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Sidney Poitier

Icons of the Century

Is there an actor alive who possesses more forceful emotional clarity and passionate intelligence than Sidney Poitier?

His ardent disenchantment as a priest in 1951’s “Cry, the Beloved Country” was a pitch-perfect reading of South Africa’s hope and despair. You could almost smell the anger, fear and desperation he felt as a convict on the run, handcuffed to a white man in”The Defiant Ones.” He was tougher than any of the classroom hoodlums in “Blackboard Jungle,” but Glenn Ford’s hapless liberal, “Teach,” caught his eye with an appeal to decency amid brutal, dead-end conditions.

His life and movie characters seem bound up in the same theme: a smart, uncompromising man looks hard at the world and compels it to rise to his moral expectations.

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