ARTICLE WAINAO N°36 - PROUD
March, 24th 2002: Denzel WASHINGTON and Sydney POITIER both receive oscars during 74th ceremony.
Denzel Washington is an actor/director famous for his performances in many roles including 'Glory,' 'Malcolm X,' 'Training Day,' 'American Gangster' and 'Flight. He first studied journalism at Fordham University then discovered a passion for acting BUT.... This was during the mid-Eighties when Eddie Murphy was the biggest box-office draw in the world and there wasn't much call for black actors in straight leading roles. Washington grabbed his first of five Oscar nominations for Cry Freedom in1987, playing real-life South African apartheid martyr Steve Biko. He later won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Glory in 1989. From there he went on to appear in many hit movies, with powerful, iconic roles such as Malcolm X and boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, Washington has transcended the quiet dignity, his role model Sydney Poitier displayed in the Sixties.
Washington has often referred to Poitier as a mentor, and said that the actor was instrumental to his own career trajectory.
Sydney Poitier was born in 1924, in Miami, but was raised in the Bahamas. His family was very poor. When fis family moved from the village of Cat Island to Nassau, found out that he love movies. Poitier arrived in New York City at age sixteen, worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant and after solving his Caribbean accent and poor reading skills problems by hardworking, Poitier returned to the theater and was hired as a janitor in exchange for acting lessons. Poitier made his film debut in the 1950 and appeared in several movies til “The Defiant Ones”, in which Poitier play with Tony Curtis.
In the 1960s Poitier began to make his mark on American popular culture and in 1964, he became the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the film Lilies of the Field. Sidney Poitier busted down Black barriers with a quiet poise and resilience. He redefined the role of Black Americans in cinema mostly with three films in 1967: In the Heat of the Night, To Sir With Love, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sydney said “I was not in control of the kinds of films I would be offered, but I was totally in control of the kinds of films I would do. So I came to the mix with that power, the power to say, ‘No, I will not do that.’ I did that from the beginning. “It’s been an enormous responsibility. And I accepted it”
Even if he’s been portayed as a pacifier, an “Uncle Tom,” by some critics, if you watch Poitier’s movies, you will see a powerful quiet charisma, with an attitude that says “Put some f&* respect on my name!” and earned him the respect. The famous “What do they call you up there? - “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”???is earned him a place in the black community like no one else.
On March, 24th 2002: Denzel WASHINGTON and Sydney POITIER both receive oscars during 74th ceremony. Denzel introduced him and in the In the middle of his speech, uttered the immortal words “They call him, Sidney Poitier.” Sidney Poitier took to the stage with the soundtrack to In The Heat of The Night playing in the background. Later this same night, Denzel gave his acceptance speech bby these words:
“Two birds in one night, huh? Oh, God is good. God is great. God is great. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all. Forty years I've been chasing Sidney [Poitier], they finally give it to me, what'd they do? They give it to him the same night. I'll always be chasing you, Sidney. I'll always be following in your footsteps. There's nothing I would rather do, sir. Nothing I would rather do. God bless you. God bless you.”
It was like a passing torch from Sydney to denzel, who had played the last 15 years virtually every memorable black male leading role in US cinema, specialising in proud, articulate martyrs simmering with self-righteous belief. In that time, his peers have mainly been action stars. That’s why he has a special place in black American cultural life.
He learned what Sydney taught him and took it to the next level.
Washington credited Poitier for giving him great pieces of advice about his selection of movie roles, specifically referencing a offer he got in 1986 to star in film he referred to as “The N****r They Couldn’t Kill.”
“I called Sidney and told him ‘man they are offering me $600,000 to play the ‘N****r They Couldn’t Kill,’” Washington recalled. “And he told me, ‘I’m not going to tell you what to do. But I will tell you this, the first, two, three or four films you do in this business will dictate how you are perceived.’ He didn’t tell me what to do, I give him credit for that. So I turned it down and 6 months later I got ‘Cry Freedom’ and got an Oscar nomination.”
Poitier said one time: “[Washington] had taken the concept of African-Americans in films to a place where I couldn’t, I didn’t. And he has taken it there with the same kind of integrity that I tried to articulate. So I thank him for that.”
Denzel is known for helping young guys who come after him, like Michael B jordan, chadwik Boseman. They used to say that they wouldn't be here without denzel....He wouldn't be here without Sydney !
To know more about the subject:
Ebert, Roger (October 5, 2001). "Training Day Movie Review & Film Summary (2001) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
Bergman, Carol (1988). Sidney Poitier. Chelsea House Publishers.
Poitier, Sidney (2009). Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter. HarperCollins
Sidney Poitier to be Honoured with BAFTA Fellowship". BAFTA. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2017
Bill Goodykoontz, Gannett Chief Film Critic (February 25, 2014). "Oscar win proved Sidney Poitier was second to none". Usatoday.com. Retrieved August 10, 2014
Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (2004) by historian Aram Goudsouzian
Denzel Washington and Halle Berry Win Golden Globe Awards". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. February 7, 2000. Retrieved February 24, 2011.
Denzel Washington Movie Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 20, 2007.
Weinstein, Steve (February 15, 1989. Los Angeles Times.