By HILLEL ITALIE, national writer AP
NEW YORK (AP) – Sidney Poitier, the revolutionary actor and the lasting inspiration who transformed the way black people were portrayed on screen, became the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Principal Performance and the first to be one of the best at the box office. , is dead. He was 94 years old.
Poitier, winner of the Oscar for best actor in 1964 for “The lily of the valley”, died Thursday in the Bahamas, according to Eugène Torchon-Newry, acting director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas.
Few movie stars, black or white, have had such an influence both on and off the screen. Before Poitier, the son of tomato farmers in the Bahamas, no black actor had a sustained career as a lead actor or could get a movie produced based on his own star power. Before Poitier, few black actors were allowed to break the stereotypes of insect-eyed servants and smiling entertainers. Before Poitier, Hollywood filmmakers rarely tried to tell the story of a black person.
The rise of Poitier reflected the profound changes in the country in the 1950s and 1960s. As racial attitudes shifted in the civil rights era and segregation laws were contested and fell, Poitier was the artist towards which a cautious industry turned to for stories of progress.
Political cartoons about world leaders
He was the escaped black convict who befriends a racist white prisoner (Tony Curtis) in “The Defiant Ones”. He was the courteous office worker who falls in love with a blind white girl in “A Patch of Blue”. He was the handyman in “Lilies of the Field” building a church for a group of nuns. In one of the great roles on stage and screen, he was the ambitious young father whose dreams collided with those of other family members in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun”.
Debates about diversity in Hollywood inevitably turn to the history of Poitier. With her beautiful flawless face; intense gaze and disciplined style, he was for years not only the most popular black movie star, but the only one.
Copyright 2022 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.