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To sir, with love from France

Poitier commands position at fest

CANNES — Sidney Poitier towered over proceedings as he was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, the order’s highest honor, by France’s Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres in Cannes on Thursday.

“You are a figure of legend,” the minister told the 79-year-old actor. “More than a star, more than a symbol, you have contributed to history through your work against racism and for the respect and dignity of the black community in America.”

The star of such movies “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” talked about his rise from poverty in the Bahamas to international acclaim, and thanked his mother — and certain figures in Hollywood — for making it happen.

“All the wonderful things said of me are the contributions to my life of other people,” he said modestly.

“It was my good fortune that in Hollywood I worked with a group of filmmakers who all of believed in the integrity of human life and the right to be treated as a human being, and they had the strength and the conviction to back that up,” said Poitier, citing Joseph Mankiewitz

“In a Hollywood that had no place for black men and women these were men who chose to change that pattern,” Poitier said.

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