir With Love is my favorite Sidney Poitier film. His poise is unmatchable. I can watch it over and over again and have done so many times.

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