Film

Hollywood mourns Sir Sidney Poitier, ground-breaking Black actor and activist who has died at 94

Tributes have poured in from around the world for Sidney Poitier, the ground-breaking titan of cinema’s golden age and first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor, who has died at the age of 94.

Sidney Poitier in 2012

Sidney Poitier in 2012. Image: Norene/Flickr

Tributes have poured in from around the world for Sidney Poitier, the ground-breaking titan of cinema and first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor, who has died at the age of 94.

Poitier won the Academy award for 1964 hit ‘Lilies of the Field’ after he had already broken down stereotypes and racial barriers at a time when few Black men or women were thought of as leading performers in Western culture.

It would take another 37 years for a Black man to win best actor again, when Denzel Washington won for 2001 film ‘Training Day’, saying: “I’ll always be chasing you, Sidney. I’ll always be following in your footsteps. There’s nothing I would rather do, sir.”

As a Bahamaian-American he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1974 and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, two of the highest honours his dual citizenship would allow.

Actors, politicians, activists and fans shared their tributes and memories of Poitier on social media.

Bernice King, daughter of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., shared a photo of Poitier at a protest in 1968 and called the actor “powerful beyond the stage and screen”.

Actor Jeffrey Wright called him “a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man,” adding “RIP, Sir. With love.”

Famed actor Whoopi Goldberg quoted the theme song from Poitier’s 1967 hit “To Sir… With Love”, which dealt with racial issues in an inner city school, tweeting: “If you wanted the sky i would write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high.. To Sir… with Love Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars.”

https://twitter.com/WhoopiGoldberg/status/1479478453699330054

Film writer Mark Harris said: “I’ve dreaded this day and I’m glad it was so long in coming. Rest in peace, Sidney Poitier. I don’t believe any actor in the history of movies had to navigate greater cultural complexities, or could have done it with more grace. He was a giant, and his influence is measureless.”

“At a time when positive images of black people were so scarce in mainstream media, Sidney Poitier brought such grace, honour and nobility to our screens. A trailblazer he allowed the world to see the full potential of the black experience long denied,” wrote Labour MP David Lammy.

Sidney Poitier – best of the best RIP,” wrote actor Mia Farrow.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sidney Poitier, the legendary actor, director and diplomat who led a life of remarkable achievements, both on-screen and off,”

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