Sidney Poitier, first black actor to win best actor Oscar, dies aged 94

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Jan 07, 2022, 11:08 PM(IST)

Sidney Poitier arrives at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Sidney Poitier, who broke through racial barriers as the first black winner of the best actor Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field," and inspired a generation during the civil rights movement, has died at age 94.

Sidney Poitier, Hollywood's first big Black movie star, has died at the age of 94. He rose to national fame with a series of revolutionary roles in the 1950s and 1960s.

Poitier's death was confirmed by Eugene Torchon-Newry, acting director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Poitier, who held dual US and Bahamian nationality, was "an icon, a hero, a mentor, a fighter, a national treasure," Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said on his official Facebook page.

Also read | Jodie Turner-Smith says Hollywood must move beyond tokenism for Black people

Poitier rose to the pinnacle of his profession despite coming from a poor family in the Bahamas and softening his heavy island accent at a time when important opportunities for Black performers were scarce.

He won an Academy Award for "Lilies of the Field" in 1963. "He starred as an itinerant labourer who assists a group of white nuns in the construction of a chapel in the film. 

As Americans grappled with the societal upheavals produced by the civil rights movement, several of his best-known films examined racial tensions.

In 1967 alone, he played a Philadelphia cop facing discrimination in small-town Mississippi in "In the Heat of the Night" and a doctor in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" who wins over his white fiancée's suspicious parents.

His characters, despite being filled with repressed rage, responded to injustice with quiet resolve. 

One of his most well-known films is 'To Sir, with Love,' a British drama in which Poitier plays a teacher at a London inner-city school who transforms the lives of his rowdy children.

Poitier received critical acclaim for his performance as a black man who falls in love with a blind white adolescent in the 1965 drama "A Patch of Blue."

A Raisin in the Sun (1961), The Defiant Ones (1958), and Edge of the City (1960) are among his other notable works from 1957.

(With inputs from agencies)

Read in App