{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/navcc.php' }

Remembering Sidney Poitier Through the National Film Registry

               Sidney Poitier in “Lilies of the Field” (1963)

How do you write about Sidney Poitier and feel you that are doing him justice?  How do you recap a repertoire of some of the most important and beloved films of the last century, a career that spanned decades, and a legacy that broke barriers?  How do you thank someone who’s taken you from crayons to perfume?

Sidney Poitier holds a distinct honor of having seven films in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry:  “Blackboard Jungle” (1955), “Porgy and Bess (1959), “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961), “Lilies of the Field” (1963), “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” (1967), “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), and as the narrator of the film “King:  A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis“ (1970).

His number of credits in the National Film Registry equals some of Hollywood’s other beloved legends, including John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant.

In 1964, he became the first Black man (and Bahamian) to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in his role as Homer Smith in “Lilies of the Field.”  As Anne Bancroft read the esteemed list of nominees (Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Rex Harrison, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier), the applause was the loudest for Poitier, and the crowd roared with happiness when his name was read as the winner. (“Amen!” said the music accompanying him to the podium, the tune of the traditional gospel song used in the movie. )

It would certainly not be the last award or accolade he would receive. That list is long and includes two more Academy Award nominations and a 2001 Honorary Academy Award for his contribution to American cinema. He’s received ten Golden Globe nominations, two Primetime Emmys, six BAFTA nominations, one Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination, one Grammy Award, and a British Academy Film Award.

His numerous achievement awards include the AFI Life Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Of distinct honor, Mr. Poitier received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2009 and an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 1974.

A few months ago, the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles dedicated the “Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby” in his honor.

His list of films and the stars he’s worked with is even longer, and even more important is the list of people that he influenced and inspired. This touching reel from the 2002 Academy Awards only scratches the surface.

Whether he chose great movies, or the great movies chose him, he seemed to do it on his terms and with strong conviction. In a 2016 interview with Leslie Stahl, Poitier said that before signing the contract to play the role of Virgil Tibbs in the 1967 film “In the Heat of the Night,” he told the studio, “If he slaps me. I’m going to slap him back. You will put on paper that the studio agrees that the film will be shown nowhere in the world with me standing there taking the slap from the man.” The studio agreed. It was a major script change and one that was written into his contract.

Call him “Mister Tibbs” or “Sir,” with love, but there will never be another Sidney Poitier.

For a more in depth look at Sidney Poitier, you can read essays posted about his films in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.

 

 

 

Librarian of Congress adds 25 films to the National Film Registry

  Today, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the annual selection of 25 films into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.  Films are selected based on their cultural, historic and/or aesthetic importance, and must be at least 10 years old. The 2021 National Film Registry represents one of the most diverse collections of films […]

Film Loans From the Library of Congress — December 2021

Here are some of the titles from the Library’s motion picture collections–many preserved by the NAVCC film laboratory–that we’re loaning for exhibition this month. As always, we can’t guarantee that schedules won’t change or links get broken, but this is our best information at the time of publication. Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal https://www.cinemateca.pt/programacao.aspx?ciclo=1410 THE BLACKENED […]

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Let’s visit “Alice’s Restaurant” (1967)

For many, it has become as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey and dressing.  Arlo Guthrie’s immortal recording “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2017.  Not long after, music journalist Hank Reineke kindly wrote about it for the Library.  In honor of this holiday, we share […]

COME ON DOWN! You’re the Next Collection to Enter the Archive!

By Rachel Del Gaudio, a Moving Image Processing Technician at the Library’s Packard Campus Game shows have long been a television staple and it’s no different today, as “The Chase,” “Ellen’s Game of Games,” and “Family Feud” and long-time favorites like “Jeopardy!,” “Wheel of Fortune,” and “The Price is Right” attest. With prizes such as […]

Film Loans from the Library of Congress — November 2021

Here are some of the titles from the Library’s motion picture collections–many preserved by the NAVCC film laboratory–that we’re loaning for exhibition this month. As always, we can’t guarantee that schedules won’t change or links get broken, but this is our best information at the time of publication. Music Box Theatre, Chicago, Illinois TRAFFIC IN […]

WHO KNOWS? RADIO AND THE PARANORMAL

Who knows “Who Knows?”? This program was produced for the Mutual Broadcasting System from March 16, 1940 through August 29, 1941. Few sources on old time radio mention it, which maybe a reflection of its short run and somewhat narrow distribution. The weekly 15-minute program explored the world of psychic phenomena. On early broadcasts, announcer […]

From the National Film Registry: Home Movie Day

Today, we honor National Home Movie Day by not only highlighting the importance of home movies as historical and cultural documents, but also as a personal reflection that we are often more alike than different. At least four home amateur films are in the National Film Registry and many more can be viewed in the […]