Poitier was born on February 20, 1927 in Miami, grew up in the worst conditions in the Bahamas and was knighted by the British Queen in 1974. In 2009, then-US President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. Above all, Poitier’s greatest achievement was to be successful as an actor at a time when anything was uncommon for blacks in leading roles. With his feature film, which includes classics like Escape in Chains, Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night, he became a role model for a later generation of dark-skinned actors.
When Poitier accepted an Honorary Academy Award for his life’s work in 2002, the party’s guests gave a standing ovation for several minutes. In his memorable speech, Poitier said he came to Hollywood at the age of 22 to embark on a journey that seemed “nearly impossible” at the time. He praised the “courageous and honest” decisions made by the directors and producers, who, despite the color of his skin, would have given him roles and thus a chance.
Poitier pioneered black screen stars such as Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Louis Gossett Jr., Halle Berry, and Viola Davis. Before him, Hattie McDaniel only won an Academy Award for her supporting role as a housekeeper in the melodrama “Gone with the Wind” as a black woman in 1940. It was nearly 25 years before Poitier became the first black man to win a Best Actor award in 1964 for “Lilien” auf dem Felde”. He won the Academy by portraying a black worker on the farm of white nuns.
Among Poitier’s successes, he was the first black man to kiss a white woman in a Hollywood movie. The shamefully emotional scene was filmed through a taxi’s rear-view mirror in 1967, but it belongs in a series of celebrated breakthroughs by civil rights activists that some African-American movement activists have long discredited as a conformist. “Black and White”.
The black and white kissing scene comes from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, in which Poitier is introduced as the wealthy couple’s son-in-law, played by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Catherine Hutton then acted as the fiancée of Poitier’s character on screen.
Offers for the roles of the dazzling actor overturned, at the end of the sixties of the last century, Poitier was considered the highest-paid actor. In addition to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, he was seen in two other films in 1967. In the crime thriller In the Heat of the Night, he starred as a Northern crime expert who has to assert himself against a racist Southern sheriff (Rod Steiger).
It was a coincidence that the youngest of seven children from a poor farming family from the Bahamas was born in Florida and subsequently in the United States. Poitier, who grew up on small Cat Island, followed his older brother to Florida when he was a teenager. He made his way as a street vendor, dishwasher, and unskilled worker.
In New York he joined the American Negro Theatre. After small roles on Broadway, he made his debut in “No Way Out” in 1950 alongside Richard Widmark as a doctor. The star of films such as “Escape in Chains”, “Porgy and Bess” and “A Spot in the Sun” made his last feature film in 1997 with the thriller “The Jackal”.
“Travel aficionado. Certified problem solver. Pop culture guru. Typical writer. Entrepreneur. Coffee trailblazer.”