By Veronica Thompson
As a lover of classic movies, I have seen my fair share of films featuring Sidney Poitier, a Bahamian-American former actor, director, producer and ambassador who, in 1964, became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
I have not viewed a large number of films featuring Poitier, but the ones I have seen left an impression on my heart. In my opinion, Poitier always brought a unique level of charisma to his characters which truly solidified the relationships and struggles of who he was portraying in his movies.
Saturday marked his 94th birthday, so I would like to honor him through this appreciation post. Below is a list of some Poitier movies I have seen and why I respect him as an actor so much.
“No Way Out”
This movie was Poitier’s first film role, but you can’t even tell because he sells his character to fit the demand of this movie’s high-stakes tone. He plays a doctor who is tasked with treating a racist patient who directs insults, slurs and threats at him, and tries to turn everyone against the doctor. Poitier’s displayed paranoia as a response to escalating racial tensions is palpable, and I recommend this to anyone who would appreciate a timely portrayal of race relations.
I find this movie very easy to revisit and rewatch. It takes place in a lower-income neighborhood, with Poitier, appearing alongside Glenn Ford, playing a high school student to Ford’s “newcomer teacher who positively impacts students learning at a school with many challenges” trope. This is considered Poitier’s breakout role, and his portrayal of a complex, soul-balancing leader with an ability to work with his peers is well-executed.
“Edge of the City”
This film is about a man who is actively evading the law but secures a job on a dock, where Poitier plays one of the company’s supervisors. We see Poitier take on the roles of a confident manager, a jovial father, a high-spirited husband and a dedicated friend. What stuck out to me about Poitier’s performance was his ability to switch between light-hearted sarcasm and down-to-earth solemnity, sometimes within the span of one single scene.
[Trigger warning: This movie discusses suicide.]
“The Slender Thread”
This suspenseful drama sees Poitier opposite Anne Bancroft, and it is worth viewing if you don’t mind the typical, longer-than-necessary scenes many ’60s movies have. The movie takes place within the course of one night, when Poitier, a crisis center volunteer, responds to a call from a woman who has overdosed on sleeping pills in an attempted suicide. This film has a decent balance between high-tension scenes — with wide eyes and profuse sweating — and calmer, soft-spoken melancholic scenes.
No matter what role he is playing, Poitier fully immerses himself on screen while staying true to his own personality. He breathed genuine life into his characters — without emotional hesitancy — and he is a true icon in the realms of cinematic artistry and humanitarianism. For cinephiles and casual movie watchers alike, Poitier films are worth checking out.