Today in history… February 20th, 1927, Sidney Poitier, a man who I’m sure needs absolutely no introduction on this website, was born in Miami, Florida.
Happy 85th birthday Sir Poitier! And I call him “Sir Poitier” because he was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1974, which entitles him to the “Sir” that precedes his name; although he rarely includes it.
I’ve seen nearly all of his films, although it’s been months since I last revisited any of them. The last Sidney Poitier film I watched was Buck And The Preacher, some time last year. It’s one of my favorite Poitier films, along with In The Heat Of The Night, For Love Of Ivy, and Let’s Do It Again, the 2nd in the comedy/action trilogy of films he made with Bill Cosby in the 1970s.
I’d say that my preference leans towards his latter films – specifically those he had some creative control over, whether writing or directing, as the above films I listed indicate (In The Heat Of The Night aside).
Buck And The Preacher was his directorial debut (although it wasn’t originally planned that way), and a fine job I’d say he did with it. He also starred in the film, as Buck, alongside Harry Belafonte as the nutty preacher. It’s a different Poitier on screen – not the usual conservative, brooding, unconventional hero, or the restrained, near-Christ-like everyman we’d seen in several of his previous films.
Buck feels much more “real” to me, fuller, thoughtful – aged even. You could tell that he had some control over the material, much more-so than he had in previous films he only starred in.
It’s certainly no Sweet Sweetback; but, the characters, overall, felt more alive than usual – especially Harry Belafonte as the preacher, who I thought was a revelation here.
Ruby Dee rounds out the cast.
The entire film is apparently on YouTube.
85-year old Sidney Poitier has earned his place, not just in black cinema history, but cinema history broadly.
On this, his 85th birthday, closing in fast on the big 9-0, what are your favorite works of his and why?