The groundbreaking and legendary Black actor, director and ambassador Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94.
Per Eyewitness News Bahamas, the iconic Bahamian-American actor’s death was confirmed by the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Poitier is most known for his roles in Blackboard Jungle, Lillies in the Field, Porgy and Bess, A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and more.
The first Black actor to be nominated for an Oscar, he was nominated for two other Academy Awards, ten Golden Globes nominations, two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations and six BAFTA nominations.
At the time of his death, he was one of a few actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood that were still living, along with Sophia Loren and Harry Belafonte.
BREAKING: Beloved Bahamian actor and former ambassador Sir Sidney Poitier has died. He was 94. A Broadway play about the trailblazing career of the visionary actor was announced last month. Sir Sidney’s death was confirmed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell. pic.twitter.com/WVJFlog3tC— Eyewitness News Bahamas (@ewnewsbahamas) January 7, 2022
A trailblazing career
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Poitier, who came from the world of the stage, got his start in film as an extra in 1947 and went on to appear or star in over 40 films. The two films that broke him to mainstream audiences were 1955’s Blackboard Jungle and 1961’s A Raisin in the Sun, based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry.
Poitier is credited with expanding Hollywood’s view of actors of color, becoming the first Black American leading man in the industry with his memorable films. Several of his films, such as A Patch of Blue (1965), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and To Sir, With Love (1967), challenged then-conventional notions about interracial relationships, specifically relationships between Black men and white women. He also tried to expand how audiences saw Black couples on screen as well, particularly in his 1973 film A Warm December, in which he stars opposite Jamaican actress Esther Anderson, who plays an African princess who falls in love with Poitier’s affluent Dr. Matt Younger.
A legacy of firsts
Poitier became the first Black actor to be nominated for an Oscar in 1958 for his role in The Defiant Ones, and in 1964, he became the first to win an Oscar for his starring role in Lilies of the Field.
Later in his career, Poitier showed different sides to his talent, starring in comedies and directing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Poitier, Paul Newman, and Barbra Streisand launched indie production company First Artists in 1969. Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman later joined to help launch the new company. And in 1980, Poitier cashed in on the comedic film duo of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder to direct the hit comedy Stir Crazy.
Poitier's honorary Oscar
In 2002, Poitier was awarded an honorary Oscar for his contributions to the film industry and society. According to USA Today, Denzel Washington, who presented the Oscar to Poitier, said, “Before Sidney, African American actors had to take supporting roles in major studio films that were easy to cut out in certain parts of the country. But you couldn’t cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture. He was the reason a movie got made: the first solo, above-the-title African American movie star.”
Condolences to his family at this time.