A legend of the screen has left us as it’s been reported that Sidney Poitier has passed away. Per TMZ, Poitier’s death was announced by the Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs, but the circumstances of his passing, along with a cause of death, haven’t been revealed. The veteran actor, who became the first Black man to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his performance in 1963’s Lilies of the Field, was 94 years old.
Beginning his entertainment career on stage in the 1940s, Poitier was starting to get noticed by Hollywood after he appeared as a doctor treating a white racist man in No Way Out in 1950. More roles were quick to follow with Poitier landing his first major breakout role as Gregory Miller in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle. In 1958, he co-starred with Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones, and the performance earned him the first ever nomination for Best Actor for a Black man at the Oscars.
Poitier followed this up with highly acclaimed performances in classic films like Porgy and Bess, A Raisin in the Sun, and Paris Blues. One of his most well-known roles came in 1963 when he starred in Lilies of the Field as an itinerant worker who is believed to have been sent to a group of nuns by God. This garnered a Best Actor win at the Academy Awards for Poitier.
Winning the Oscar catapulted Poitier to even greater fame and success. Some of Poitier’s other most well-known performances include roles in To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. He’d later appear in Stir Crazy with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Buck and the Preacher with Harry Belafonte, and Sneakers with Robert Redford and Dan Aykroyd. The actor also directed several films including Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again, A Piece of the Action, and Ghost Dad.
The acclaimed actor was also a civil rights activist. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by then-president Barack Obama for his work. The U.S. and Bahamian dual native also served as Bahamian Ambassador to Japan from 1997-2007. His work both with movies and with his activism has made Poitier one of the more adored celebrities in Hollywood.
“Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor,” writes Westworld and The Batman actor Jeffrey Wright on Twitter. “One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love.”
The Princess Bride favorite Cary Elwes added: “I once had the honor to shake Sidney Poitier’s hand. May he Rest in Power knowing he was loved and trailblazer in our industry who lit up the screen with his talent.”
Poitier’s survivors include his wife of 45 years, Joanna, along with six daughters. We would like to offer our condolences out to them at this painful time. Poitier had built an incredible legacy while he was here and this will ensure he will forever be remembered. Rest in peace, Sidney Poitier.