Hollywood icon Sidney Poitier dies aged 94

Sidney Poitier

© APA | Sidney Poitier

# 07 January 2022 21:02 (UTC +04:00)

Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win a best actor Oscar, has died at 94.

The Hollywood star's death was confirmed to the BBC by the office of Fred Mitchell, the Bahamas' minister of foreign affairs.

Poitier was a trailblazing actor and a respected humanitarian and diplomat. He won the Academy Award for best actor for Lilies of the Field in 1963.

Born in Miami, he grew up on a tomato farm in the Bahamas and moved to New York aged 16.

He signed up for a short stint in the army and did several odd jobs while taking acting lessons, en route to becoming a star of the stage and screen.

His appearance in The Defiant Ones in 1958 earned him his first Oscar nomination - in itself an historic achievement for a black man in a lead category at the time.

Five years later he went one better, taking the glory for Lilies of the Field, in which he played a handyman who helps German nuns to build a chapel in the desert.

The actor was a regular on the big screen at a time of racial segregation in the US, appearing in a Patch of Blue in 1965, and then Heat of the Night the year after, followed by Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, playing a black man with a white fiancée.

In Heat of the Night he portrayed Virgil Tibbs, a black police officer confronting racism during a murder investigation.

His other classic films included A Patch of Blue, The Blackboard Jungle and A Raisin in the Sun, which he also performed on Broadway.

He went on to direct a raft of films, and a Broadway play about life and career was announced last month.

Empire magazine's Amon Warmann told the BBC: "He was a pioneer, he's so influential and paved the way for so many in the industry to make their own mark, not least Denzel Washington, who paid tribute to him when he won an Oscar."

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