Sir Poitier dies at 94

Star was the first Black man to win a Best Actor Oscar

by Amber Wilkinson

Groundbreaking actor Sir Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94. The trailblazer, who became the first Black man to win a Best Actor Oscar in 1963, for Lilies Of The Field, was until the time of his death the oldest living recipient of the accolade.

His death was confirmed today by a Bahamian government spokesman although the cause of death was not revealed.

The Miami-born star, who grew up in both the US and the Bahamas made his debut in No Way Out and, four years before receiving his first Oscar had been the first Black man to be nominated in the category for The Defiant Ones, an action film that charts the friendship that develops between two men handcuffed together on the run, co-starring Tony Curtis. He would go on to be given a second, honorary statuette in 2002.

Known for his intelligent and intense performances, he also starred in other major films of the Sixties, including a trio in a single year - 1967: Best Picture winner In the Heat Of The Night, To Sir, With Love and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Other films in his career included Cry, The Beloved Country, Sneakers and The Jackal.

Poitier and Curtis in The Defiant Ones
Poitier and Curtis in The Defiant Ones
He was awarded an honorary knighthood in 1974 and, in 2009, awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom - the States' highest civilian honour.

Among those paying tribute to the star on Twitter, were his friend and fellow actor Russ Tamblyn. Retweeting a photo of the pair of them taken in December, he said: "You changed the whole world, Sidney. Changed the way Hollywood treated and saw Black actors in film. I will miss you, friend. Fly safe to wherever your next journey takes you."

Whoopi Goldberg wrote: "If you wanted the sky i would write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high.. To Sir… with Love. Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars. My condolences to his family and to all of us as well."

His influence across the generations was clear, with Zola star Colman Domingo tweeting: "Until I can properly eulogize him later. Heart broken. I am because of him. He blazed a tremendous path for thespians such as me. I am forever grateful. Standing O for this giant."

Poitier, who married twice, is survived by his six children and his second wife Joanna Shimkus.

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