sidney-poitiers-90th-birthday

To Sidney Poitier Esq.  

Dear Sir,
            First of all, let me wish you a very Happy 90th Birthday. And a big congratulations for being in the acting profession, on both the stage and the screen, for over 70 years.
           Thank you sir, for making it in Hollywood, at a time, when non-Caucasian celebrities, were a rarity. Most of Hollywood was initially made up of, the British, various European countries, Canada, and a few Americans (though those Americans who found fame, were limited to the stars of the fairer skin). Yet, considering the fact, that many a notable Hollywood personalities, were mostly British (and from other Western European countries); it’s obvious that Hollywood is actually, made up of immigrants. Yet, a very big thank you, to you, Sir Poitier, for not only being a leading actor, from the 1960’s (a decade when the world began to change, for the better) onwards; but also, for being the first black male actor, to win an Oscar.
           Legendary, Hattie McDaniel, beat you to it, by winning in the, Best Supporting Actress, category, at the 12th Academy Awards, in 1940; for her brilliant role, as ‘Mammy’, in Gone with the Wind (1939). Thus, making her, the very first African American to win an Oscar. So in a way, she paved the way for you. But it’s only when you won, for Lilies of the Field (1963), at the 36th Academy Awards, in 1964; that darker skinned stars truly started getting a recognition. Of course, in the 70’s, there were a lot of Blaxploitation (a.k.a. Blacksploitation) films. A pity, Afro-Americans, were being reduced to cliché’s. BUT, luckily you were not part of the Blaxploitation cinema, of the 1970’s (not to my knowledge, anyway). So, thank you, for not falling into that trap, and keeping a dignified edge, for Black stars, yet to shine. Plus, thank you, for opening up an avenue for non-white acting talent, in general, in Hollywood. Today, a British born actor, with Indian roots, is nominated for an Oscar; i.e. Dev Patel, who has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor, category, for his role, of an Indian brought-up abroad, in Lion (2016). So, you started it, by being the first non-white actor to make it in Hollywood (which was already full of white immigrants); and today there are quite a few immigrants, from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America (of various skin tones), making it, in the most celebrated film industry, in the world.

Classic Bromance: Sidney Poitier & Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958)

Classic Bromance: Sidney Poitier & Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958)

          Growing up I had heard about you, but had watched very few films, of yours; like Sneakers (1992), and your directorial ventures, like, Stir Crazy (1980) and Hanky Panky (1982), for instance; but it was in my late teens/early adulthood, when I saw, Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), that you became one of my favourite stars. What a brilliant movie!! It’s my second favourite film, of yours. My first, is no doubt, the British film, To Sir, with Love (1967), directed by James Clavell. I had heard of , To Sir, with Love, since I was a kid (in the late 80’s). BUT, it was only, finally in 2005, that I got watch it. I actually saw it on the Big Screen, when it was shown at Russian Centre, here. But it’s rarely I get to see good cinema here, especially on the Big Screen. I’ve actually, only seen three classics, at the Russian Centre. First was, Gone with the Wind, in 2002. Then, To Sir, with Love, in 05’. And finally, Tess (1979), in 2012. So it’s that rare (see my Blog post on Tess from October 2012). Of course, the Ethnic Centre, in Colombo, is, comparatively better. It’s still been a while, since they last showed anything worthwhile; but this week, they are showing two of your movies; the above mentioned, Lilies of the Field, and The Defiant Ones (1958). Both are on my Watchlist. And am really keen on going and watching these two films, this week. I heard, you play a modern day saint, in Lilies of the Field. A really kind human being. Humanity, is the best religion to preach. Kindness and open-mindedness, is sadly something still missing in today’s world of greed and materialism. In, The Defiant Ones, I heard, that your co-star, Tony Curtis requested, that your name appeared alongside his, above the movie title. This was a progressive first for you, and all other (non-white) skinned actors. How kind, it was, of Tony Curtis, to request something, so unheard of, at the time. He didn’t see your skin colour, but the fact, that you were a talented actor, and a lead character, in the movie, and not a supporting one. Blackboard Jungle (1955), A Patch of Blue (1965) and In the Heat of the Night (1967), are three other movies, in my Watchlist, that am really keen on checking out.

Sidney Poitier receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, in 2009

Sidney Poitier receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, in 2009

             Besides being a talented actor, you’ve also been a great diplomat. In real life, you’ve played the role of an ambassador for the Bahamas, to Japan; for a decade, between 1997 and 2007. Concurrently you were also the Bahamas ambassador to UNESCO. This most probably was the greatest, and the most significant, role, in life, you had to play.
On top of all the film awards, you’ve received, I must congratulate you, on receiving the great honours, of the KBE (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1974; and more specifically, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by the previous American President, Barack Obama. Again, thanks to you, paying the way for African Americans, in the United States; Barack Obama, was the very first African American president, that USA, finally had. Him winning the election, in the end of 2008, and becoming the President in January 2009; and during his tenure, the Supreme courts ruling, of same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right, in June 2015; America showed progression. Being an avid supporter of Equal Rights, you shall agree, how progressive and open minded the country was getting. BUT, a pity, with Trump’s triumph, at the elections, held in November 2016, the country seems to have taken a step backwards. None the less, there is still hope for improvement; and the 2017 Women’s March, held last month (in January 2017), not just in your part of the world; but around the globe, is enough proof!! You too were part of an equality march, back in 1963; the March on Washington, headed by Martin Luther King Jr.
              The last time you worked, on screen, was sixteen years ago. I hope, something that interests you comes up, and you wind up doing another impressive role, even today. Or a great directorial opportunity comes your way. I don’t feel, you’ve retired from the film industry, yet.
              And lastly, Thank You, once again, for your great contribution, to the world of Cinema.
                                                                     Wishing you the best of health and happiness
                                                                                                                             With Regards
                                                                                                                                    Nuwan Sen

This Blog Post, in the form of a letter, is my contribution to the, 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon, hosted by , of The Wonderful World of Cinema.

sidney-poitier-blogathon

Thank you Virginie; for letting me take part, in this wonderful Blogathon.
Please also do check out my Blog posts, To Sidney, with Love and South Africa, The Apartheid, Missing Diamonds and The Wilby Conspiracy, from 20th February 2013 & 23rd December 2014, respectively.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

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