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Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon
Chapel Hill : The University of North Carolina Press, 2004
PN2287 .P57 G68 2004
In the first full biography of legendary actor Sidney Poitier, Aram Goudsouzian analyzes the life and career of Hollywoods only black leading man during the civil rights era, from his childhood in the Bahamas to his 2002 Oscar for lifetime achievement. Poitier is a gifted actor, a great American success story, an intriguing personality, and a political symbol. As Goudsouzian details, Poitiers past illuminates Americas racial history.
In films like Blackboard Jungle, The Defiant Ones, and A Raisin in the Sun, Poitiers middle-class, mannered, virtuous screen persona contradicted prevailing film portrayals of blacks as half-wits, comic servants, or oversexed threats. His screen image and public support of nonviolent integration assuaged the fears of a broad political center. In 1964, with the nation's liberal goodwill at its peak, Poitier won an Academy Award for his role as a genial handyman in Lilies of the Field.
Through readings of every Poitier film, Goudsouzian shows Poitiers characters often made sacrifices for the good of whites and rarely displayed sexuality. This model won its greatest acceptance in 1967 and 1968, when To Sir, With Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Whos Coming to Dinner each topped box-office charts and a Gallup poll tabbed Poitier Americas favorite movie star. By 1970, however, Poitier was the target of a backlash from film critics and black radicals, as the new heroes of "blaxploitation" movies reversed the Poitier model.
In the 1970s, Poitier shifted his considerable talents toward directing, starring in, and producing popular movies that employed many African Americans, both on and off screen. After a long hiatus, he returned to starring roles in the late 1980s. More recently, the film industry has reappraised his career, and Poitier has received numerous honors recognizing his work for black equality in Hollywood. As this biography affirms, Poitier remains one of American popular cultures foremost symbols of the possibilities for and limits of racial equality.
Quoted from dust jacket.