Monday, June 20, 2011

Preview: Comedies of Sidney Poitier

No one will ever question Sidney Poitier's place as an actor. The man is a legend, and there is no debate there at all. His quiet intensity and stately manner are hallmarks of his performances, and he blazed a path for African-American thespians by being the first to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1958. His dignified and solemn work include his appearances in The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, Lilies of the Field, To Sir, With Love, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In The Heat of The Night and its sequel, They Call Me MISTER TIBBS. Yes, there's an almost regal aura about him, and he brings instant credibility to anything he's associated with.

He's Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman rolled into one. He's all business. So if anyone ever had a complaint about Sidney Poitier, it just may be... (with all apologies to The Joker)...

...Why so serious, Mister Tibbs?

Ah, but there is more to Sidney than stoic glares and a steady voice. For all his accomplishments and merits as an actor, few realize that Poitier has indulged in directing as well. In the 1970s and 80s, he directed several movies; often teaming up with Bill Cosby for some light comedies. These were the pre-Huxtable days for The Cos, and for younger audiences, it's hard to fathom Bill in any other type of role (unless as Jell-O pitchman). Poitier and Cosby appeared in a trio of comedies together: Uptown Saturday Night, Let's Do It Again and A Piece of the Action. See? Well look at that. Sidney's got a sense of humor after all!

In Uptown Saturday Night, Poitier and Cosby are two guys who go to an illegal uptown club for a party (you guessed it, on a Saturday night). There everyone is held up at gunpoint by robbers, who abscond with all of their valuables. The next day, one of them realizes he won the lottery but left his ticket in his stolen wallet. Thus begins a journey to recover the wallet, encountering all types of seedy characters along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for appearances by Harry Belafonte, Calvin Lockhart, Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor.

After the trio of movies in the 1970s, Sidney and Bill went on to make one more movie together. That film turned out to be Ghost Dad. Ouch. Yeah, that one. The one that makes the lists of all-time worst movies. The movie that puts the rotten in Rotten Tomatoes scores. Oh, how I wish I was kidding. Guess we can't win them all.

Moving on...

Stir Crazy was released in 1980, and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder movies. That duo made three other feature films together, Silver Streak (1976), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991), but Stir Crazy was the only one directed by Poitier. In this one, Pryor and Wilder are two guys framed for a bank robbery and sentenced to 125 years in prison. Needless to say, prison life never goes well (even in comedies), and the two have a hard time adjusting to... well... hard time.

Stir Crazy was wildly successful at the box office, grossing over $100 million dollars and became the third highest grossing film of 1980 (behind The Empire Strikes Back and 9 to 5). Heck, it even made more money than Airplane!, another classic comedy in its own right. The chemistry between Pryor and Wilder was golden, and Poitier played their absurd humor with just the right notes.

As an actor, Sidney Poitier forever remains a king amongst Hollywood royalty. However, he reveals a unique sense of humor as a clown prince of comedy directors. Two examples of Poitier bringing the funny will be screened at The Paramount later this week. Do check them out. That way, if ever you are lucky enough to meet him, you can refer to him as something other than "Mr. Tibbs." You can address him as a talented director.

Just don't bring up Ghost Dad.

You won't wanna be on the receiving end of that stare.

Showtimes for the films:

Uptown Saturday Night
Thursday, Jun 23rd
Friday, Jun 24th

Stir Crazy
Thursday, Jun 23rd
Friday, Jun 24th

Final Notes about the screening

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

No comments:

Post a Comment