Sidney Poitier was born prematurely on February 20, 1927 on a boat, en route
to Miami, Florida. He grew up in The Bahamas, leaving school when he was
thirteen. When he was 16, he went to live with his brother in
Florida. He served briefly in the US Army before moving to New York where
he successfully auditioned for the American Negro Theater.
His Broadway debut in 1946, was an all-black production of 'Lysistrata'. Four years later he made his film debut with No Way Out. His performance in The Blackboard Jungle (1995) brought much praise and in 1958 he earned his first Academy Award nomination for his role in The Defiant Ones.
He was the first African-American to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for "Best Actor in a Leading Role" for Lilies of the Field (1963), and only the second African-American to win an Oscar of any type (Hattie McDaniel won "Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Gone with the Wind, 1940). During the 1960s he continued to act in many movies including In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
In 1969, he founded the First Artists Production Company and, in 1972, announced his directorial debut with Buck and the Preacher. During the 1970s he directed a number of comedies including Stir Crazy (1980) and Ghost Dad (1990).
In the late 1980s he returned to acting after taking a 10-year break, and appeared in Shoot to Kill (1988), Little Nikita (1988), Sneakers (1992), and One Man, One Vote (1997). In 1996 he starred in the long-awaited follow-up to his '67 success, To Sir With Love, in the TV movie To Sir With Love 2.
In 2001, he received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for his autobiographical book The Measure of a Man (his second memoir following This Life, published in 1980). In 2002, he received and an honorary Oscar. Overall, he has starred in more than forty films, directed nine and written four. He published his first novel, Montaro Caine, in 2013.
He was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1974. He has also served as non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan and to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He is also a recipient of the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment
He was married to Juanita Hardy from 1950 until 1965; the couple has four children. He is now married to Canadian-born actress Joanna Shimkus, they have two children.
This biography was last updated on 03/14/2013.
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