Sidney Poitier was one of my favourite actors. He starred in two of my favourite movies that I watched as a child: "A Patch of Blue" and "To Sir, With Love". Of course I loved him in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "A Raisin in the Sun," and "Lilies of the Field", but it was those two early films that imprinted him in my heart.
Both those early movies led me to books, and I watched and read both, several times.
When I was 10, I spent the summer with my grandparents and great-aunts in Brooklyn. They were wonderful to me and I have only happy memories of them. They were also horribly racist. One night I watched A Patch of Blue on TV, not for the first time, and was telling them about it. They thought the movie was very sad, because "they loved each other but could never be together". I said, "Because he was so much older than her." They all gasped in horror, and fell all over each other correcting me, "No! They can't be together because he's a Negro!" They were genuinely concerned that I didn't understand this very important life lesson.
A Patch of Blue is about racism, about the unnecessary cruelty that keeps these two good people apart. But to my relatives, the movie was a tale of star-crossed lovers: how sad that she fell in love with a Negro and didn't realize it. Not how unjust and ridiculous it was that these two people should be apart. I always associate the movie with that conversation; I look back on it with amusement.
(A Patch of Blue was also part of the beginning of my interest in disability, along with a children's book called Follow My Leader about a boy who is blinded and his guide dog.)
I loved A Patch of Blue, but when I saw To Sir, With Love, I fell in love with Sidney Poitier. He was a great actor, a steadfast activist, and an incredibly important figure in film. I'm thinking a Sidney Poitier film fest in chez Kaminker-Wood is in order.