Sidney Poitier, Hollywood’s first black star, is dead

(AFP) – Legendary actor and Hollywood’s first black star Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas, where the actor grew up, announced on Friday.

“We have lost an icon, a hero, a mentor, a fighter, and a national treasure,” Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper wrote on his Facebook page about the “The Channel” actor and ” In the heat of the night, “not to mention the cause of his death.

Born prematurely in Miami, Florida, on February 20, 1927, when his parents moved from the neighboring Bahamas, Sidney Poitier thus obtained dual American and Bahamian nationality.

In 1964, he was the first African-American to win the Oscar for best actor for “Le Lys des champs”.

“The journey was long to get there,” he said very moved, receiving the golden statuette.

Thanks to his roles, the public was able to conceive that African-Americans could be a doctor (“The door opens” – 1950), engineer, teacher (“Les anges aux poings clenched” – 1967), or even a policeman (” In the heat of the night “- 1967).

But at 37, when the incandescent actor receives his Oscar, he’s the only star of color in Hollywood.

“The film industry was not yet ready to raise more than one personality from minorities to the rank of star”, he deciphered in his autobiography “This Life”.

“At the time, (…) I endorsed the hopes of a whole people. I had no control over the content of the films (…) but I could refuse a role, which I did many times. time”.

In “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” in 1967, he plays the fiance of a young white bourgeois presenting him to his parents, a couple of intellectuals who believe themselves to be open-minded. The meeting is a shock, and gives a major film on the racism of the time.

Black cause activists, however, harshly criticize Sidney Poitier for having accepted this role of internationally renowned doctor, at odds with the discrimination suffered by his peers. He is referred to as the “Negro on duty”, “white fantasy”. His unreal qualities as an ideal son-in-law mask his negritude and racist problems, they say.

In 2002 Sidney Poitier received an honorary Oscar for “his extraordinary performances, his dignity, his style and his intelligence”.