I just heard that Sidney Poitier has passed.
Those of you of a certain age may barely know who he is. For me he was very much one of those small bastion of creatives who in the challenging years of the 50s thru the 70s, legitimately opened the doors regarding the roles actors of color could embody, the more diverse films that could be made, and the star power, and the respect they could have.
Poitier along with true game changers such as Ossie Davis, Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby (whatever falling down you may attribute to him, his standing up opened doors not just for him, but generations after him. And whatever you think he owes others, must always be weighed against what generations owe him) and Gordon Parks, Renaissance men ALL; they very much made cinema better, and the fabric of America and much of the world, less bigoted and racist.
Now that America has devolved somewhat… from the hard earned new age that such men helped to craft; it just gives us a model, a legacy, to repair, and to build on, and to improve.
poitier thankfully left us with a large and brilliant filmography, not just seminal moments of great film, and seminal moments of great acting, but in the roles he chose, and the ones he refused, he showed us the qualities of being an artist of conscience, and using that art to change the world.
many rightly will hold up as poitier’s best, any number of his films, FRom poitier’s in the heat of the night or guess who’s coming to dinner or lilies of the field or the defiant ones or blackboard jungle or to sir with love. they are all deserving and they are all favorites of mine. but one that is in my thoughts often, is one that virtually no one has seen, and is unfortunately hard to come by on physical media (here’s hoping studios will correct that and do a boxset releasing many of poitier’s perhaps largely unavailable films); i am speaking of a film called BROTHER JOHN.
i think it is one of his only forays into the eerie, and is one of his most humanistic, and beautiful and understated films. i think it is a masterpiece that is unjustly too little seen and too little known.
now may be the time to correct that.
to sidney poitier, your labors are at an end good sir. rest in that place, beyond which, all you can take with you, is what you have shared.
grace to you sir, and my sincere hopes and well wishes, to those he leaves behind.