SIDNEY POITIER: Man, Actor, Icon

Aram Goudsouzian, Author . Univ. of North Carolina $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-8078-2843-4

Poitier has been revered as the first black superstar and criticized for his saintly, sexless and sentimentalized screen image. In this intriguing biography, Goudsouzian, a Hamilton College history professor, thoughtfully depicts the actor's efforts to handle both praise and damnation. Poitier's is a rags-to-riches story: working as a butcher's assistant and construction worker, he learned to speak properly by listening to radio news reporters. Goudsouzian astutely notes that Poitier's dynamic performance in Joseph Mankiewicz's No Way Out was compromised by studio insistence that his mannerisms never suggest the "slightest animal urge." The true, full-blooded Poitier burst forth in 1955's The Blackboard Jungle , and he won a 1963 Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field . But details of Poitier's triumphs never soften the book's hard-hitting, political tone. One memorable passage tells of Poitier's efforts to secure a hotel room in 1956 in Nairobi. He was turned away until the hotel manager discovered Poitier's Something of Value salary was $30,000 and commented, "anyone who makes thirty thousand dollars for three months work is not black." Goudsouzian covers Poiter's romances with model/dancer Juanita Hardy, actress/singers Diahann Carroll and Eartha Kitt and actress Joanna Shimkus. Goudsouzian understands the dynamics behind Poitier's pictures, and carefully analyzes Guess Who's Coming to Dinner , A Patch of Blue and To Sir, with Love . Intense anecdotes highlighting Poitier's temper, occasional womanizing and insecurities keep him from appearing as a distant icon. The story loses steam in its final passages, but ends on a high note when Poitier admits, "I set out to prove to myself that I was capable of moving a mountain." (Mar. 29)

Reviewed on: 01/19/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Show other formats
Open Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-8078-7584-1
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 496 pages - 978-1-4696-0360-5
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