Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier will be honored at the 38th Annual Chaplin Award Gala, hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center on May 2nd, 2011, the New York-based organization unveiled. Styled by FSLC as an event “attended by a host of notable guests and celebrities,” Poitier’s career as an actor and director will be featured in film and television clips.
With a career spanning five decades in theater, film, and television, Poitier made his film debut in 1950 with “No Way Out.” Poitier’s films in the ’50s, notably “Cry, The Beloved Country,” (1952), “Blackboard Jungle,” (1955) and “The Defiant Ones” (1958), for which Poitier was nominated for an Academy Award, were frequently controversial for the time and often addressed issues of racial equality both home and abroad.
In 1961 Poitier would reprise a role he played on the Broadway stage for the Hollywood adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun.” In 1963, Poitier’s performance in “Lillies of the Field,” earned him the Oscar for Best Actor, the first time a black man had been so honored.
Following this success, Poitier’s film career continued to be marked by projects that were not shy to hold a mirror up to issues dealing with race. “A Patch of Blue” (1965), “In the Heat of the Night” (1967) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) addressed black/white conflicts and modern society’s evolving thoughts regarding interracial romance as well.
The 1970s began a period in which Poitier made a shift from acting to directing beginning with “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), “Uptown Saturday Night” (1974), “Let’s Do It Again” (1975), and the classic comedy “Stir Crazy” (1980), starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.
After a decade away from acting, Poitier returned to the screen in 1988 for “Shoot to Kill” and “Little Nikita.” Poitier also headed to television, notably portraying Thurgood Marshall in “Separate But Equal” (1991) and then Nelson Mandela in the 1997 television docudrama “Mandela and De Klerk.”
“The board is very excited to have Sidney Poitier as the next recipient of The Chaplin Award,” commented Ann Tenenbaum, The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Board Chairman in a statement. “His is truly a legendary career, in which he has not simply entertained audiences but been apart of films that indeed helped change our world for the better. It will be an honor to showcase his amazing body of work.”
The Film Society’s annual Gala began in 1972 and honored Charles Chaplin, who returned to the US from exile to accept the commendation. Since then, the award has been renamed for Chaplin, and has honored many notable talents, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and most recently, Michael Douglas.