Sidney Poitier Tom Allen - Essay

Tom Allen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Consider sit-com's ability to trivialize. After two decades of inexorable social enlightenment, the Brooklyn Sweathogs have substituted infantile pranks for the switchblade rock of [Richard Brooks's] The Blackboard Jungle, a classroom that has, incidentally, graduated at least three actor-directors in Paul Mazursky, Vic Morrow, and Sidney Poitier. The last, Poitier, seems particularly comfortable in the classroom. The Blackboard Jungle gave him a start; [James Clavell's] To Sir, With Love was a boost at mid-career; and now some of the strongest moments of his several directions appear in A Piece of the Action, in which he allows a younger generation, fresh faces in a ghetto class, their pause in the melodramatic limelight. Poitier's film, which inserts an ode to classroom reform within a caper story, is much too long and no model of neat construction. But in going for that old liberal uplift of A Man Ten Feet Tall and [Stanley Kramer's] The Defiant Ones, he has reached for the true schmaltz, not the treacly brand of some of his past films as director. I would judge from some of the more intense moments of A Piece of the Action that he is finally letting feelings get in the way.

Tom Allen, "'Oh, God!' and Other Third World Films" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 42, October 17, 1977, p. 53.∗