A Tribute to Sidney Poitier: Fans Share Fond Memories

Sidney Poitier, Chris Tucker, Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee at the Film Society reception at the Mandarin Oriental, May 1, 2011

We received a lot of feedback from dedicated fans as a result of our “Tell Us Why You Love Poitier!” contest and, not surprisingly, opinions vary as to what is Poitier’s best film. Here’s a selection of some of the comments:


No Way Out (1950)

“My favorite Sidney Poitier film is No Way Out. Films that dealt directly with social issues were rare in 1950. (Actually, it seems they've been rare in most eras.) In this film, Sidney Portier played Luther Brooks young negro (the preferred word at the time) doctor, who dealt with racism on the part of Ray Biddle, portrayed by classic tough guy Richard Widmark, with courage and principals, many years before the the civil rights movement. It was the launching point for his career. It's easy to see this role as a precursor to his portrayal of a doctor in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. To my knowledge this is the the only film noir which addressed issues of inequality, so in addition to being a watershed mark for Sidney Portier, it is a unique piece of cinema history.”

- Jonathan Milenko

Blackboard Jungle (1955)


“From his earliest movies, Sidney Poitier, whether he played good guys or bad, embodied a rare dignity, humanity and intelligence that few stars, be they black, white or purple, have been able to summon up. Oh, and he's also sexy as hell! My favorite Poitier film? There are many, but I'm partial to Blackboard Jungle, which I saw as a kid.  And watching him for the first time was a little bit like watching James Dean. The electricity he gave off shocked audiences, and as Gregory, the only student who could see the nuances of reality, he stole the picture from such experienced actors as Glenn Ford, Richard Kiley, and even the magnetic (but unredeemable) bad boy, Vic Morrow.”

- Marjorie Rosen

Edge of the City (1957)


“Of all of his work that I love, I chose this one because it is, above all else, about friendship and integrity and the ability of these ideas to transcend any of the societal constraints imposed on people. Seeing Poitier alongside John Cassavetes is a rare delight and a monumental pairing of two of the most influential figures in American cinema. Even with all of the historical importance and ideological significance aside, the film stands as a profoundly emotional and humanistic experience.”

- Dan Chung

The Defiant Ones (1958)


“My first exposure to Sidney Poitier remains his strongest performance in my mind, even with the awareness of his many great and notable accomplishments. My father tuned into the The Defiant Ones on television and at age ten I saw this incredible story of two angry, polarized men chained together as if two fighting cocks were connected with wire around their legs. Poitier's intense and strong, yet emotive and beautiful face livened the struggle between the men and pulled my young heart to their plight. While Curtis' Joker has his own charisma, Poitier's masterful handling of his own character Noah quickly had me rooting for the men to make it, no matter what their crimes may have been. When Cara Williams intervenes and the two men are finally separated, Joker turns his back on freedom as now the chains between the men are no longer made of metal, but of love. Joker risks even more than before to reunite with his friend and save him from the woman's trap. Cullen's attempt to take Joker along on the train to freedom fails and as the howling dogs approach the two men know they have only each other as they wait out their end, spending their last uncaged moments relaxed in embrace as Poitier sings strong, with his new friend huddled in his arms. Even typing these words Poitier's performance still roots itself in my mind as a portrait of overcoming hatred and finding the pathway to another man's heart. Thank you, Sidney, for giving me hope as an alternative to fear.

- Shade Rupe

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)


“No doubt for me: A Raisin in the Sun. He is excellent in the performance, and the film boasts many other legends who broke through color lines to manifest three dimensional characters on film: Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Jr. With Mr. Poitier, an amazing feat for the early 1960s. The man was definitely before his time, or more aptly put, time was not yet up to speed with Sidney Poitier.”

- Lisa Patel Stevens

To Sir, With Love (1967)


“Growing up on Long Island in the sixties, I lived in one of many ‘all white’ communities in Suffolk County. As a freshman in high school, I first saw Mr. Poitier in To Sir With Love at the local drive-in. I loved his performance and marveled at the way he oozed dignity, intelligence and faith in the potential of the students. Two weeks later, during a heated debate with friends about the ‘authenticity’ of the classroom scenes, a friend pointed out that Mr. Poitier would have never been hired for such a job in the real world. Almost 45 years later, I remember that film and those earnest friends of mine trying, without success, to accept the inner truth of Mr. Poitier’s performance. In this world, Father Time unveils the truth at his own pace. Congratulations Mr. Poitier and thank you to the Film Society for recognizing his lifetime of achievement.”

- Robert Eimicke

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)


“My favorite Sidney Poitier film is Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. I chose the film because it's everything a great movie should be. Great acting, fantastic direction by Stanley Kramer and a powerful message that even though people might be of different color, they are still human beings. Sidney makes that perfectly clear when in a heated argument with his father in the movie, he says to him: ‘You're my father, I'm your son. I love you. I always have and I always will. But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.’ The movie shows that nothing can separate love between two people who care about each other, and the movie ends up with a beautiful conclusion with both the Prentices (black) and the Draytons (white) sitting down for dinner... together.”

- Alex Fischetti

In the Heat of the Night (1967)


“My absolute favorite Sidney Poitier film is In the Heat of the Night. I first saw it on TV when I was young, around 10 years old, and it touched me deeply. It was raw, and real, seeming to strike at the truth. I've seen it many times since, and in spite of the nuances and shifts my (much) greater age brings, it is still raw, real and important, humming with artistic power and integrity. Mr. Poitier has created many great films, and had such a positive role in so many sectors, but this is my all-time favorite - thanks for asking!”

- S. B. Arkun

Uptown Saturday Night (1974)


“Hands down, my favorite Sidney Poitier movie is Uptown Saturday Night. In an era when blaxploitation films were in full form, it was surprising to see Poitier take a comedic turn here and take over the camera and make this hilarious film. Before this, I only knew of him for being a serious dramatic actor with this great voice, but with Uptown Saturday Night he's able to gather up an all-star comedic team for a fun flick. And seeing that he teams up with Bill Cosby and Harry Belafonte who are major social activitists gave this film more meaning and seriousness. Plus, you can never gone wrong with Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor, so casting was also top-notch.”

- Tamara Dunn

Sidney Poitier will receive the 38th Annual Chaplin Award tonight at Alice Tully Hall. What's your favorite Poitier film? Share it with us in the comments! And follow our live coverage of the event on FilmLinc's twitter.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thank You to Our Sponsors

Next Article x

Taiwan Stories: Classic and Contemporary Film from Taiwan image

Taiwan Stories: Classic and Contemporary Film from Taiwan

From May 6 to 19, the Walter Reade Theater presents a survey of the ever-surprising Taiwanese Cinema.

Read More »


# Close