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 Posted:   Jan 8, 2022 - 12:04 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

This is a great thread.

 Posted:   Jan 8, 2022 - 6:16 PM   
 By:   Warlok   (Member)

Dignity and education.

Yes Warlock, those are the two words I'd use too. He exuded a kind of quiet authority which made him a kind of role model. In a curious way (when you think about it) I associate him in my mind with Atticus Finch as played by Gregory Peck.

Further agreement.

 Posted:   Jan 9, 2022 - 7:57 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

I encountered him (sort of) once in the 1980s. I was walking home late one night on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A block on East 13th Street (behind the old Academy of Music) was brightly illuminated for a night shoot of some movie. There was Poitier directing. Which means walking around and tending to various preparations. He did stop and sign some autographs when requested. All very matter of fact and professional. Can anybody guess the movie?

 Posted:   Jan 9, 2022 - 8:02 AM   
 By:   Steven Lloyd   (Member)

(The following was posted on a film-collector forum on Jan.7, when this death was reported. With slight modification it is shared here.)

I try to avoid being a name dropper. But while I never got to meet Sidney Poitier in life, I can relay a couple of second-hand stories which you are not likely to read anywhere else.

My girlfriend during my tail end of high school later faced deep disappointment over never being accepted into medical school -- yet somehow, that lady ended up the longtime personal assistant to Sidney Poitier. The first time we spoke by phone after I learned that, she avoided questions about her boss (even from an old, movie-oriented ex-boyfriend with an obvious interest), in protection of his privacy. I didn't blame her for that; in fact, her loyalty pleased me. But Susan did at least tell me that he was an impressive man, unpretentious as well as a wonderful person to work for. That was very good to hear.

The last time I spoke to her was in late 1995, when a mutual past schoolmate of ours called to tell me that Susan was back here in Chicago, because Poitier was in town to film TO SIR WITH LOVE II. (Directed by Peter Bogdanovich... who also died Thursday.) I phoned Susan's hotel room at the number I had been given; but because it was after 9 p.m. and she already had gone to bed with a very early start time the next morning, the timing of my call was not at all welcome. In fact, she never spoke to me again! I figured that there went my last chance ever to meet Sidney Poitier -- and as of a few days ago, I was proved right.

In the '90s, another good friend of mine was doing a lot of film-related journalism. For several years Frank was assigned by the American Film Institute to interview and write the major feature article for American Film magazine for each year's winner of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. Frank (who is white) called me in 1992 to announce that he had that day been on the phone with Sidney Poitier. He had been given a phone number to dial at a specific date and time, when he would be allowed only 15 minutes. When the time came, Frank placed the call with a clock in sight and all his questions written and ready. Poitier provided an articulate, to-the-point reply to each question; but gradually each of his answers grew a little longer. To Frank's surprise, one remark eventually nudged the call beyond the firm 15-minute limit that had been given him (no doubt by Susan). But like any good journalist, Frank had prepared more questions than he expected he would get to ask -- so he asked another, since his subject seemed still willing to talk.

I no longer remember exactly how long Frank told me the call lasted, but he said: "He finally told me, 'I suppose you recall that you were told you would have just 15 minutes for this interview.' I told him I did, and thanked him very much for the extra time.

"'Well, I gave you this extra time for two reasons. One is that you have a beautiful voice.'" (Frank told me he thought to himself: "Sidney Poitier thinks I have a beautiful voice?")

"'And two -- your questions were so intelligent, and I appreciate that you didn't black-black-black me, which I hear so often.'"

This weekend I phoned Frank to celebrate that phone conversation which I would love to have had, and which now only he gets to remember.

Sidney Poitier has been one of my most favorite actors since my youth; and not because of his race. Sean Connery was another favorite, yet I still feel a little bad for not having posted here upon his death more than a year ago. However, because the great Scotsman happened to die on the first anniversary of my mother's death, at the time I couldn't yet rise to the occasion to write about someone else with such roots to my childhood. Mr. Poitier, though, deserves and demands my recognition.

In 1962, DR. NO first exposed much of the world to Connery and the James Bond character at the same time: a fabulous career boost (although it delayed wider appreciation of that actor's true dramatic range). Yet a year later, LILIES OF THE FIELD was my introduction to Sidney Poitier when I was nine. My parents already had been seeing him in movies for years but hadn't taken me along to see THE DEFIANT ONES, PORGY AND BESS, or A RAISIN IN THE SUN.

LILIES was my first film ever with a black person in the central role -- and one of the first when such a character wasn't subjected to degrading treatment. The lack of dismissive stereotyping didn't shock me... rather, I was pleased and at one level relieved finally to see another black person exist onscreen with virtues, dignity, and comfortable within himself without fear of his environment. (What's more, the role of Homer Smith was an able, hard-working carpenter -- which at the time my father and grandfather still were.) In LILIES OF THE FIELD Sidney Poitier was strikingly handsome, but also personally appealing, amusing, and wholesome. Only from viewing him in different roles as I grew a bit older did I gradually appreciate the elegance, polish, and pure grace that were within his range because he possessed those aspects by nature. As his profile emerged in the 1950s and his stardom was satisfyingly established by the '60s, I state first-hand how valuable it was for all audiences to absorb that black figure onscreen projecting such poise and substance, and personal confidence without conceit.

Based on the junk that modern viewers accept, I've come to doubt how many worthy films of the past might continue to draw much attention; so I can't predict whether Poitier's best work will be embraced or even sought out in the future. I own only three of his titles in my 16mm collection: NO WAY OUT (1950), not because it's his first feature, but because it's a very good one by one of my favorite writer-directors; the enduring LILIES OF THE FIELD; and my favorite of his films, the gripping yet graceful A PATCH OF BLUE (1965). I never got 1967's TO SIR WITH LOVE on film because it would have to be a Technicolor print in excellent condition, which I've never found... so the Twilight Time Blu-ray may have to last me for the duration. But that one contains my single favorite Poitier performance; maybe my wife will sit through the disc again with me this weekend in tribute.

Then again, 1961's PARIS BLUES has been on my DVR for months already -- so perhaps I'm the one who should be willing to reach back to a bygone past.

Rest in peace... Sir.

 Posted:   Jan 9, 2022 - 9:44 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

I encountered him (sort of) once in the 1980s. I was walking home late one night on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A block on East 13th Street (behind the old Academy of Music) was brightly illuminated for a night shoot of some movie. There was Poitier directing. Which means walking around and tending to various preparations. He did stop and sign some autographs when requested. All very matter of fact and professional. Can anybody guess the movie?

My guess would be FAST FORWARD (1985).

 Posted:   Nov 10, 2023 - 11:43 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Sidney Poitier’s first credited feature film role was in the racially charged film NO WAY OUT. The film saw Poitier playing “Dr. Luther Brooks,” an intern who has just passed the state board examination to qualify for his license to practice, and is the first African-American doctor at the urban county hospital at which he trained. “Johnny and Ray Biddle” (Dick Paxton and Richard Widmark), brothers who were both shot in the leg by a policeman as they attempted a robbery, are brought to the hospital's prison ward. As Luther tends to the disoriented Johnny, he is bombarded with racist slurs by Ray, who grew up in Beaver Canal, the white working-class section of the city. Believing that Johnny has a brain tumor, Luther administers a spinal tap, but Johnny dies during the procedure.

Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the motion picture rights to Lesser Samuels' original story in January 1949 and signed him to a ten-week contract to write the screenplay. Samuels stated that he originally wanted to write about "the cancerous results of hatred," but did not intend to focus on an African-American doctor until he learned from colleagues of his daughter's fiancé, a doctor, about the problems faced by African-Americans doctors. A number of Fox producers who examined the story before the purchase were enthusiastic about it and wanted to produce it, including Otto Preminger, Sol Siegel and Nunnally Johnson.

Sidney Poitier in NO WAY OUT

Studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck stated that the film was to "conscientiously avoid propaganda, but at the same time the final result of our efforts should be a picture which is actually powerful propaganda against intolerance." Zanuck worried about the violence in the story and warned, "even in certain so-called white cities, such as Detroit, Omaha, St. Louis and Philadelphia, we are apt to have the picture banned totally by the Police Commission. We already know that we will lose about 3,000 accounts in the South who will not play the picture under any circumstances. But it would be a terrible thing if we have something in the picture which would give the so-called white cities a chance to turn us down because then the picture will be a fatal financial disaster." Zanuck decided to produce the picture because, as he said, “We want to tell a story of the Negro in a white man's everyday world, rather than the Negro in the Negro's world. We are going to show the kind of hate the Negro runs up against in his daily life, how he is afraid to walk on certain streets."

To get the role of Luther Brooks, Sidney Poitier lied to co-writer and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz and told him he was 27 years old, when actually he was only 22. Poitier received $7,500 for the role. Richard Widmark was apparently very uncomfortable with some of the racist comments that his character, Ray Biddle, made, especially given his friendship with Sidney Poitier. As a result, after some of the takes involving particularly venomous remarks, Widmark apologized to Poitier.

The film did indeed face some of the problems feared by Zanuck. The National League of Decency condemned the film. In Chicago, police captain Harry Fullmer held up a permit for exhibition of the film in the city and recommended banning the film to police commissioner John Prendergast because it "might cause more racial unrest than we have now." On the day of Fullmer's action, Walter White, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, sent a telegram to Chicago Mayor Martin D. Kennelly objecting to the ban. White wrote, "This picture is the most forthright and courageous picturization of the evil of race prejudice which has yet been made....NO WAY OUT exposes the evil nature of [racial prejudice] and instead of inciting to riot as police censor claims [it] will do enormous good in the exactly opposite direction."

After Commissioner Prendergast approved the ban, the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial sharply criticizing the censors. Mankiewicz, who called the ban "absurd," was quoted by Life as sarcastically saying, "I find it highly commendable for the city fathers to be keeping Chicago, with its high cultural standards, isolated from any violence." The mayor convened a special committee of the Cook County Crime Prevention Bureau, and after a screening, they recommended to the mayor that the ban be rescinded. Mayor Kennelly lifted the ban after three to four minutes of the film were cut, including scenes of blacks and whites preparing for a riot.

In Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the film was shown in a cut version, and the film was prohibited from being shown on Sundays in Massachusetts. At the time of the Chicago ban, an official of Fox's sales department stated that no attempt had been made to release the film in the South. After the Maryland State Board of Motion Picture Censors deleted scenes of blacks preparing to defend themselves before the riot and a subsequent scene showing the victory of the blacks, the NAACP branches in Baltimore and Maryland complained that the film's "original message is hopelessly lost." Walter White and officers of the local branches wrote to the board urging that the film be restored to its uncut state, or, barring that, for the board to delete scenes of racial epithets, but the board refused to change its decision. In explaining the refusal to White, board chairman Sidney Traub noted that the board and local police departments found the actions of the blacks during the riot scenes to be "highly provocative and crime inciting."

The film received mixed reviews, but received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing (Story and Screenplay: Mankiewicz and Samuels). Despite a low-key advertising campaign, the film had above average grosses of $3.9 million. Alfred Newman’s score has not had a release.

 Posted:   Nov 11, 2023 - 11:09 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Filmed in England and South Africa, CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY was based on the novel of the same name by Alan Paton. The story finds black minister “Stephen Kumalo” (Canada Lee) journeying from the back country of South Africa to the city to search for his missing son, only to find his people living in squalor, and his son (Edric Connor) a criminal. “Reverend Msimangu” (Sidney Poitier) is a young South African clergyman who helps find Kumalo’s missing son-turned-thief and sister-turned-prostitute (Ribbon Dhlamini) in the slums of Johannesburg.

Sidney Poitier and Canada Lee in CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY

CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY was the first major film shot in South Africa, with interiors filmed in the UK at Shepperton Studios. Since South Africa was under apartheid, stars Sidney Poitier and Canada Lee and producer-director Zoltan Korda informed the South African immigration authorities that Poitier and Lee were not actors but were Korda's indentured servants. Otherwise, the two black actors and the white director would not have been allowed to associate with each other while they were in the country. Even so, Lee and Poitier were denied residence in Johannesburg while making the film. They were put up in a remote farmhouse several miles outside the city.

This was the last film for Canada Lee, and the only one in which he played the lead role. After his work on the film, Lee planned to prepare a full report about life in South Africa. The previously blacklisted Lee was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee to explain his actions, but died of heart failure before he could testify.

Raymond Gallois-Montbrun’s score for the 1951 film has not been released. At about eighteen minutes into the movie, the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (a.k.a. “Wemoweh”) is sung behind the dialogue. Its use is possibly the earliest mass release version ever of the song, predating The Weavers’ reccording of “Wemoweh” by at least a year. The film was released in the U.S. in 1952, whereupon it grossed a below-average $1.1 million.

 Posted:   Nov 12, 2023 - 11:19 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

The RED BALL EXPRESS, formally known as the 371st Quartermaster Truck Company of the Army Transportation Corps, was a division of 6,000 trucks formed by Major General Frank Ross, the film's technical adviser, to rush ammunition, gasoline and other supplies through enemy held territory to General George Patton's tanks. The division included many African American soldiers.

In the film, “Lt. Chick Campbell” (Jeff Chandler) is put in charge of the outfit. Sidney Poitier played “Corp. Andrew Robertson.” James Edwards was originally cast in the role of Robertson, but was fired during production when he refused to testify before House Un-American Activities Committee. He was replaced by Poitier.

Sidney Poitier in RED BALL EXPRESS

Budd Boetticher directed the 1952 film, which utilized stock music for its score. The film opens with a voice-over narration delivered by Charles Drake as "Pvt. Partridge," outlining the 1944 Allied invasion to free Europe. Unusual for its time, the title credit does not appear until Partridge's narration is completed, about fifteen minutes into the film. The onscreen production and cast credits are withheld until the end of the film. RED BALL EXPRESS grossed a reasonable $4.2 million at the domestic box office.

 Posted:   Nov 13, 2023 - 11:24 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

GO MAN GO—starring real-life Harlem Globetrotters Reece ‘Goose’ Tatum, ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton, and Marques Haynes—tells the inspirational story of the Trotters’ rise to fame during the first half of the 20th century. The story arc itself — small-time players make it big through talent, hard work, and the dogged perseverance of their committed leader — is rather conventional, as is the gratuitous subplot in which promoter Abe Saperstein (Dane Clark) meets and quickly weds his beauty-queen wife (Patricia Breslin). What’s much more interesting are the implicit racial dynamics at play, as the Trotters (considered merely clownish amateurs) repeatedly compete against “legitimate” all-white teams. The film remains daring simply in its easy acceptance of (Jewish) Saperstein’s friendship with his assistant Inman Jackson (Sidney Poitier) and the other team members.

Dane Clark, Patricia Breslin, and Sidney Poitier in GO MAN GO

GO MAN GO, released by United Artists in 1954, is a "prequel" to the 1951 Columbia release THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS. Although Alfred Palca, the producer/writer of THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS, began as the producer/writer of GO MAN GO, and had announced that GO MAN GO was to be the initial production of Alfred Palca Enterprises, his name does not appear in the onscreen credits or in reviews. Palca wrote the film, but was blacklisted for his political views. In order to find a distributor for the picture, he decided to give the producing credit to his brother-in-law, Anton Leader, and the screenwriting credit to his cousin, Arnold Becker, a pediatrician. Palca never worked in the film industry again. His writing credit was restored by the Writer’s Guild in the mid-1990s.

GO MAN GO marked the directorial debut of James Wong Howe, one of the industry's most celebrated cinematographers. Although he co-directed THE INVISIBLE AVENGER with John Sledge in 1958, GO MAN GO was his only solo directing assignment. Alex North’s score has not had a release. The film grossed a respectable $4 million in the U.S.

 Posted:   Nov 14, 2023 - 12:43 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Evan Hunter's novel The Blackboard Jungle was serialized beginning with the October 1954 issue of Ladies Home Journal. M-G-M paid Hunter $95,000 for the rights to his novel. In the film BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, former Navy man turned idealistic teacher “Mr. Dadier” (Glenn Ford) tries making a difference with schoolyard thugs, whose criminal habits include attempted rape and armed robbery. He finds his hopes confirmed in musical prodigy “Gregory Miller” (Sidney Poitier), but when he tries helping the kid, he inadvertently stirs up some racial tension. Melodrama escalates when the pregnant “Mrs. Dadier” (Anne Francis) gives birth prematurely as a result of hostile letters sent to her by repugnant gang leader “Artie West” (Vic Morrow). Fellow teacher “Mr. Edwards” (Richard Kiley) gets frightened out of town when the gang smashes his beloved record collection.


Director Richard Brooks was originally hired to direct M-G-M's BEN-HUR and William Wyler to direct BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, but Brooks convinced Wyler to switch assignments. In his autobiography, Dore Schary, M-G-M's head of production, recalled that he was urged not to make the film by both Paramount executive Y. Frank Freeman and MPPA head Eric Johnston. Schary dismissed their concerns, but soon was asked by Loew's president Nicholas M. Schenk to reconsider. "I had only one argument for Schenk," Schary wrote. "'Nick, you're suggesting I give up on a film that might earn us nine or ten million dollars.' Nick asked me how much it would cost. I had a rough estimate of $1,200,000. He said go ahead." Schary added that the final cost of the film was $1,160,000.

Brooks insisted upon casting new, unknown faces, and as a result, hired unpolished actors with little camera experience for many of the roles, thus infusing a raw realism into their performances. Among the actors making their screen debuts in this picture were Vic Morrow, Rafael Campos, Dan Terranova, Danny Dennis, and Jameel Farah (who later changed his name to Jamie Farr). Although the studio wanted the film shot in color, Brooks insisted upon black and white because he feared that "color would beautify everything."

The lead "juvenile delinquents" were played by Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier. When the film was released, Morrow was 26 and Poitier was 28. When Poitier showed up to start work on the film, he was called to the front office by a studio lawyer. Told they were concerned about his activism and association with blacklisted actors Paul Robeson and Canada Lee, he was asked to sign a loyalty oath to the American government. Poitier thought that was ridiculous, and director Richard Brooks agreed, so they simply started shooting. He never heard from the studio lawyer again.

Upon its release, the film was greeted by controversy. The school authorities of New Brunswick, NJ, objected to the depiction of school conditions in the film. As a result, the theater circuit was forced to add a disclaimer stating: "To our patrons, the school and situations you have just seen are NOT to be found in this area. We should all be proud of the facilities provided OUR youth by the Public School of New Brunswick..." The film was banned in Memphis, and also in Atlanta, because it was deemed "immoral, obscene, licentious and will adversely affect the peace, health, morals and good order of the city."

The Institute for Public Opinion sent postcards to film critics claiming that the film was "anti-public schools" and denying that the conditions depicted onscreen really existed. M-G-M's Schary responded by citing research and news accounts that supported the film's depiction of certain inner-city schools. Clare Boothe Luce, at the time the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, prevented the film's screening at the Venice Film Festival by threatening to walk out if it was shown. Luce claimed that if she attended a performance of the film, she would be "giving ammunition to Italian Communist and anti-U.S. propaganda."

Finally, Schary wrote in his autobiography, "Senator Estes Kefauver came to Hollywood to investigate movies--he meant one movie, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE....He called me as his first witness. He explained that he was in Hollywood to learn whether we acted responsibly when making [this] film." Schary related that after providing Kefauver with volumes of data on juvenile delinquency, he asked the senator what he found objectionable about the film. "He admitted he had not yet seen it," Schary wrote. "I suggested that there seemed to be a lack of responsibility in his investigation."

The picture's soundtrack also created a stir. A Boston theater ran the first reel in silence for fear that the rock and roll music on the soundtrack would over-stimulate the audience. Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock," the recording that played beneath the film's credits, was one of the top ten songs of the year and played an important part in expanding the rock and roll market. Peter Ford, the son of the film's star, Glenn Ford, noted that Brooks borrowed the record from Peter, who at the time was a young rhythm and blues fan. M-G-M purchased limited rights to the song from Decca Records for $5,000. Under that agreement, the studio was granted the right to use the song only three times in the film. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography (black and white) and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black and white).

BLACKBOARD JUNGLE was the #13 film at the U.S. box office in 1955, grossing $15.6 million. The film had no original score.

 Posted:   Nov 14, 2023 - 10:19 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In GOOD-BYE, MY LADY, “Skeeter Jackson” (Brandon De Wilde) and his “Uncle Jesse Jackson” (Walter Brennan) live in a cabin near a swamp. They live very simply. Skeeter goes to school, but Uncle Jesse is illiterate. Skeeter is an orphan, and storekeeper “Cash Evans” (Phil Harris) paid to keep him out of the orphanage. Skeeter doesn’t trust Cash much, but Uncle Jesse has a bickeringly friendly relationship with him. One of Skeeter’s chores is to get buttermilk from “Bonnie Dew” (Louise Beavers) and her oldest son “Gates” (Sidney Poitier), African-Americans who live across the river.

Skeeter has been hearing an unearthly laughter coming out of the swamp. Uncle and Skeeter track it down, and it turns out to be a little dog they cannot catch. The dog doesn’t bark. It only emits a strange yodel, runs like the wind, and cries real tears. Cash goes to the swamp with his hunting dogs determined to capture the animal. She is much too fast for his dogs. Finally, Skeeter lures her in with kindness and food. Thereafter, this is Skeeter’s dog, which he names Lady.

Sidney Poitier in GOOD-BYE, MY LADY

Upon completion of the film, director William Wellman gave the dog who played "Lady" to actor Brandon de Wilde. The film’s unreleased score was composed and played by Laurindo Almeida (guitar) and George Fields (harmonica).

The film grossed a meager $1.4 million at the domestic box office. William Wellman expressed annoyance over the film's financial failure, especially considering that the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution awarded him a plaque proclaiming GOOD-BYE, MY LADY "the Best Children's Picture of the Year 1956."

 Posted:   Nov 15, 2023 - 11:17 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

EDGE OF THE CITY opens with “Axel North” (John Cassavetes) rolling in to New York City with only a little money and a dubious recommendation in his pocket. The name he drops at the rail yard is of a man in San Francisco, but it's enough to get him a job under the crooked foreman “Charlie Malick” (Jack Warden). Knowing that Axel is on the lam, Malick puts the screws to him. Malick also doesn't like it when Axel befriends “Tommy ‘T.T.’ Tyler” (Sidney Poitier), the only black foreman on the yard. As the two become close, Malick gets more upset and eventually pushes for Axel's secrets to come out.

Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes in EDGE OF THE CITY

EDGE OF THE CITY was the first film venture for producer David Susskind, writer Robert Alan Aurthur, and director Martin Ritt, who, prior to this project, worked in television and theater. Aurthur and Susskind also made the 1955 television drama upon which the film was based, “A Man Is Ten Feet Tall.” The teleplay starred Sidney Poitier, and in his autobiography, Poitier noted that in order to be hired for the part, NBC's legal department required that he sign a statement repudiating his relationships with Paul Robeson and Canada Lee, whom the legal department had deemed to be "dangerous people." After Poitier refused, Aurthur and others worked out some compromise that allowed him to take the role.

Poitier's appearance in “A Man Is Ten Feet Tall” marked the first time that a black actor was cast in a major role in a television drama, and when the teleplay was aired, sponsor Philco received numerous complaints and threats. The complaints were partly directed at Hilda Simms, the actress who played Poitier’s wife, a very light-skinned black woman who looked white.

The Variety review of EDGE OF THE CITY commented that the picture was a "milestone" in cinema history because it showed a black man as "a fully-integrated, first-class citizen," rather than as a "problem." The review went on to suggest, however, that the representation of equality between whites and blacks in the film might raise the issue of how the film should be marketed in the South, "in light of the current tension over integration."

The Production Code Authority was worried about the possibility that John Cassavetes' character might be viewed as homosexual. In a letter to producer Susskind, PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock cited as problematic Axel's "almost psychopathic aversion to women," and requested that a scene be cut in which Axel demonstrates "a rather unusual reaction to the couple he sees necking in the movie." He also asked Susskind to remove a moment of dialogue in which Malik teases Axel and Tommy by announcing to the work crew that they are getting married. Neither of these scenes appears in the finished film.

Leonard Rosenman’s score for the 1957 film was released by Film Score Monthly in 2003. EDGE OF THE CITY grossed a below-average $2.2 million, but was still profitable given its low production cost of $493,000.

In late 1968, MGM released EDGE OF THE CITY to television, after both Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes had appeared in some very successful 1967 films.

 Posted:   Nov 16, 2023 - 2:28 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

SOMETHING OF VALUE is set in British Colonial Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, where “Peter” (Rock Hudson) and “Kimani” (Sidney Poitier), who grew up together, find themselves on opposite sides.

Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier in SOMETHING OF VALUE

This was the first motion picture produced in Hollywood that attempted to describe the events of the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya, then a British colony. The Mau Mau was a militant African nationalist movement that originated in the early 1950s among the Kikuyu people of Kenya. The Mau Mau, which advocated violent resistance to British domination, was particularly associated with the ritual oaths employed by leaders of the Kikuyu Central Association, despite that fact that Kikuyu custom prohibited the administering of oaths by force or to women. As the Mau Mau grew in number, their oaths grew in brutality. The rebellion ended by 1960, and Kenya became an independent nation in 1963

Author Robert C. Ruark, who wrote the 1955 novel upon which the film was based, also served as technical advisor for the film. Ruark was initially considered to direct the film, but was later replaced by Richard Brooks. Portions of the film were shot on location in Kenya, with studio work taking place on the M-G-M lot in Culver City, CA.

During filming in Africa, Sidney Poitier had to contend with most establishments, including hotel and restaurants, refusing to serve him because he was black. British and Australian territories requested certain violent scenes be cut from the film, but do not appear to have banned it outright.

Miklos Rozsa’s score for the 1957 film was released by Film Score Monthly in their 2010 box set “Miklós Rózsa Treasury (1949-1968).” The $2.6 million production had above-average domestic grosses of $6.7 million.

In 1962, MGM re-released the film under the title AFRICA ABLAZE.

 Posted:   Nov 16, 2023 - 8:25 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

Has any modern actor ever had a year like Poitier's 1967, in which he starred in three hit films--GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER; TO SIR, WITH LOVE; and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (all in the top 11 films at the box office), with the latter two being critically acclaimed as well?

I seem to recall "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" being rather critically praised. What have I missed??

 Posted:   Nov 16, 2023 - 11:18 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Has any modern actor ever had a year like Poitier's 1967, in which he starred in three hit films--GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER; TO SIR, WITH LOVE; and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (all in the top 11 films at the box office), with the latter two being critically acclaimed as well?
I seem to recall "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" being rather critically praised. What have I missed??

There’s no doubt that GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER received its share of rave reviews--from Variety for one. And the New York Daily News’ Wanda Hale and the Chicago Sun-Times' Rogert Ebert both gave the film four stars.

Other reviews were more mixed.

In Saturday Review, Arthur Knight called the film “remarkable in many ways,” with the “interplay of conflicting emotions—plus the interplay of such seasoned performers as the radiant Miss Hepburn, the graceful Poitier, and the stalwart, irreplaceable Tracy—that provide the film’s greatest satisfactions.”
But then there is this:
“the characters are so inflated, so superhuman, that they rob the story of all possibility of generality. Indeed, the Poitier character is so noble that one suspects a little racism in reverse. What could such a sterling character possibly see in little Katherine Houghton, except she is a white girl? What is worse, this approach, with its stage-like pairing off for little set pieces of dialogue played against cardboard cutouts of San Francisco, produces an oddly old-fashioned feeling, as if one were seeing an all-star expensively mounted studio film of the Thirties in which unaccountably, everyone is talking about a problem of today…Points of view…are marshalled and set forth with a scrupulosity akin to television’s ‘equal time’ concept.”

One of Knight’s points was also mentioned by Clifford Terry, film critic of the Chicago Tribune, who wrote that the film "examines a theme of the 1960s thru a style of the 1930s. The subject of interracial marriage was probed four years ago in ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO, but Producer-Director Stanley Kramer has reached back long before that for his modus operandi, coming up with the antiseptic slickness and unabashed sentiment [not necessarily a bad thing] in the generic tradition of the Frank Capra social comedy-drama."

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, film critic Charles Champlin lauded the film as "a deeply moving film, guaranteed to leave no eye undamp." But he also noted that he was left with a "nagging uneasiness that the problem has not really been confronted or solved, but only patronized."

In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther summarized his mixed feelings in the opening sentence of his generally positive review: "GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER is a most delightfully acted and gracefully entertaining film, fashioned much in the manner of a stage drawing-room comedy, that seems to be about something much more serious and challenging than it actually is." Later saying "If one were taking this cheerful disquisition on the problems of mixed marriage seriously, there are several observations and pointed questions that would have to be raised. … Let’s not pursue those questions, for they will only tend to disturb the euphoria and likely enjoyment of this witty and glistening film."

Time magazine said that the film “once again proves Producer Stanley Kramer’s ability to put together cinematic bouquets of platitudes about important-sounding social issues. … The characters and casting are all but archetypical."

On NBC’s “Today” show, Judith Christ, after exclaiming “What a cast this film has!,” stated that “This Stanley Kramer movie is about as pretentious, trite and tired as a slick Hollywood movie can get. … The performances are impeccable even against the cheapjack ‘rich folks’ sets and even under direction that would indicate that Stanley Kramer has not seen a non-Kramer film in years. But the only ‘statement’ the film makes is that inter-racial marriage among the rich and successful is acceptable—provided the couple leave the country by midnight and spend the rest of their lives peddling medicine to the natives in Africa.”

On the other hand, can you argue with 10 Academy Award nominations and the #4 film of the year at the box office?

 Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 6:27 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Director Richard Brooks was originally hired to direct M-G-M's BEN-HUR and William Wyler to direct BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, but Brooks convinced Wyler to switch assignments.

Good to see Sidney commemorated in such detail.

Question about the above: I knew that Richard Brooks was attached to Sam Zimbalist's long-gestating BEN-HUR project at some point and extracted himself as temperamentally unsuited. However, I never heard of Brooks (still a minor M-G-M contract writer-director in 1954) approaching Wyler. Nor that Wyler was ever involved in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. Source?

As it happened, things worked out for all involved. This was the big break for Brooks and Poitier, and Wyler went on to bigger things. I don't think he became involved in B-H until much later.

 Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 1:39 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Question about the above: I knew that Richard Brooks was attached to Sam Zimbalist's long-gestating BEN-HUR project at some point and extracted himself as temperamentally unsuited. However, I never heard of Brooks (still a minor M-G-M contract writer-director in 1954) approaching Wyler. Nor that Wyler was ever involved in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. Source?

The notion that "Brooks convinced Wyler to switch assignments" is included in the American Film Institute Catalog entry on THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, and is only attributed to "a modern source." That means that it wasn't reported in the press at the time, or sourced from something that either Wyler or Brooks wrote (that would be described as an "autobiography" or "memoir"), but is included in a later book that someone wrote about one of the principals.

Given the age of that Catalog entry (mid-to-late 1990s), two possibilities might be:

  • Madsen, Axel, William Wyler: The Authorized Biography, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973.
  • Anderegg, Michael A., William Wyler, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979.

    I agree that the story sounds suspect, since it isn't backed up by contemporary sources or recollections of either Brooks or Wyler. It's third hand information of the "someone told someone else who told the author" kind of support.

     Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 1:45 PM   
     By:   eriknelson   (Member)

    I saw him a few years ago at the TCM Classic Film Festival. He was present at a screening of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, along with Lee Grant, Norman Jewison and Walter Mirisch. Also present (briefly) was Quincy Jones, along with lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman. The discussion was fascinating. One anecdote is that Poitier didn't want to travel below the Mason-Dixon line during shooting. So they found a little town in Illinois that looked the part. Even so, a couple of days shooting took place in Tennessee because the producers wanted to use an estate there--the one where Poitier memorably slaps white supremacist Larry Gates. Also, this was Lee Grant's return to film after being blacklisted in the 50s. Jewison talked about having Rod Steiger chew gum during filming. Steiger was resistant at first, but found a way to use it as a vehicle for expressing emotion. They consumed more than 200 packs of gum! Quite a night.

     Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 2:44 PM   
     By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

    According to Jan Herman's more authoritative Wyler biography, Zimbalist first approached the director in the spring of 1957.

     Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 4:52 PM   
     By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

    According to Jan Herman's more authoritative Wyler biography, Zimbalist first approached the director in the spring of 1957.

    That IS something that is supported by contemporary sources. The AFI Catalog entry on BEN-HUR notes that "According to news items, by Feb 1957, Wyler, who had been an assistant director and production manager on the 1925 film, was announced as the director, and Italian actor Cesare Danova was 'being groomed for the title spot.'”

    So, it seems that Wyler was approached before the spring of 1957. Ed Sullivan's column from 19 November 1956 had this item:

    As for Brooks, Louella Parsons' column of 12 November 1954 included this item:

    Sidney Franklin was the next director associated with the project, but I'm not sure that he is the "top director" referred to by Parsons. Parsons' column of 1 December 1954 noted:

    That description of Franklin doesn't sound like a guy who "had set his heart on" directing BEN-HUR.

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