146 of 155 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2007
Being a good little white boy, I knew little about Sidney, but felt respect for him as an actor due, in part, to my discovery of "The Defiant Ones" as a child. (The movie is a powerful work about racism, and I loved it.)
This spiritual autobiography is no judgmental, squeaky-clean depiction of walking with God, nor is it an in-depth detour into the tribal religions available to Sidney as a child in the Bahamas. This book is an open-hearted view of the circumstances and, more importantly, the values that guided Sidney Poitier to the pinnacle of acting. He candidly discusses his failures as husband and father. He speaks lovingly of the example his parents gave him. And he shows the power of holding to your integrity no matter the cost.
By holding to this integrity, Sidney lost some opportunities and also gained respect from the white community, while facing ridicule as a "sell-out" from his own community. What stands out in his story is his desire to bring these communities together with respect, refusing to be dragged down by the bigotry and anger of either side. He speaks powerfully, encouraging us to focus anger in a positive way.
Mr. Poitier writes in an eloquent, yet communicative style. At times, he borders on unfocused rambling, but even then he has worthy things to say. This book is a valuable discourse on never giving up on your goals, on reaching beyond yourself to be who you were truly created to be. Thank you, Sidney, for your time.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2008
I grew up in the South and, when I was in high school in the early sixties, Mr. Poitier's two blockbusters, "Raison in the Sun" and "Lilies of the Field" came out. There was something about him, even then, that caught my attention. Who WAS this man? It always seemed he was a "thinker" - a "seeker" - a bit restless with himself.
I recently picked up The Measure of a Man and my curiosity made me read it. Who IS this man - I wanted at last to find out.
The book begins in Cat Island, the Bahamas where he was born and lived during his early years. As Mr. Poitier describes his youth, it is reflective and feels like an intimate fireside conversation with a friend talking about a loved one departed. There is gratitude and respect - a certain remorse for doing some "kid things" that are so hurtful to those you truly love - and a reexamination of some of the "truths" he was taught.
Then the autobiography goes from there onto other stages in his life where he interacts with the realities and the illusions of life and comes to a sense of who he is and what is important. I guess I expected more of a "success story" about someone who is obviously very accomplished. What I got instead was a very touching and poignant sharing of a personal journey of a man making his way through life - no better and no worse than anyone else - immune from neither happiness nor disappointment - but glad to be alive.
Because so much of Mr. Poitier's autobiography had to do with things both good and challenging that just showed up in his life, it reminded me of another book by Ariel & Shya Kane called Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment. In Being Here, the Kanes talk about things that have happened in their lives in a very light way that demonstrates how they and we can experience life more fully and more deeply - by just "being there" for what's happening when it's happening.
I really enjoyed reading both of these books and recommend them
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
I would highly recommend this book to everyone. While I do not always enjoy autobiographies, this book is a great exception. It is not just filled with dates and facts. It reaches inside the man and into his very soul. From his beginning on Cat Island, to today's highly successful life as an actor, Sidney Poitier has had an incredible life. He was blessed early in life with the greatest blessing anyone can have - great parents! This book made me stop and think of all the many blessings in my life, too many of which I take for granted sometimes. I hope that everyone who reads this book, and especially young people, will benefit from his insight and wisdom.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2007
I started out writing this review, begrudgingly. Once I heard "The Measure of a Man" had been selected by Oprah's Book Club, my initial reaction was: "There will be a million reviews and my two cents will be lost in a crowd-of -redundancies".
With the above caveat, I am recommending this latest effort by Sidney Poitier, not only for what is in the book - I am endorsing it for what it lacks. Let me explain:
Too often we hear public figures, with limited accomplishments (when compared to Mr. Poitier), extolling the virtues of their being - while asking one and all to bow down, kneel before their greatness, and kiss their naked feet. This book lacks that pomposity.
Grandiose and vainglorious statements are replaced with accounts of compassion and humility. He states, quite eloquently: "I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with answers to all life's questions". In spite of this assertion, there are "pearls of wisdom" on every page.
His strength of character, endurance, and instinct for survival, can be traced, for me, anyway, back to the time when he was a kid. His mother kept throwing him back into the ocean --- until he could stay afloat on his own.
I liked what his father, Reginald, (whose name, I much admire!) said to him: "The measure of a man is how well he provides for his kids". They were words from a man with limited means, yet possessed the insight, wisdom, and cornerstones, for survival of civilized society.
From this exquisite book, I am convinced --- the true measure for all of us is not where we stand when times are bountiful, good, and rewarding, but where we position ourselves at times of crisis, peril, and uncertainty.
Get this book. Whatever standard one uses ... it measures up!
Reggie Johnson, Success-Tapes.Com
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
This book was chosen by another member of one of the book groups I am in, and I was fine with it, until I started reading it. Then I noticed it was an Oprah pick. Uh oh. Oprah picks have been getting notoriously worse as the years have gone by, and I wonder what she is thinking.
I have no problem with Sidney Poitier as a man, an actor, a person. None at all. The book was a nice enough idea. But what horrid writing! Was there no editor? To stop him from his conversational "you know?' on practically every page of the book? If he had stuck with the storytelling of his early life, instead of veering off in to some philosphical ranting and raving, things might have been okay--not great, but passable. For instance, he starts talking about making the film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and working with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer tracy, and you're just getting interested and he just completely starts talking about something else and never comes back to it! Another person in the group reading it noticed the same problems I did, they were very obvious.
Instead of being a compelling book about a compelling personality, this book is just a mess, that keeps getting worse as it goes on. Too bad. There is great potential for wonderful storytelling, but he loses focus on almost every page. I was frustrated by the poor workmanship, but pushed on through the book so I could trash it at our book group meeting. I am not sure whether to blame Sidney, his agent, or the editors at his publishing house. It read like a really rough first draft. Don't waste your time, even though it is a very short book. It seems much longer...
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2008
One of the most striking things about Poitier's life was his strong sense of self and how he followed his instincts and truth. I was surprised and impressed to discover that Poitier fell into his acting career out of need to make money (and a growing distaste for his initial job in New York as a dishwasher), rather than a desire to become an artist of some sort. He was not living his life to prove himself to anyone, make a mark, set a grand precedent for those who followed. Rather, he graciously and courageously followed the paths that opened up to him and subsequently became a significant figure in our culture. His ability to say "yes" to his life and the circumstances that presented themselves seemed to have produced one 'lucky' break after another for him. His story and who he is as a person is inspiring and compelling.
This book got me looking at the choices I make in my own life and how so much is possible when I am honest and have the courage to follow my truth. Ariel & Shya Kane are two other authors who never cease to shed new light on the gems that can be found by living life moment-to-moment. They offer practical examples and support for living your life to the fullest and being truly present for it. I feel that each of us has the ability to be as great as those icons and heroes in our society like Poitier and when I read their book Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: A Book About Instantaneous Transformation, I have no doubt that it is possible.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2000
In his autobiography, "Measure of a Man", Sidney Poitier talks about his failures as an actor, his struggles with life, and his encounters with nature. Poitier writes in a straight-forward style, making the book an enjoyable read. It's quite easy to get involved in Poitier's stories about his childhood skirmishes, his acting failures, and other sketches from his life, because he writes as if he were having a conversation with the reader. Poitier reflects on his past without sounding preachy. His tone has a sense of inquiry and wonder in it. A job well done by a fine human being.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2002
The measure of a man is a story of integrity and character,anyone who would like to know something about the true man Poitier is should read this selection, but not just who Poitier is but also anyone who's looking for questions about themselves. Questions of life discipline, integrity. I also recommend it to a person who is open to a broad band of religion and isn't set on one particular religion, but open to a broad christianity. Sidney tells us of religion, but he never tells us of a particular one or group he belongs to, instead he takes things from many religions and kind of lumps all of their values and aspects into one form of his own particular standards and beliefs, he takes us on a journey through time, the trials and tribulations of his own life. The book also tackles the very controversial issue of race and segregation, and breaking through the race barrier, through pure determination.
The book starts of with Sidney watching T.V. and not being able to find anything on the television. He's frustrated with the fact that there are 97 channels on the television, but nothing to watch on them. He says he starts to think of "...images of a time in my life when things were so much simpler, when my options for entertainment couldn't be counted on a scale from 1 to 97." From this point the rest of the book is a continual flashback, structured into main points of the authors life from growing up on Cat Island to making movies, and to dealing with international stardom, a journey through time if you will. Its written in a very conversational style of writing, making you believe that your sitting right in front of Poitier himself, watching him tell his story and interacting with him with either disbelief, joy, or laughter. The book is well written from front to back, and because of this and his conversational style of writing, the events he describes, his actions, his feelings and his thoughts, are greatly illustrated. After reading a measure, you don't just feel as if you meet a man, you feel as if you lived with a man, through his struggles and through his success.
I enjoyed the book thouroghly, he says in his introduction he didn't want to write a book about his life, instead he "wanted to write a book about life. Just life itself." I think he accomplishes this throughout his book. He doesn't make the focus on his particular life, instead he uses his life as an example to others. He doesn't make it a standard he makes it a lesson, for all to read and all to learn from. It's an intriguing tail of a man who came from nowhere and wasn't given anything or any special treatment, but fought his way to the top, all by himself. It is an inspiring tail of self determination and tells a story everyone can learn from.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2000
"Measure of a Man" answers many of the questions I formed as I watched Sidney Poitier's great films through the years. Questions like "How does he see himself in this particular role, what is he thinking?" The expression on his face or sometimes the twinkle in his eye led to these questions. One just knew he was thinking deeply.
And so he was. In this "spiritual autobiography" he tells all. How he prepared for the role - what he was thinking himself and what he was thinking as the character and how he viewed the world around him.
He begins by going back to his early times with his family on Cat Island in the Bahamas. He takes the reader with him and you can almost hear the ocean waves, see his simple home and feel the air around him. You can hear the musical lilt of the voices for throughout the book he softens his narration by sprinkling it with words used by the islanders.
Once he was drawn to acting as a way to make a living, he insisted on roles that were meaningful and that would reflect the values instilled in him by his parents. Rexamine his films such as "A Patch of Blue", "The Defiant Ones", and "Lillies of the Field" and ask yourself if he succeeded. IMHO he did!
He is always candid and seems to invite the reader into dialog with him. He scrupulously examines and shares his own role in the history of race relations in our country.
His philosopical attempt to examine his own life and a serious dialog with a good friend led him to suggestions for the way we can all best live our lives and avoid dead-end existential thinking. His attempt is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize I would add. One cannot come away without looking anew at the universe we share.
He acknowledges his mentors, such as Paul Robeson and Harry Belefonte, more than once. He also shares his "mea culpa" moments concerning his family. He once desired to have a one-man show based on his life but it didn't work out. I believe this book is a great creative replacement for that wish that didn't come true.
Coincidentally, in this book there is enough information on acting to satisfy any young thespian eager to grow in ability.
Each time I had to leave this book, I was very eager to return to it. The only way I can think that the book could have been perfect would be for him to have removed the few conversational expletives. They aren't necessary to the intimacy of the autobiography. The writing itself does that perfectly.
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Actor Sidney Poitier has spent so much of his public life as an icon for what white filmgoers wanted to idealize as the prototypical black man that he was initially deemed beyond reproach and then subsequently ridiculed for a holier-than-thou image over which he had little control. This seeming disconnect is why his second biography, released back in 2000, provides such valuable insight since Poitier shares so much of the inner man caught in the crossfire of expectations among his racially divided audience. Ensconced in well-earned self-reflection, the book expands upon the detailed presentation of facts and fables around his career in the first book, 1980's "My Life", by looking at the greater context of his pioneering role as a film star and acknowledging those who came before him and the sacrifices they made to allow Poitier his acceptance into the cinema mainstream. The actor also shares much more about his hard-knock childhood in the Bahamas, a seemingly idyllic setting racked with poverty, and these chapters are revelatory not only for illuminating the impact of his close-knit family but for his purposeful transition into being an actor despite the initial barrier of a heavy accent.
Above all else, the book sheds light on an often singularly focused man who overcame obstacles with fierce determination and a solid grounding in his spirituality, an aspect of his off-screen personality that he has never really shared before. That's the basis for much of what came to him once he established himself in his profession - not just his meteoric and carefully discriminate Hollywood career but also his profound role in the 1960's civil rights movement and more recently, his stands on more global political commitments. Ironically, the least interesting sections of the book have to do with his atypical Hollywood career, which peaked in 1967 with his trio of box office hits ("To Sir With Love", "In the Heat of the Night" and in hindsight, the unfairly maligned "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"), and the anecdotes of working with luminaries like Stanley Kramer, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The last chapters find him in a more reflective mood as he inspires the next generation with his trademark dignity intact. As he approaches his eightieth birthday, Poitier is still a most relevant voice, and life lessons like his are well worth our attention.