Hollywood Honors Sidney Poitier: ‘One of the Greatest Actors of His Generation’

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Hollywood stars such as Tyler Perry, Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis took to social media on Friday to pay tribute to Sidney Poitier, who has died at 94. Poitier made history in 1964 when he became the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor.

Poitier starred in many trailblazing films, such as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “They Call Me Mister Tibbs.”

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Perry posted, “Around this time last year Cicely Tyson was releasing her book and promoting it. I had no idea she would pass away shortly thereafter. Now, to wake up this morning to a call that Sidney Poitier has passed away… all I can tell you is that my heart broke in another place,” Perry wrote on Instagram. “The grace and class that this man has shown throughout his entire life, the example he set for me, not only as a Black man but as a human being will never be forgotten. There is no man in this business who has been more of a North Star for me than Sidney Poitier.” He continued, “I’ll never forget inviting him and Cicely to fly to South Africa with me. Selfishly, I wanted to hold them both captive for the hours-long trip as I literally sat at their feet and listened to their wisdom and experiences. It was life changing. All I can say is thank you for your life, thank you for your example, and thank you for your incredible gift. But most of all, thank you for being willing to share YOU to make us all better.”

Harry Belafonte added in a statement: “For over 80 years, Sidney and I laughed, cried and made as much mischief as we could. He was truly my brother and partner in trying to make this world a little better. He certainly made mine a whole lot better.”

Denzel Washington added, “It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family.”

Questlove called Poitier “A king.” He said, “One of the greatest actors of his generation. We all have our Poitier era. Growing up in the ’70s I’d have to say that maybe ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ was the first movie I ever watched. (The trilogy of Uptown/Again/Piece of was a staple/steady diet in every ’70s household). You already know I can spew paragraphs of what his activism represented, especially in a time that his accolades were happening during the civil rights era — but man, this is more of a personal reflect because of the bonding his ’70s movies did for my family and I. Rest in peace. And thank you.”

Whoop Goldberg said in her tribute that Poitier “showed us how to reach for the stars.”

Actor Jeffrey Wright paid tribute by calling Poitier a “landmark actor.” He wrote, “Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love.

Franklin Leonard posted, “A great has fallen.”

Tina Knowles said, “Sir Sidney Poitier will be sadly missed by the whole world! He was a true class act! A trailblazer for Black leading men. Handsome, talented and oh so gracious. I have had the pleasure of meeting him and speaking to him several times. Praying for his family. RIP Sir.”

Coleman Domingo posted, “When you say the name Sidney Poitier, there was always such reverence and humanity attached to that name.”

See more tributes below:

From Gil Robertson, President, African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA):

“For my entire life, Sidney Poitier has been the very definition of what an actor is and should be. He’s just been a symbol of excellence, personified Black excellence, who was just a majestic presence on screen. When you think about how groundbreaking his career was, you can’t help but be in awe. In many ways, he was the ambassador of Black masculinity, almost single-handedly debunking the worst stereotypes about us, ranging from his roles as an everyman to those where he played a doctor or teacher. More than being the first Black actor to win the Oscar for his tour de force portrayal in Lilies of the Field in 1964, he represented beauty and dignity in all that he did. His filmography as an actor is just so astonishing, as week as his pioneering work as a director with Buck and the Preacher and Stir Crazy, the first $100 million film from a Black director. I am so grateful to have had so many opportunities to speak with him over the years. Meeting and interacting with one of your heroes is just priceless. I am so proud that the African American Film Critics Association was able to bestow him with our Icon Award in 2017. It’s a great loss for the entertainment industry as a whole, for AAFCA, Black Hollywood, and, of course, his beloved family. We must, however, remember how fortunate we have been to witness his gift and take comfort that his work will outlive us all.”

From Don Cheadle, Actor:

Gutted. again. Lost another royal. Sir Poitier had no peer, and we’ll never see his like again. He was the standard bearer for generations of actors/directors who came after him. The last time I saw Sidney was at a golf course in LA. I saw him across the room and walked toward him with my hand out to shake his. Ignoring my hand, he opened both of his arms wide and embraced me warmly. Then he let me go and held me at arm’s length staring me in my eyes and said in his signature cadence, “I dig what you do, my man.” I almost fainted. He told me to keep it up and keep representing us. I told him I would do my best and that he was irreplaceable. We were so blessed to have him for as long as we did, and he will be sorely and surely missed.

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