Filmmaker spotlight: Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier, In the Heat of the Night
Sidney Poitier, Uptown Saturday Night

The Bahamian-American actor Sidney Poitier blazed a trail as an actor, director and diplomat. Poitier rose to Hollywood stardom in the 1950s with performances in films including No Way Out (1950), Cry, the Beloved Country (1951), Blackboard Jungle (1955) and 1957’s Edge of the City. In this chapter from Poitier Revisited, Emma Hamilton and Troy Saxby consider Poitier’s Academy-Award nominated roles in the movies The Defiant Ones (1958) and In the Heat of the Night (1967) in relation to the Black Civil Rights movement, in which Poitier played an active part. In this chapter from the same volume, Keith Corson discusses Poitier’s work as a director from 1972’s Buck and the Preacher through to Ghost Dad of 1992 in the context of Black representation and involvement in the Hollywood film industry. As one of a small group of Black actors who achieved star status, Poitier was a model for the African-American leading actors who came after him. In this study of Denzel Washington, Cynthia Baron discusses how, like Poitier, Washington negotiated the challenges of playing Black roles in a white Hollywood culture, with Washington paying tribute to Poitier as his inspiration at the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony, at which both actors were honoured.

Image left: American actor Sidney Poitier finds himself in a tight spot while filming In the Heat of the Night. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Image right and on home page banner: American-born Bahamian actor and director Sidney Poitier, on the set of his 1974 comedy, Uptown Saturday Night. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)