DISAPPEARANCE – The first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor, Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94, announces the Foreign Minister of the Bahamas, where he grew up.
Jerome Vermelin –
It is a figure of the Seventh art and a true symbol which is extinguished. The great American comedian Sidney Poitier died at the age of 94, said Fred Mitchell, the foreign minister of the Bahamas, the country where he grew up and of which he also had the nationality.
In 1964, this son of a tomato farmer, born premature during his mother’s trip to Miami. Sent to the United States at the age of 15, he studied at the Actors Studio in New York, paying for his lessons by working as a concierge. In 1950, he had his first film role in The door opens by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, where he played a black doctor, accused of being responsible for the death of a white thug.
Intense and elegant, Sidney Poitier connects the roles and becomes the first big black star in Hollywood. In 1958, he won an Oscar nomination for the supporting role for Chain where he plays a prisoner who escapes with a racist fellow inmate, played by Tony Curtis.
The consecration comes six years later with Lily of the fields, a drama for which he won the Oscar for best actor. A first for an African American in Hollywood. On screen he plays Homer Smith, a handyman who befriends a group of German nuns, who ask him to help him build a chapel.
“It was a long journey to get there“, he explains receiving the golden statuette. He goes on with prominent roles in Angels with clenched fists, In the heat of the Night or Guess who’s coming to dinner?, which come out in quick succession in 1967. In the latter, he plays the fiancé of a young white bourgeois presenting him to his parents, a couple of intellectuals who believe themselves to be open-minded. A major film on racism of the time.
“The film industry was not yet ready to elevate more than one minority personality to star status“, will analyze the actor in his autobiography” This Life “.”At the time, I endorsed the hopes of a whole people. I had no control over the content of the films. But I could turn down a role, which I did many times“.
From the end of the 1970s, Sidney Poitier voluntarily disappeared from the screens. Then in 1987, he made his comeback in the thriller Hike for a killer, with Tom Berenger. If he is no longer at the top of the bill, he paved the way for young African-American comedians like Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Forest Withaker or even Will Smith.
During his career, the actor received many distinctions which testify to the importance of his career. Knight-Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Ambassador of the Bahamas to UNESCO, in 2009 he received the Presidential Medal of Liberty, the highest American civilian honor, from Barack Obama.
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