LOS ANGELES — It was 63 years ago, but actor Glynn Turman remembers it like it was yesterday, working with film titan Sidney Poitier in Broadway’s “A Raisin in the Sun” in 1959.
“He was a larger-than-life figure to me from a very early age because nightly, I would look up to him as he would put his hand on my shoulder and say, ‘And this is my son, and he represents the fifth generation of our family, and we are proud. We are a very proud people,'” he said.
What You Need To Know
- Sidney Poitier died at the age of 94
- Poitier’s breakthrough role was in 1955’s “Blackboard Jungle”
- His career saw him repeatedly breaking racial barriers
- In 1963, Poitier became the first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor
As Turman and the rest of the world mourn the loss of the icon, they also remember his illustrious and impactful career. His breakthrough role was in 1955’s “Blackboard Jungle,” and his career saw him repeatedly breaking racial barriers. In 1963, he became the first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor for his role in “Lilies of the Field.”
“Everybody was, ‘Yay, he did it,’ and what we were really saying was ‘we did it’ because he represented the race, and he represented the race well,” Turman said.
Of all the accolades and the ways Poitier impacted not just the industry but Turman himself — with Turman even receiving a Sidney Poitier Lifetime Achievement Award — it was Poitier’s heart and humanity that Turman will look up to for the rest of his life.
“The value of kindness, I remember when I was a kid, we were doing ‘A Raisin in the Sun,'” Turman said. “We were in Chicago, and we were coming out of the theater, and the fans were waiting for him to sign autographs, and it was cold. I remember him signing autographs for everyone waiting outside for him. I said to myself as a 12-year-old kid, ‘It’s freezing out here. Why is he standing out signing autographs for these people? We gotta get out of here.’ And then I realized that he was being very gracious, very gracious to his fans, to his public.”
A man whose imprint on the industry goes far beyond the streets of Hollywood, it turns out the most important role Poitier played was not in any movie, but the role he played in paving the way for others.