Poitier Emerges as a Film Star in The Blackboard Jungle (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: In The Blackboard Jungle and succeeding films, Sidney Poitier helped to redefine the on-screen image of black Americans.
Summary of Event
As late as 1954, success as an actor still eluded the young Sidney Poitier, who had to take nonacting jobs to make ends meet. True, he had come far, considering his lack of formal education. Born in the United States in 1924, he had spent his childhood in the Bahamas before returning to the United States as a teenager. Starting out in New York City as a dishwasher, he had begun taking acting lessons after answering an advertisement by the American Negro Theatre in a Harlem newspaper; with great effort, he had eliminated his West Indian accent. Stage roles were followed by an appearance in an Army Signal Corps film, From Whence Cometh My Help (1949).
In 1949, Poitier, despite his meager film experience, was chosen by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz to appear in No Way Out (1950). In the film, Dr. Luther Brooks (Poitier), a black intern in a Northern city hospital, is accused by white racist Ray Biddle (Richard Widmark) of murder after Biddle’s brother dies while under Brooks’s care. A race riot erupts and, ultimately, Brooks is cleared of all wrongdoing; when Biddle is injured, Brooks cares for him. Though No Way Out was a break for Poitier, the film was a financial failure. Poitier’s next film, Cry the Beloved...
(The entire section is 2448 words.)
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