Happy Birthday to...

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...Sir Sidney Poitier (born on February 20, 1927), the American-born, Bahamian-bred film great who observes his 91st birthday today. He and Kirk Douglas are the only living actors on the American Film Institute's 1999 list of the top 50 greatest screen legends of all time. Douglas was the No. 17 male; Poitier was ranked at No. 22. Sophia Loren is the only living actress on the list (she was No. 21 in the category of Top 25 Female Legends).
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He has been nominated for Academy Awards twice and won once. His recognized roles and movies were as follows (Oscar win is in bold): 
  • Noah Cullen in "The Defiant Ones" (1958). Best Actor.
  • Homer Smith in "Lilies of the Field" (1964). Best Actor.
Poitier made his screen debut in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1950 drama "No Way Out," which starred Richard Widmark and Linda Darnell. Widmark played wounded robbery suspect Ray Biddle, a virulent racist who continually baited Dr. Luther Brooks (Poitier) -- the black physician attending a hospital's prison ward. Forty-two years later, when Poitier was honored with the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award, Widmark recalled that his character "had to say and do just vicious things" to the doctor played by Poitier. "So practically after every take, I'd run up to him and I'd apologize," he said. "And I'd try to assure him, 'Sid, it's just the character talking, not me.' Well, he was very understanding and we became good friends." They later co-starred in the films "The Long Ships" (1963) and "The Bedford Incident" (1965).
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Based on the 1954 novel by Evan Hunter, "The Blackboard Jungle" starred Glenn Ford as a schoolteacher trying to cope with a particularly rowdy group of inner city students. Among them were characters played by Poitier, Vic Morrow (in his film debut), future filmmaker Paul Mazursky and Jamie Farr. The gritty drama was adapted and directed by Richard Brooks. The song "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets was used in the opening credits. It became a rock 'n' roll anthem for the 1950s generation. 
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In 1958, Tony Curtis and Poitier starred in "The Defiant Ones," Stanley Kramer's drama about escaped convicts -- one white and one black. The film received nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also earned Best Actor nominations for its two stars, making Poitier the first black performer to be honored in that category.
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Ask Poitier about his least favorite film, and the answer is likely to be Otto Preminger's 1959 screen version of "Porgy and Bess." The musical, which also starred Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters and Diahann Carroll, featured great music by composer George Gershwin. But Poitier and many of the other actors were concerned about negative black stereotypes during the era of the civil rights movement. "Porgy and Bess" won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy. Neither Poitier nor Dandridge did their own singing in the title roles, but they both received Golden Globe nominations. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (André Previn and Ken Darby). In addition, it was nominated for Best Color Cinematography (Leon Shamroy), Best Color Costume Design (Irene Sharaff) and Best Sound (Gordon Sawyer and Fred Hynes). The film has been seldom seen through the years because of contractual reasons. 
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The 1960 Korean War drama "All the Young Men" -- directed by Hall Bartlett ("Zero Hour!") -- starred Alan Ladd, Poitier, James Darren. and Mort Sahl. The film reflected the newly desegregated military units of the time.The careers of Ladd and Poitier were about to go in different directions. Ladd only made four more pictures -- the last was "The Carpetbaggers," released three months after his death in January 1964. Meanwhile, Poitier was on the verge of becoming a screen superstar. 

Martin Ritt's 1961 film "Paris Blues" was a tale of friendship, music and romance in The City of Light. Poitier and Paul Newman played jazz musicians and American expatriates who had memorable experiences with two American schoolteachers (Carroll and Joanne Woodward). Poitier and Carroll had been in love since the filming of "Porgy and Bess," although they were married to others. Newman and Woodward had been married since 1958.
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"A Raisin in the Sun" was a 1961 film adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's acclaimed 1959 stage play. Directed by Daniel Petrie ("The Betsy," "Fort Apache the Bronx"), the drama returned Poitier and Claudia McNeil to the Tony Award-nominated roles they created on Broadway.The story revolved around the Youngers, a Chicago family hoping for a brighter future, thanks to matriarch Mama Lena (McNeil) and her $10,000 insurance check. The film, which also starred Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Stephen Perry, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett, Jr. (pictured below with Poitier and Dee), Roy E. Glenn, Sr., Joel Fluellen and John Fiedler, was adapted by Hansberry from her play.
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Poitier starred in the acclaimed 1963 comedy/drama "Lilies of the Field," in which he played a handyman named Homer Smith who became a godsend to a group of immigrant nuns in the Arizona desert. He is persuaded by the willful Mother Superior (Lilia Skala) to build a chapel for the townspeople. In one of the movie's best scenes (pictured below), Smith and the head nun iwage a duel of Bible passages to determine what should happen. Produced and directed by Ralph Nelson (who would collaborate with Poitier again), the production was adapted by James Poe from the 1962 novel by William Edmund Barrett. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Poitier), Best Supporting Actress (Skalia), Best Adapted Screenplay (Poe) and Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Ernest Haller).
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At the 36th Academy Awards ceremony on April 13, 1964, Poitier made history by becoming the first African-American actor to win a competitive Oscar. He was presented the award by actress Anne Bancroft, who would later co-star with Poitier in "The Slender Thread" (1965).
In the 1964 adventure film "The Long Ships," Poitier (pictured with the Italian actress Rosanna Schiaffino ) played a Moorish ruler obsessed with finding the location of a legendary golden bell. He coerced the members of a Viking crew (led by a character played by Widmark). The film was directed by Jack Cardiff, the cinematographer for the 1958 hit "The Vikings."
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In the 1965 drama "A Patch of Blue," Poitier played a Good Samaritan who made a difference in the life of a sheltered blind girl (Elizabeth Hartman). Shelley Winter won the second of her two Best Supporting Actress Oscars for her performance as the girl's domineering mother.Written and directed by the British filmmaker Guy Green ("The Mark"), the drama earned four other Oscar nominations: Best Actress (Hartman), Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Robert Burks), Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (George W. Davis, Urie McCleary, Henry Grace and Charles S. Thompson) and Best Music Score (Jerry Goldsmith). Green, who died in 2005 at the age of 91, adapted the film from the novel "Be Ready with Bells and Drums" by Australian author Elizabeth Kata. He considered the film to be his greatest accomplishment.
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Poitier played an ex-Buffalo Soldier and James Garner an ex-scout in the 1966 Western "Duel at Diablo," which was directed by Nelson. The characters find themselves drawn into a brewing conflict in Utah between U.S. cavalrymen and hostile Apaches. Also starring in the film: Bibi Andersson, Dennis Weaver, Bill Travers and John Hoyt. Nelson appeared as a U.S. Army colonel named Foster under the name Alf Elson. The film was based on the 1957 novel "Apache Rising" by Marvin H. Albert.
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Poitier was the No. 1 box-office star for 1967 and headlined three hit films -- "To Sir, with Love," "In the Heat of the Night" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Somehow, he didn't receive an Academy Award nomination for any of the films. The 40th annual Oscars ceremony was delayed two days -- to April 10, 1968 -- in the aftermath of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So Poitier was on hand to announce that his "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" co-star Katharine Hepburn had won the award for Best Actress (it was accepted by her friend George Cukor). Also, Poitier was there to congratulate his "In the Heat of the Night" co-star Rod Steiger on his Best Actor win. The two actors returned to the stage when "In the Heat of the Night" was named Best Picture.
"The Lost Man" (1969) was a remake of "Odd Man Out," Sir Carol Reed's 1947 British drama about a robbery in Northern Ireland that goes awry for a nationalist Irish group leader (James Mason). That film was based on the 1946 novel by British actor F.L. Green. It served as the source material for the heist film that starred Poitier and the Canadian actress Joanna Shimkus. The couple has been together ever since.
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In 1969, Poitier joined forces with Newman, Steve McQueen and Barbra Streisand to create the production company First Artists. The joint enterprise, which later added Dustin Hoffman, operated until 1980. Among the films released by the partners: Poitier: "A Warm December" (1973), "Uptown Saturday Night" (1974), "Let's Do It Again" (1975), "A Piece of the Action" (1977); Newman: "Pocket Money" (1972), "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" (1972), "The Drowning Pool" (1975); McQueen: "The Getaway" (1972), "An Enemy of the People" (1978), "Tom Horn" (1980); Streisand: "Up the Sandbox" (1972), "A Star Is Born" (1976), "The Main Event" (1979); Hoffman: "Straight Time" (1978), "Agatha" (1979).
On March 12, 1992, Poitier became the first African-American actor to receive the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. He was presented the honor by producer George Stevens, Jr. at a star-studded ceremony.
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In December 1995, Poitier was among the performers recognized at the annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. Also named as honorees: the dance master Jacques d'Amboise, the opera star Marilyn Horne, the blues great B.B. King, and the playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon. During the tribute to Poitier, his longtime friend Newman recalled their collaboration on "Paris Blues."
At the 74th Academy Awards ceremony on March 24, 2002, Poitier received an honorary Oscar "in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being." The presentation was made by Denzel Washington and producer Walter Mirisch. As it turned out, Washington and Halle Berry won Academy Awards for lead performances later that night.
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On August 12, 2009, President Obama presented Poitier with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation's highest civilian honors. Obama said the actor and director "not only entertained, but enlightened -- shifting attitudes, broadening hearts, revealing the power of the silver screen to bring us closer together."
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At the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in April, Poitier was reunited with several collaborators after a 50th anniversary screening of "In the Heat of the Night." Pictured from left to right: producer Mirisch, director Norman Jewison, Poitier, actress Lee Grant and composer Quincy Jones.
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 Sidney Poitier is truly an American treasure-- not just a great actor but someone who transformed Hollywood and brought it into reality.

I see Sidney as a link between old Hollywood and new Hollywood. He was the first black actor in Hollywood who was allowed to be a man on screen and to act head to toe equal with white movie stars--

The legendary greats like Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, along with

 The current box office stars of his day, like Tony Curtis, Richard Widmark, Paul Newman, Rod Steiger and Rock Hudson.

Sidney was the biggest precipitant in making today's Hollywood happen.

For that reason Sidney means so many things to so many different people.

My favorite Sidney Poitier movie is Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? because it has my two other very favorite Hollywood stars in it and it's always a thrill when three legendary actors come together.

I also love every movie that Sidney made with Richard Widmark. Off camera they were close friends and very supportive of each other in their respective careers.

But Sidney's tour de force is and will always be In the Heat of the Night--  "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs."

So Sidney is one of my favorite actors because he is a great actor, because he really EARNED his place in Hollywood and because he's so good-looking.


Happy  Birthday,  Sir Sidney!

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...actress Ellen Page (born Ellen Grace Philpotts-Page on February 21, 1987), the Canadian product who began her film career playing characters younger than herself. She became one of the youngest Best Actress Oscar nominees for her performance in the 2007 film "Juno."
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 In the 2005 thriller "Hard Candy," Page played Hayley Stark -- a 14-year-old girl who agreed to meet a photographer (Patrick Wilson) she connected with online. But the film -- which marked the feature debut of Britain's David Slade -- gradually showed that Hayley was never in danger of becoming a victim.
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In 2006, Page made her debut as Kitty Pryde (a.k.a. Shadowcat) in the Marvel Universe blockbuster "X-Men: The Last Stand." Pryde, a mutant with the ability to phase through matter, became part of a romantic triangle with Bobby "Iceman" Drake (played by Shawn Ashmore) and Rogue (Anna Paquin).
Page received an Academy Award nomination for the 2007 comedy/drama "Juno," in which she played a pregnant teenager. At the time, she was the fourth youngest person -- at 20 years and 335 days old -- to be nominated in the category. The film received three other Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Jason Reitman) and Best Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody, who won). The picture also starred Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Thirlby, J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney.
In the 2009 sports-oriented film "Whip It," Page played Bliss Cavendar -- a Texas woman who entered the competitive, fast-paced world of professional roller derby. She eventually thrived as a player and became known as Babe Ruthless. The comedy/drama was the directorial debut of the actress and filmmaker Drew Barrymore, who appeared as Smashley Simpson.
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Page became a member of Christopher Nolan's repertory company in the 2010 special-effects heavy film "Inception," which starred Leonard DiCaprio as a man experienced in stealing secrets from people while they're in a dream state. The sci-fi tale, which also starred Sir Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Tom Berenger, was nominated for eight Academy Awards -- including Best Picture. It won for  Best Cinematography (Wally Pfister), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
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Also in 2010, Page began appearing in a series of Cisco Systems ads that were set in her native Nova Scotia. But the campaign was short-lived as Cisco eventually moved away from its "The Human Network" theme.
Page co-starred with Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Getwig and Alec Baldwin in the "John's Story" segment of Woody Allen's 2012 romantic comedy "To Rome, with Love." Both actresses later expressed regret that they had done the movie in view of allegations about sexual misconduct by Allen.
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Eight years after she first appeared as Kitty Pryde, Page reprised the role in the 2014 hit "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Pryde played a crucial role in this alternate future tale, based on the classic 1981 Marvel Comics story "Days of Future Past." There has been talk of a standalone "X-Men" feature film that revolves around Pryde.
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Page was one of the headliners of the 2017 remake of "Flatlmers" -- the 1990 drama that starred Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland as med students experimenting with near-death experiences.
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Also, Happy Birthday today to:

Tyne Daly-  72

Anthony Daniels-  72

Kelsey Grammer-63

William Baldwin-  55

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