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Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon.

by Aram Goudsouzian The University of North Carolina Press March 2004 $29.95, ISBN 0-807-82843-2

Goudsouzian's study of Poitier is in many ways a portrait of an industry that not only reflects public sentiment but often seeks to shape it. The book illuminates the breadth of Poitier's impact on film and culture, but within the subtitle's themes, delineates the very personal consequences of one man's decisions through decades of social unrest.

The author leads us from Poitier's birth as an infant whose father didn't expect him to live, through an adulthood during which some of his best-known film roles required strenuous physical exertion. Poitier is frankly rendered as a human being will strengths, frailties and insecurities.

Sidney Poitier is a Rorschach test. One reader may savor the accomplishment of the first male actor of African descent to win an Academy Award in 1963 for his role in Lilies of the Field another may view him as a justifiable target of ridicule for the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Throughout, the virulent reaction to Poitier's films by the Ku Klux Klan and other pillars of southern and northern white communities is amply documented. They could not stomach the films' themes of integration or interracial love, nor could they tolerate Poitier's portrayal of doctors or detectives.

A well-written, invaluable resource for devotees of film and social history, the book recalls the courage of many of the actor's peers and mentors.

If Poitier hadn't existed, Hollywood would have had to anoint someone like him. Though his life is a compelling story of a talented actor with drive, ambition and a sense of dignity, Goudsouzian's analysis shows us how a career fortuitously intersected with and benefited from the demands of African Americans to level legal and social barriers. It also was a career propelled by screen roles that satisfied Americas need to believe the best about itself.

Khalil Abdullah is a writer, editor and business development consultant in Washington, D.C.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Cox, Matthews & Associates
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Abdullah, Khalil
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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