Born: February 20, 1927
Died: January 6, 2022
Birthplace: Miami, FL
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian-American actor and film director. He received two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor, winning one, the first black actor to win that award. He was also nominated six times for each of the Golden Globe for Best Actor and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) for Best Foreign Actor, winning each once. From 1997 to 2007, he served as the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.
His family lived in the Bahamas but Poitier was born in Miami while they were visiting, thereby acquiring American citizenship. He grew up in the Bahamas, moving to New York when he was 16. He joined the North American Negro Theatre landing his breakthrough film role in 1950 as an incorrigible high school student in Blackboard Jungle (1955).
In 1958 Poitier starred with Tony Curtis in the critically acclaimed The Defiant Ones as chained-together convicts who escape and must cooperate. Each received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor, with Poitier's being the first for a black actor, as well as nominations for the BAFTAs, which Poitier won. In 1964 he won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field (1963) in which he played a handyman who stays with and helps a group of German-speaking nuns build a chapel. Poitier also received critical acclaim for A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and A Patch of Blue (1965).
He continued to break ground in three successful 1967 films, each dealing with issues of race and race relations: To Sir, with Love; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night, making him the top box-office star of that year. He received nominations for the Golden Globes and BAFTAs for the latter film, but not for the Oscars, likely due to vote splitting between his roles. After twice reprising his Virgil Tibbs character from In the Heat of the Night and acting in a variety of other films, including the thriller The Wilby Conspiracy (1975), with Michael Caine, Poiter turned to acting/directing with the action-comedies Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), and A Piece of the Action (1978), all co-starring Bill Cosby. During a decade away from acting he directed the successful Stir Crazy (1980) starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, among other films. He returned to acting in the late 1980s and early 1990s in a few thrillers and television roles.
Poitier was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. In 2009 Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor. In 2016, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Poitier 22nd on their list of Greatest Male Stars of classic Hollywood cinema. In 2002 Poitier was chosen to receive an Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his "remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being".
On January 6, 2022, Poitier died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 94. His death was confirmed by Fred Mitchell, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas According to a copy of his death certificate obtained by TMZ, the immediate cause of death was cardiopulmonary failure, with Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer listed as underlying causes.