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Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with Sidney Poitier

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with Sidney Poitier

Last night, Sidney Poitier was honored at Lincoln Center, where he received this year’s Charlie Chaplin Award. Coincidentally, it’s also Teacher Appreciation Week in America. Specifically today is Teacher’s Day. As Morgan Freeman recognized on stage at Alice Tully Hall, Poitier played a teacher in many films (“but he was also a real life ‘teacher’ for so many,” Freeman noted), so what better time to watch some of his films and what better way to celebrate the occasion — outside of thanking your teachers and maybe giving them a gift or whatever you’re supposed to do.

It’s best to start off, not with the obvious choice of “To Sir, with Love,” but with an earlier work in which the actor does not play a teacher. Instead, kind of a flipped precursor to the later hit, “Blackboard Jungle” features the young Poitier as the student (with Glenn Ford as the educator) in the teacher-student dynamic of an early version of the inner-city-school drama that would be popular for decades to come. You can watch it instantly on Netflix, but first check out a clip after the jump.

(if that is not working, watch it here)

Okay, now time to watch “To Sir, with Love,” also available on Netflix Watch Instantly. Here’s a clip from the film that’s like the reciprocation of the scene I shared from “Blackboard”:

(if that is not working, watch it here)

Let’s not forget the sequel, “To Sir, with Love II,” a made-for-TV entry into the inner-city-school genre directed by indieWIRE blogger Peter Bogdanovich. It’s not available at all through Netflix, but it is on physical DVD through some outlets. And in parts on YouTube if you want it more immediately. Here’s a clip featuring a bathroom-set scene also reminiscent of “Blackboard”:

If Poitier played any other teachers, as Freeman implies, I’m drawing a blank. But these three films should suffice for today at least.

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Jensen Lee

Poitier broke ground in “Blackboard Jungle” in a day when blacks struggled for roles. “Blackboard Jungle” was also revolutionary as the first major film to have a rock song in its soundtrack. The tale of how Bill Haley and his Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” was used in the opening credits of “Blackboard Jungle” is told on my Rockaeology blog at

The song was chosen by director Richard Brooks from the record collection of a music-crazy fifth-grader who loved Bill Haley’s sound… star Glenn Ford’s son Peter.

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