CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Sidney Poitier

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

By any standard, Sidney Poitier has been one of the most impactful entertainers of all time.

Portraying several of the most memorable characters ever seen on the silver screen while also mentoring some of the top contemporary performers, Portier has inspired countless actors over the last seven decades.

While his entire family lived in the Bahamas, Poitier was born unexpectedly in Miami while his parents were visiting for the weekend, which automatically granted him American citizenship. He grew up in the Bahamas, but moved back to Miami when he was 15 and to New York a year later.

According to his own autobiography, Poitier failed in his first attempt in the theater.  Despite being tone deaf and unable to carry a tune, he was given an opportunity to perform with the American Negro Theater in 1945.   At the early age of 18, Sidney’s thick Bermudian accent did not resonate well with audiences nor did they take his characters seriously on the stage.

Determined to lose his accent and improve his stature in the theater, Poitier spent the next six months training his voice and improving his acting skills.  On his second attempt at the theater, he earned a leading role in a small Broadway play.  Even though this show ran for just four days, Poitier received positive reviews along with an invitation to understudy for a bigger production, Anna Lucasta.

Soon, Sidney had to make difficult choices in choosing between starring roles on the stage or in the cinema.  Choosing the latter, Poitier began appearing in an impressive run of films through the 1950s.  Those movies include No Way Out, Blackboard Jungle, Mark of the Hawk and The Defiant Ones, which landed eight Academy Award nominations. Poitier earned a nomination for Best Actor, making him the first black male actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award in that category.

His landmark works of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, In The Heat Of The Night and many more classics would soon follow.  He would also author books, voice “spoken word” albums, march for justice, become an international ambassador and lay the foundation for many great actors, perhaps none bigger than Denzel Washington, to follow in Sidney’s footsteps.

There are many more great stories on Poitier’s continuing legacy as an actor, director and writer and as a shining beacon for change.  Check back to the Showplace in a few weeks as we spotlight Poitier and other pioneers in the entertainment industry as part of our celebration of Black History Month this February.

In the meantime, you can see Sidney Poitier starring in the 1957 drama Mark Of The Hawk on RCN TV this Monday, January 11th at 1:00 p.m.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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