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Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon Hardcover – March 29, 2004


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Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon + The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (Oprah's Book Club) + Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (March 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807828432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807828434
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,608,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Poitier has been revered as the first black superstar and criticized for his saintly, sexless and sentimentalized screen image. In this intriguing biography, Goudsouzian, a Hamilton College history professor, thoughtfully depicts the actor's efforts to handle both praise and damnation. Poitier's is a rags-to-riches story: working as a butcher's assistant and construction worker, he learned to speak properly by listening to radio news reporters. Goudsouzian astutely notes that Poitier's dynamic performance in Joseph Mankiewicz's No Way Out was compromised by studio insistence that his mannerisms never suggest the "slightest animal urge." The true, full-blooded Poitier burst forth in 1955's The Blackboard Jungle, and he won a 1963 Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field. But details of Poitier's triumphs never soften the book's hard-hitting, political tone. One memorable passage tells of Poitier's efforts to secure a hotel room in 1956 in Nairobi. He was turned away until the hotel manager discovered Poitier's Something of Value salary was $30,000 and commented, "anyone who makes thirty thousand dollars for three months work is not black." Goudsouzian covers Poiter's romances with model/dancer Juanita Hardy, actress/singers Diahann Carroll and Eartha Kitt and actress Joanna Shimkus. Goudsouzian understands the dynamics behind Poitier's pictures, and carefully analyzes Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, A Patch of Blue and To Sir, with Love. Intense anecdotes highlighting Poitier's temper, occasional womanizing and insecurities keep him from appearing as a distant icon. The story loses steam in its final passages, but ends on a high note when Poitier admits, "I set out to prove to myself that I was capable of moving a mountain."
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lots of celebrity bios are cranked out every year, but few are written with the serious scholarly intent of Goudsouzian's study of actor, director, and role model Poitier. Borrowing a page from many great literary biographers of the past half century (Deirdre Bair, Peter Ackroyd, Michael Holroyd), Goudsouzian chronicles Poitier's time and places him within it. Poitier's career alone makes fascinating reading. The son of a poor farmer eking out a living on Cat Island in the Bahamas, Poitier survived to thrive first in theater and then the movies, rising from early roles with the Harlem-based American Negro Theatre and in films like Blackboard Jungle to become one of the best known African American actors. But this book is no hagiography. Goudsouzian recounts the controversies Poitier became enmeshed in, from Clare Luce Booth's attempts to remove Blackboard Jungle from the Venice Film Festival because it reflected poorly on America to boycotts of Poitier's films in the South to backlash against him in the late 1960s and early 1970s as radical black leaders accused him of playing to the status quo by portraying characters who--dignified, stoical, but sexless--were least threatening to the dominant white culture. Goudsouzian's willingness to consider all aspects of Poitier's life and image accounts for why this biography reads like a well-written, highly addictive novel. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Aram Goudsouzian is Chair of the Department of History at the University of Memphis. He grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of "Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear," "King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution," "The Hurricane of 1938," and "Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John B. Hoffman on January 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Always suspicious of autobiographies, I picked up a copy of "Man, Actor, Icon" for a historian's take on this legend of the Silver Screen. And this book certainly does not disappoint. I strongly and sincerely recommend Dr. Goudsouzian's book for people who truly aspire to understand Sidney Poitier's place in history.

This work provides its readers with an eloquent and even-handed record of the life and times of its subject. Goudsouzian's work effectively sketches Poitier's place in a broader historical context - a history of African Americans, of film, of race, of tolerance and of America as a whole. I applaud the author for so eloquently piecing together the life and times of such a notoriously private individual. To see the movies is one thing. To read the autobiography is another. But to actually appreciate what this man has meant, what he endured and the legacy that he has created, one needs an accurate idea of the historical settings and prevailing attitudes that put Poitier's actions and accomplishments in the proper context. Goudsouzian delivers on all counts.

Many thanks to Oprah for bringing much-deserved attention to one of America's more unheralded icons. To really appreciate the man behind the screen, "The Measure of a Man" is a wonderful start. But to truly grasp how such an influential figure was rejected, lauded, embraced, used and again overlooked - all in a single lifetime - this book will provide you with all you need to form your own opinion of the measure of this man, this Sidney Poitier.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By P. J. Shapiro on February 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Those who came of age after Poitier had receded from the spotlight (such as me) would do well to read Goudsouzian's thoughtful and well researched book. It was a fascinating trip to discover an icon who has been ignored in today's times despite deserving many more accolades than he has been given. What is most compelling about the book, though, is the author's skill in placing his subject in historical context, without which the story would be incomplete. I agree with the previous reviewer -- let's hope Oprah's spotlight on Poitier reflects some light on Goudsouzian as well.
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By Sara Scott on November 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought this book was very thoroughly and well written. Hope that Sidney does too. I never realized just how important he was to advancing other black people in the film industry.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
wonderful book he is a very unquie man I always like him but this book made me like him more. Stay healthy longer life from a dear fan.
thank you
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By lmadison on August 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very good reading and great items.
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