Sidney Poitier in five films

(AFP) – Sidney Poitier established himself as the first black star in Hollywood in the 1950s to 1970s, breaking through to white domination of American cinema through positive roles.

– The chain (1958) –

Two prisoners, a white man (Tony Curtis) and a black man (Sidney Poitier), chained together, take advantage of the accident in their van to escape. Their cavalcade takes place in the still segregationist South.

The two men, equally racist, hate each other but quickly realize that they have an interest in cooperating. This collaboration will be reinforced when they realize that before their arrest, they were only second-rate employees, targets of numerous humiliations. Soon they become friends.

This revolutionary role earned Sidney Poitier his first Oscar nomination.

– The lily of the fields (1963) –

An adventurer (Sidney Poitier) meets in a near desert in Arizona a community of German Catholic sisters. These cheerful women led by a grumpy Mother Superior want to build a church for the region’s Hispanic community. Homer Smith will help them there while teaching them English.

Without giving in to silliness, Ralph Nelson signs an optimistic comedy, whose values ​​of openness are the antipodes of those of white and urban America.

Sidney Poitier wins the Oscar for best actor. “Most of my films offer warmth and good feelings. I prefer to make films where people come out saying that life is good,” he confided in 1968 to the New York Times.

– In the heat of the night (1967) –

In a town in Mississippi, a businessman is killed. An African-American (Sidney Poitier) who was waiting for his train at the station is arrested, designated as the ideal culprit. This one is in reality a police officer, member of the criminal brigade of Philadelphia. His supervisor orders him to stay put and investigate with the local sheriff.

Five-time Oscar winner in 1967 (including best film), this feature film by Norman Jewison takes us to the South of the United States. Sidney Poitier reigns, superb, over the racist and incompetent whites of the area.

– Guess who’s coming to dinner? (1967) –

A young bourgeois introduces her fiancé (Sidney Poitier) to her parents, a couple of intellectuals who believe they are open-minded. The meeting is a shock. If the mother (Katharine Hepburn) ends up accepting the choice of her daughter, the father (Spencer Tracy) editor of a major San Francisco newspaper, is much more reserved. The parents of the groom are just as wary.

Black cause activists 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.

“I happen to be one of the millions who loved this movie,” he retorted in The New York Times in 1968. “The world needs every argument it can get to show that man is more good than bad “. It was in 1967, the year of serious race riots, that the American Supreme Court recognized the legality of mixed marriage.

– Uptown Saturday night (1974) –

The first black comedy to achieve great popular success in the United States, “Uptown Saturday night” (“Un Samedi soir en ville”, released in France under the original title) recounts the setbacks of two friends (Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby) who struggle to find a winning lottery ticket locked in a wallet stolen the day before the draw in a hold-up.

Sidney Poitier – also a director – excels in this comic duo, the first lurch from black cinema towards the general public.

In this film, the African-Americans are no longer caricatured, they lead the comedy. After such a success, “Let’s do it again” (1975) and “A piece of the Action” (1977) will follow. Will Smith has acquired the rights: a remake with Denzel Washington is scheduled for 2022.