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 Posted:   Dec 5, 2023 - 11:09 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

On 26 September 1966, theNew York Times announced that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy would reunite onscreen for the ninth time to play a liberal married couple in GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, an original screenplay by William Rose. The project marked the duo’s first collaboration since DESK SET (1957), ten years earlier, and Tracy’s fourth performance for director Stanley Kramer. Rose was paid $50,000 for the story, $150,000 for the script, plus net participation. The estimated total budget was $3.5 million, with Hepburn, Tracy, and co-star Sidney Poitier also sharing a small percentage of the profits.

Although Samantha Eggar was rumored to portray Hepburn and Tracy’s onscreen daughter, the role eventually went to Hepburn’s niece, up-and-coming actress Katharine Houghton. Hepburn said that she suggested the choice, and Houghton was hired after meeting with Kramer in New York City for a script reading.

Sidney Poitier and Katherine Houghton in GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER

The picture faced opposition from East Coast Columbia Pictures executives, who feared the interracial romance between Poitier and Houghton was “very risky.” Additionally, filmmakers encountered difficulties securing finances from the studio because no insurance companies were willing to provide coverage for Spencer Tracy, who was in extremely poor health. According to Columbia Pictures production chief Mike Frankovich, Kramer, Hepburn, and Tracy calculated that it would cost Columbia approximately $600,000 to re-shoot Tracy’s scenes with another actor should he become incapacitated during filming. Accounting for these “eventualities,” Kramer and Hepburn agreed to lower their salaries, while Tracy deferred his paycheck until the end of production.

With contracts in place, principal photography began on 20 March 1967 at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles, with the set closed to reporters during filming. Poitier felt he was "under close observation" by both Tracy and Hepburn during their first dinner meetings prior to production. However, he managed to swiftly win them over. Due to Tracy and Hepburn's close history with Kramer, Poitier believed that the pair came to give him "the kind of respect they had for Kramer, and they had to say to themselves (and I'm sure they did), this kid has to be pretty okay, because Stanley is nuts about working with him"

The scenes were divided up into two sets—those with Tracy and those without. Typically, Katharine Hepburn brought Tracy in the morning, they worked until she decided he was too tired, and then Tracy and Hepburn left. This didn’t particularly bother Sidney Poitier, who was somewhat intimidated by working with the two legends; he preferred to perform to empty high-backed chairs, as the dialogue coach read Tracy's and Hepburn's lines from off camera.

According to Poitier: "The illness of Spencer dominated everything. I knew his health was very poor and many of the people who knew what the situation was didn't believe we'd finish the film, that is, that Tracy would be able to finish the film. Those of us who were close knew it was worse than they thought. Kate brought him to and from the set. She worked with him on his lines. She made sure with Kramer that his hours were right for what he could do, and what he couldn't do was different each day. There were days when he couldn't do anything. But also, there were days when he was great, and I got the chance to know what it was like working with Tracy." Spencer Tracy died of a heart attack on 10 June 1967, just weeks after he completed his scenes for the film.

Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier in GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER

In one scene of the picture, “Mr. Prentice” (Roy Glenn) talks about interracial marriage, saying to his son “John” (Sidney Poitier), "In sixteen or seventeen states you’d be breaking the law. You’d be criminals. And say they changed the law. That don’t change the way people feel about this thing." Soon after production ended, on 12 June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down state restrictions on interracial marriage presented in the case of Loving v. Virginia. The following day, Columbia announced that the scene between Poitier and Glenn referencing these state laws would not be changed or removed to reflect the Supreme Court decision.

However, after the film was released, the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in April 1968, prompted Columbia to request that exhibitors cut a facetious reference to the late Civil Rights leader for the remainder of the film’s theatrical run. The scene in question occurs midway through the film, when, upon learning that yet another guest will be expected at dinner, Isabell Sanford’s character, “Tillie,” exclaims, “Who’s next, the Reverend Martin Luther King?”

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER was released in December 1967 in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration. Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of “Christina Drayton” earned her a second Academy Award for Best Actress, while William Rose also won for Writing (Story and Screenplay—written directly for the screen). Tracy received a posthumous nomination for Best Actor, and the film was honored in the following categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (Cecil Kellaway), Actress in a Supporting Role (Beah Richards), Art Direction, Film Editing, Music (Scoring of Music—adaptation or treatment), Directing, and Best Picture.

The film received mixed to favorable reviews, and was a global success. The film was the #4 release of the year at the U.S. box office, with a gross of over $52 million. Worldwide grosses neared $80 million after almost a year in release. AFI ranked GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER #99 on its 1998 list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time, #58 on its list of 100 Years…100 Passions, and #35 on its list of 100 Years…100 Cheers. The film was first shown on U.S. television on CBS on September 19, 1971, and was the highest-rated film broadcast in the year, with a rating of 26.8 and an audience share of 44%.

Frank De Vol’s score was released on a Colgems LP, but has not been re-issued on CD. Blu-ray releases of the film from Twilight Time (2015) and Powerhouse/Indicator (2020) include isolated score tracks. De Vol lost the scoring Oscar to Alfred Newman and Ken Darby for CAMELOT.

In 1967, Sidney Poitier starred in three of the biggest pictures of his career, two of which (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER) were Oscar-nominated for Best Picture that year. Poitier, however, was not nominated for either role, although his co-stars Rod Steiger and Katharine Hepburn both won Best Actor awards, and co-stars Spencer Tracy and Beah Richards were nominated for Oscars as well for these films. The third big movie for Poitier that year was TO SIR WITH LOVE, and the combination of three strong roles by Poitier in one year may have led to him being passed over for Academy Award nominations due to vote splitting.

 Posted:   Dec 5, 2023 - 10:16 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In FOR LOVE OF IVY, “Ivy” (Abbey Lincoln) works for the Austin family –which includes dad “Frank” (Carroll O'Connor), daughter “Gena” (Lauri Peters), and son “Tim (Beau Bridges)—but is planning to quit in order to gain more freedom and possibly meet a husband. This doesn't sit well with the kids, who set out to find a good man for Ivy–and thus prevent her from leaving. Enter “Jack Parks” (Sidney Poitier), a well-to-do businessman who runs a legitimate operation during the day and an illegal gambling outfit at night. Jack isn't too keen on dating a housekeeper, so the Austin children decide to blackmail Jack into going out with Ivy.

Lauri Peters, Sidney Poitier, Beau Bridges and Abbey Lincoln in FOR LOVE OF IVY

Sidney Poitier came up with the story for the 1968 film, which was scripted by Robert Alan Aurthur, who had written Poitier’s 1957 film EDGE OF THE CITY. Daniel Mann directed the romantic comedy.

Quincy Jones’s score was released on an ABC Records LP, but has not been re-issued on CD. The title song had words and music by Bob Russell and Quincy Jones and was sung by Shirley Horn. The $2.6 million production was the #20 picture of the year at the domestic box office, with a healthy take of $15.9 million.

 Posted:   Dec 6, 2023 - 12:46 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

THE LOST MAN marked screenwriter Robert Alan Aurthur’s sole feature film directorial effort. Stirling Silliphant was initially hired to write the screenplay, but he was soon replaced by Aurthur. Aurthur had recently worked with lead actor Sidney Poitier on 1968’s FOR LOVE OF IVY. In addition, the two had collaborated on Aurthur’s short-lived Broadway play, “Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights” (New York City, 27 February 1968), which Poitier directed.

In the film, after watching police break up a nonviolent demonstration outside a factory in a large Eastern city, a group of black militants led by “Jason Higgs” (Poitier) perfect plans for robbing the same plant of its payroll to provide money for families of jailed black demonstrators. Jason, who abandoned nonviolence after nineteen arrests, persuades “Dennis Laurence” (Al Freeman, Jr.), leader of the peaceful demonstration, to stage another protest at the same spot to divert police away from the robbery.

Sidney Poitier in THE LOST MAN

Joan Hackett was considered for a role, but it was soon announced that Canadian actress Joanna Shimkus would co-star with Poitier, as “Cathy Ellis,” a white social worker. The two began a relationship during production, and were married in 1976, a marriage that lasted 46 years until Poitier’s death.

Following a planned week of rehearsals, principal photography commenced on 23 September 1968 in Philadelphia. Interior shooting was done at the H. G. Peters studios in Primos, PA, marking the first time a Hollywood movie was shot there. Guns used as props were imported from Los Angeles, with the firing pins removed; nonetheless, the non-functioning firearms were stored at the Police Armory nightly, since filming was taking place “in the city’s ghetto,” the 14 October 1968 Daily Variety reported.

Actor Michael Tolan’s role as a detective was expanded during the shoot. In an interview, Tolan mentioned the integrated crew on THE LOST MAN, crediting Sidney Poitier’s efforts to ensure black crew members were hired. Daily Variety later referred to the crew as “mostly black” in a 20 December 1968 item, which noted that Joanna Shimkus had “shaken up” the wrap party by showing up in blackface and wearing an afro wig.

In advance of the film’s June 1969 release, an article in the 2 February 1969 Los Angeles Times announced that Poitier had been named the top box-office draw of 1968 in the Motion Picture Herald’s annual poll, owing to the success of his four most recent films.

Critical reception was mixed, and THE LOST MAN generated just average grosses of $5.3 million in the U.S. Composer Quincy Jones received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special, losing to Burt Bacharach for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. Jones’ score was released by Universal’s UNI record label. The LP’s only CD release came in the 2016 Decca (France) box set “The Cinema of Quincy Jones.”

 Posted:   Dec 6, 2023 - 11:41 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

The documentary KING: A FILMED RECORD ... MONTGOMERY TO MEMPHIS covers the public life and contribution to the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King, Jr., beginning with King's successful bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955-56. In newsreel footage, he is shown with the freedom riders in the early 1960's; delivering the famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., in 1963; and as a protagonist during the brutal confrontations in Birmingham, Alabama, and in St. Augustine, Florida. Other aspects of King's involvement included organizing the housing protests in Chicago and bringing national attention to the racial injustice in Selma, Alabama, during the voter registration marches. The highest point of acclaim for his work was in 1964 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his courage and nonviolent principles in the fight for racial equality. In April of 1968, King's career was ended in Memphis, Tennessee, by an assassin's bullet.

Ely Landau conceived and produced the film, which had 10 different narrators, one of whom was Sidney Poitier. Some newly filmed connecting sequences, including readings from the Bible and black poetry, were directed by Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson was the music supervisor responsible for selecting songs from the civil rights movement to accompany the footage.

The film was originally shown in nearly 1000 theaters as a special event on 24 March 1970, and ran 3 hours and 5 minutes. It was anticipated that a million viewers would attend the screenings, and the proceeds from the elevated $5 admission price were donated to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Special Fund. In September 1970, the film was put into general release by Maron Films. The picture was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, losing to WOODSTOCK. In 1999, the film was added to the National Film Registry.

 Posted:   Dec 7, 2023 - 1:15 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

After stating that he did not want to play the role again, Sidney Poitier changed his mind and reprised his role as “Virgil Tibbs” from 1967’s IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT in the crime drama THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!, a story unrelated to that of the earlier film. Once again, he is a veteran homicide detective, this time in San Francisco instead of Philadelphia. He is currently investigating the murder of a prostitute. The primary suspect is San Francisco political activist “Reverend Logan Sharpe” (Martin Landau), the last person seen with the victim. Tibbs and Sharpe are friends, and Tibbs would like to believe the priest is not guilty. After Sharpe admits to Tibbs he has slept with the late hooker, the detective intensifies his focus on his friend. On the home front, after dealing with dope peddlers, pimps, murderers, and other crooks all day, Virgil returns home to his wife “Valeri” (Barbara McNair) and his two children, only to be firmly chided for being late for dinner and spending too much time on the job.

Martin Landau and Sidney Poitier in THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!

Poitier participated in an advanced police detective procedures course in preparation for the sequel. His deal for the film reportedly entailed a large profit participation. The script by Alan R. Trustman and James R. Webb changed the background of Poitier’s character from what it had originally been. In IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, Virgil Tibbs was an unmarried detective from Philadelphia, but in this sequel, he is now a Lieutenant in San Francisco with a wife and two kids.

Gordon Douglas directed the Mirisch Company film, which was shot in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Douglas allowed Sidney Poitier to direct the final scene in which he did not appear. Although garnering lukewarm reviews, the July 1970 release still had decent grosses of $7.1 million in the U.S. Quincy Jones re-recorded his score for a United Artists LP. Rykodisc re-issued the LP on CD in 1997, with a few dialogue excerpts and the Quincy Jones score for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. The original soundtracks have not had a release.

 Posted:   Dec 7, 2023 - 11:39 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In BROTHER JOHN, “John Kane” (Sidney Poitier) is a mysterious, laconic man who returns to his small home town in Mississippi to attend his sister's funeral. It seems he only returns when there is a death in the family. And the only person who takes notice is his old doctor, “Dr. Thomas” (Will Geer). Dr. Thomas has a sense, though, that John is more than he appears. He feels there is something magical about John and that he may be a prophet, a priest, or an angel. John is somewhat amused by the whole thing, but he stays pretty much to himself. That is until he is approached by a young school teacher (Beverly Todd) – who went to high school with him – who finds herself attracted to his stately presence.

Sidney Poitier and Beverly Todd in BROTHER JOHN

With his new-found star status, Sidney Poitier had set up his own production company—E&R Productions. BROTHER JOHN marked the company's first production and the first of a three-picture deal E&R had with Columbia. Although a December 1969 Variety news item credited Poitier with the original story for the film, he is not credited onscreen or in reviews. James Goldstone directed the 1971 film.

Producer Joel Glickman noted that at the time, BROTHER JOHN was said to have the most multi-racial crew of any major Hollywood feature ever made, and that a third of the crew was comprised of minorities. Glickman noted that pressure from the Justice Department to speed equal opportunities for minorities in the film industry spurred the unions to circumvent seniority policies that prevented minorities from being hired. Under a Ford Foundation Grant, the American Film Institute put up $100 of the $250 weekly cost for paying and housing the film's five minority interns.

Location filming was done in and around Marysville, CA. The film marked the introduction of Synctrol, a new wireless camera control and sound system invented by Hal Landaker of the Columbia sound department. The new system required only a two-man crew, thus streamlining the production operation, cutting time and costs.

Critics generally reacted unfavorably to Poitier playing a Christ-like figure, with the Newsday reviewer noting that, after the film was screened, someone summed up the audience's feeling by saying " was only a matter of time before Sidney Poitier played Christ." The film was Poitier’s lowest-grossing film in a decade, taking in just $2.4 million at the U.S. box office. Quincy Jones’ score has not had a release.

 Posted:   Dec 8, 2023 - 10:51 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Sidney Poitier’s second sequel to IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT was 1971’s THE ORGANIZATION, which followed 1970’s THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!. THE ORGANIZATION is set in San Francisco, where “Police Lieutenant Virgil Tibbs” (Poitier) helps a group of idealistic vigilantes expose a drug ring controlled by powerful businessmen. Barbara McNair and Wanda and George Spell, who respectively played Tibbs's wife and children in THE ORGANIZATION, had played the same roles in THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!. Maxwell Gail, Jr., more commonly known as Max Gail, made his feature film debut in the picture.

Sidney Poitier and Raul Julia in THE ORGANIZATION

Don Medford directed the film, his last. Gil Mellé’s score was released by Intrada in 2010. Although producer Walter Mirisch asserted in a June 1971 Los Angeles Times interview that he planned to shoot a fourth installment in the series, Poitier stated in the same article that he had little interest in revisiting the character again. This film ended the series.

As noted onscreen, THE ORGANIZATION was shot on location in San Francisco, and the nearby location of Sausalito. Some scenes were shot in the then-unfinished Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system. While reviews were generally favorable, some critics cited the recently released THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) as a grittier version of a similar story. The film had decent grosses of $8.2 million domestically.

 Posted:   Dec 9, 2023 - 12:12 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

BUCK AND THE PREACHER marked the first film collaboration of longtime friends Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, and the western was co-produced by Poitier’s E&R Production Corp. and Belafonte Enterprises, Inc. After the opening credits, a written statement describes the plight of freed slaves attempting to start new lives after the Civil War and dedicates the film to “those men, women and children who lie in graves as unmarked as their place in history.”

In the film, former Union soldier “Buck” (Poitier) is a wagon master leading former slaves west through late-1860s Kansas Territory. However, Louisiana plantation owners, missing all that cheap labor, have dispatched “Deshay” (Cameron Mitchell) and other bounty hunters to terrorize these all-black wagon trains, burning wagons and supplies, and killing many of the men, women, and even children, to get them to give up and turn back. Deshay is particularly anxious to track down Buck, who with help from his wife “Ruth” (Ruby Dee), manages to escape into the wilderness where he encounters "Preacher" (Belafonte), a wily con man masquerading as an evangelist. Buck steals his horse, and later Preacher considers selling Buck out to Deshay, but eventually they team up to help Buck's latest stranded wagon train.


The picture began production with Joseph Sargent as the director, but after a few days, Sargent was replaced by Poitier, who made his directorial debut with BUCK AND THE PREACHER. Poitier also worked with writer Ernest Kinoy on revising and polishing the screenplay before production began.

While news items reported that the change of directors was made due to “differences between the director and stars,” actor Cameron Mitchell was quoted as saying that Sargent “was shooting the picture like a TV show.” Co-producer Harry Belafonte added, “We might as well face it. We needed a black man for a sensitive job about black people.” Poitier related that he took over direction of the film at the urging of Belafonte because they both felt that Sargent was not emphasizing “certain values dear to [them]." Reportedly, Sargent was amenable to being replaced, because he felt that Poitier “had breathed and lived with it [the film] since its conception….It’s his film. It’s as simple as that, and there was nothing racial about it whatever.”

Filmed in Durango Mexico, the production, which recruited black extras from El Paso, TX because “Negroes who lived in Mexico….just didn’t look black,” faced charges of discrimination by Mexican actors and crew members, who complained that they were underrepresented and underpaid. The producers responded that they were paying scale wages, and that in addition to the Mexican crew, six “minority trainees,” including story writer Drake Walker, who worked as an apprentice director, were part of the crew. In mid-February 1971, the black Mexican actors filed a grievance with a Mexican actors’ guild against the production, claiming that they were denied jobs. Columbia Pictures responded that “U.S. Negro war veterans living in and around Guadalajara” had been hired instead of Mexican actors because they spoke English more fluently.

Actress Julie Robinson, who portrays the Indian “Sinsie” in the film, was married to Belafonte. She learned the Mescalero Apache language that she speaks in the picture through research at the American Indian Museum in New York. Poitier noted that while shooting THE ORGANIZATION, he was preoccupied with editing chores on BUCK AND THE PREACHER. Editing difficulties may have contributed to the fact that, even though it was shot first, BUCK AND THE PREACHER didn’t premiere until six months after THE ORGANIZATION.

Several reviewers compared the film to the 1969 hit Western BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Other critics commented positively on Poitier’s direction and the unusual presentation of African-American settlers and their interactions with American Indians.

The $2 million production grossed a healthy $9.4 million at the domestic box office. Although an August 1971 Look magazine article stated that Poitier and Belafonte hoped the film would “be successful enough to repeat,” a sequel to BUCK AND THE PREACHER was not produced. Poitier and Belafonte next worked together on the 1974 comedy UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT, which was directed by Poitier. Benny Carter’s score for BUCK AND THE PREACHER has not had a release.

 Posted:   Dec 9, 2023 - 6:31 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Actress Julie Robinson, who portrays the Indian “Sinsie” in the film, was married to Belafonte. She learned the Mescalero Apache language that she speaks in the picture through research at the American Indian Museum in New York.

She's tough and impressive in a bilingual role. Also had a bit in Lust for Life as "Rachel," Van Gogh's raven-haired companion in a bar scene. Pity she didn't do more acting. She concentrated on civil rights work and was later divorced from Belafonte. Their two children, David and Gina Belafonte, seem to have done some acting. Robinson (b. 1928) may still be with us.

 Posted:   Dec 9, 2023 - 11:10 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

First Artists Production Company was founded in 1969 by Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, and Sidney Poitier. Steve McQueen joined the company in 1971, followed by Dustin Hoffman in 1972. Inspired by the formation of United Artists, the company was designed to give movie stars more creative control over their productions, in exchange for being paid lower salaries and a share of the profits. Each star promised to make three productions for the company, which would also be involved in television production, music publishing, and recording. The distributor of the films would be National General Pictures, which would put up two-thirds of the money for a film, with First Artists putting up the rest.

Sidney Poitier’s first film for the company was 1973’s A WARM DECEMBER. In this romance, African-American doctor “Matt Younger” (Poitier) falls in love with the niece (Esther Anderson) of an African ambassador (Earl Cameron) during his vacation in London, but it turns out that she is suffering from a rare terminal illness.

Sidney Poitier and Esther Anderson in A WARM DECEMBER

In addition to starring, Sidney Poitier also directed the film, which was shot on location in London and at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, England. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson provided the unreleased score. The film had below-average domestic grosses of $4.9 million.

 Posted:   Dec 9, 2023 - 11:57 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

By the time that Sidney Poitier made his second film for First Artists, the 1974 comedy UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT, distributor National General Pictures was in liquidation. Warner Bros. took over the distribution of First Artists films.

UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT follows “Steve Jackson” (Poitier) and “Wardell Franklin” (Bill Cosby), who are in attendance at Madame Zenobia's illegal nightclub. Despite Steve’s plea for caution, Wardell borrows some money from him and enthusiastically joins a crap game where attractive fellow gambler, “Leggy Peggy” (Paula Kelly), encourages him. At the height of Wardell’s winning streak, the crowd is shocked when four men dressed in black burst in with machine guns and hold up the customers. The next day after church, Steve is stunned to read in the newspaper that a lottery ticket he holds has won $50,000, but then realizes that the ticket is in his stolen wallet. So, Steve and Wardell set out to recover the ticket, eventually seeking help from gangster “Geechie Dan Beauford” (Harry Belafonte). Richard Pryor played private detective “Sharp Eye Washington” in the film.

Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier in UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT

In addition to starring in the film, which was shot at MGM and Paramount studios, Sidney Poitier also directed. The film marked Flip Wilson’s first feature film appearance.

In an American Film Institute interview, Poitier commented on the experience of directing Richard Pryor: "Richard Pryor is so funny... You play a scene with Richard, and it's dynamite, and you say, 'Terrific! Now I want close-ups and another angle.' He does a different scene! Then you say, 'No, no, no Richard, it's the OTHER way,' and you won't get it. So... next time I work with Richard I'm gonna put multiple cameras on him!"

Tom Scott’s score for the film has not had a release. The $3 million production was a hit at the U.S. box office, grossing, $22.4 million.

 Posted:   Dec 10, 2023 - 1:22 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In THE WILBY CONSPIRACY, Sidney Poitier plays “Shack Twala,” an innocent black man who has just been released after serving ten years in a South African prison. Michael Caine is “Jim Keogh,” a British mining engineer. The two are forced to run from South African Secret Police, after they attack a policeman in defense of Shack’s attorney, “Rina Van Niekirk” (Prunella Gee). Rutger Hauer is Rina’s soon to be ex-husband “Blane.”

The film was shot in Kenya, because South Africa was too politically unstable to shoot the movie there. Reportedly, Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta personally invited Sidney Poitier to shoot the film in Kenya. Poitier had previously worked there on SOMETHING OF VALUE (1957) with Rock Hudson, and Poitier was extremely popular in the country.

Rutger Hauer, Michael Caine, Prunella Gee, and Sidney Poitier in THE WILBY CONSPIRACY

Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine were almost seriously injured during principal photography of a chase scene, when a fifty-pound camera flew in between them, into the front seat of a Jeep, that Poitier was driving fast. Caine later commented: "It went like a massive bullet, and if it had hit either of us, our head would have been crushed to pulp. Sidney and I took several days to get over the shock of our near deaths, and this incident brought us both down to Earth, with rather more than a bump."

Actress Persis Khambatta (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE), who played “Dr. Persis Ray” in the film, was crowned Miss India in 1965. She starred in various movies in India before moving to London, to become a model. THE WILBY CONSPIRACY was her first non-Indian film. In the early 1980s, Khambatta was seriously injured in a car crash in Germany and had to have heart bypass surgery. She died of a heart attack on August 18, 1998 at age 49.

Ralph Nelson directed this 1975 action-adventure film, his third picture with Poitier after LILIES OF THE FIELD and DUEL AT DIABLO. Nelson was quoted as saying that this movie is "A film about man's humanity to man, which, in the course of entertaining, may also make people think." Rod Amateau shot the action sequences for the film. Stanley Myers’ score has not had a release. The film grossed a below-average $3 million in the U.S.

 Posted:   Dec 11, 2023 - 12:10 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Contrary to widespread belief, LET’S DO IT AGAIN is not a sequel to UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT (1974). Although actors Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby star in both movies, they play different characters. The film was Poitier’s third for the First Artists Production Company.

In the film, Shaka Lodge treasurer “Billy Foster” (Bill Cosby) and his buddy “Clyde Williams” (Sidney Poitier) hatch a foolproof scheme to fill the Lodge’s nearly empty coffers by betting on long shot fighter “Bootney Farnsworth” (Jimmie Walker). Using hypnotic suggestion, they turn the unlikely Bootney into a champion.

Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby in LET’S DO IT AGAIN

Actress Denise Nicholas was originally tested for the part of Clyde’s wife “Dee Dee Williams.” Nicholas had just finished co-starring in the ABC television series “Room 222.” Wanting to break away from her good girl image, Nicholas convinced director Sidney Portier to let her read for the more salty-tongued “Beth Foster,” Billy’s wife. She had been treated for a slipped disc two weeks prior to shooting and, against her physician’s orders, performed while in severe pain.

Screenwriter Richard Wesley recalled that the film was important to Poitier's image. The picture allowed Poitier to soften his now "distant" image and answer criticism from black militants and the younger generation. Working with younger actors, like Jimmie Walker, was an important factor in widening Poitier's audience. Jimmie Walker's character welcomed Poitier to "new black humor." Wesley noted that Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier were not the original lead actors he had in mind when writing the script. Instead, he thought of casting Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. This did not come to fruition, as Warners Bros. wanted actors more known to mainstream America.

LET’S DO IT AGAIN began principal photography in New Orleans on the 3-4 May 1975 weekend. New Orleans locations included the French Quarter and the river steamboat, Cotton Blossom. Atlanta’s Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was the location for the “Sons and Daughters of Shaka” lodge.

The title song for the 1975 film was a number-one hit on both the R&B and Pop charts. Curtis Mayfield wrote the music, and the Staple Singers performed the songs, which were released on a Curtom Records LP. The LP was first released on CD by Charly Records in the UK in 2001, followed by a 2002 U.S. CD on Spy Records. LET’S DO IT AGAIN was an even bigger hit than UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT, grossing $35.8 million domestically, as the #15 film of the year.

American rapper Christopher George Latore Wallace, (1972 –1997), took his stage name “Biggie Smalls” from the gangster character played by Calvin Lockhart in LET’S DO IT AGAIN. However, because the name was the property of the copyright holder of the film, Wallace had to change his moniker, and became “The Notorious B.I.G.”

 Posted:   Dec 12, 2023 - 8:47 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In the 1977 Sidney Poitier comedy A PIECE OF THE ACTION, “Dave Anderson” (Bill Cosby) and “Manny Durrell” (Poitier) are two high-class sneak thieves who have never been caught. “Joshua Burke” (James Earl Jones) is a retired detective who has enough evidence on both of them to put them behind bars. Instead, he offers to maintain his silence if the crooks will go straight and do work at a youth center for delinquents.

Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier in A PIECE OF THE ACTION

Poitier directed the film, his third of four pictures with Cosby, and his fourth film for First Artists. Although it was reported that Poitier was writing the script with screenwriter Charles Blackwell, Poitier does not receive an onscreen writing credit. Poitier’s older brother Cyril and his daughter Sherri had bit parts in the film.

Curtis Mayfield scored the picture and wrote a number of songs, which were performed by Mavis Staples. Curtom Records released the soundtrack LP, which was re-issued on CD by Charly Records in the UK in 2006. The film received mixed reviews and did only moderate business at the U.S. box office, grossing $14.6 million.

 Posted:   Dec 13, 2023 - 10:35 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Gene Wilder’s second outing with frequent co-star Richard Pryor was in the 1980 prison comedy STIR CRAZY. Wilder plays “Skip Donahue,” a playwright and part time store detective. Pryor plays his friend, “Harry Monroe,” a waiter and out-of-work actor. Meeting at a New York City bar, the pair discovers that they both have been fired from their jobs. The men drive out west in a rundown van that soon develops engine trouble. When a gas station charges them $150 for repairs, they find temporary jobs, entertaining bank customers with a song and dance routine, dressed in woodpecker suits. Later, two bank robbers steal the woodpecker suits, rob the bank, and get away in Skip and Harry’s van while they eat lunch. Set up and wrongfully accused, the two best friends are sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit. However, no prison cell can keep them locked in a cage.

Despite having a script by Bruce Jay Friedman, Pryor and Wilder ended up improvising many of their scenes together. Sidney Poitier directed the film, his first directorial effort in which he did not also star. Poitier was determined to film at a real "working" prison. Usually, such scenes were shot in abandoned jails, but this picture was shot at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence.

Sidney Poitier clowns around with Richard Pryor on the set of STIR CRAZY

"Their initiation to prison life is funny because it's also so scary", said Poitier, who returned to movie-making with this movie after a two-year hiatus to write his autobiography. Poitier added: "It's a fulfillment of a fear virtually every law-abiding citizen has experienced. What if through no fault of your own, you are suddenly thrown in the can, surrounded by muggers, murderers, the dregs of society? How do you cope?"

In an interview, Wilder agreed: "It's a very funny concept. But what makes it work is a hard edge of reality, a sense of the frustration and the potential for violence, which exists in prison. It sets off the craziness Richard and I indulge in. The credit for that goes to Sidney Poitier who knows actors . . . loves actors . . . and cast the characters in this film as ingeniously as any director I've ever worked with."

Tom Scott’s score and various songs appeared on a Posse Records soundtrack LP, which has never been reissued on CD. Gene Wilder sang one of the songs, “Crazy,” composed by Michael Masser and Randy Goodrum.

The $10 million picture was the #3 film at the domestic box office, taking in about $100 million and making it the most successful of the four Wilder-Pryor films.

 Posted:   Dec 14, 2023 - 12:20 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Sidney Poitier also directed Gene Wilder’s next film, the 1982 comedy adventure HANKY PANKY. Wilder plays “Michael Jordon,” a Chicago architect visiting New York. Gilda Radner plays “Kate Hellman,” who breaks into Michael’s room, looking for a friend. The two are drawn into a web of government secrets when a girl carrying a mysterious package gets into a taxi with Michael. When she's later murdered, Michael becomes the chief suspect and goes on the run.

Sidney Poitier and Gene Wilder on the set of HANKY PANKY

Poitier, a stickler for realism, said of this movie's shooting: "We had to film on location. There is only one New York and one Boston. Each city has a character of its own which was essential to the film. You just can't fake it."

This was the final feature film collaboration of long-time friends Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark. Widmark plays the heavy “Ransom” in the film. Of their quartet of films, this was the only one where Poitier directed Widmark, the pair having co-starred in the first three films: NO WAY OUT (1950), THE LONG SHIPS (1964), and THE BEDFORD INCIDENT (1965).

Sources differ as to whether Richard Pryor was ever attached to the film, which started life under the working title “Traces.” Daily Variety reported that Gilda Radner had declined offers to make films with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in order to star in HANKY PANKY. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) initially rated the film [R] because of foul language, but changed the rating to [PG], following Columbia’s appeal to the Classification & Rating Appeals Board.

The $14 million production was a flop at the U.S. box office, grossing just $10 million. Wilder said it was one of the worst movies that he had ever starred in. But it was the film where he met Gilda Radner, whom he would later marry. Tom Scott’s score for the film has not had a release.

 Posted:   Dec 14, 2023 - 4:13 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In FAST FORWARD, "The Adventurous Eight," a group of singing and dancing teenagers from Sandusky, Ohio, crave stardom so badly that they spend their spare time rehearsing original songs and dance routines every day after school. Ultimately, they are able to come to New York to compete in a national talent competition.

The 1985 film was directed by Sidney Poitier. Reportedly, the film was based on an original story idea by Poitier with a screenplay written by Richard Wesley, although only Timothy March receives on-screen credit for the story. This was the third collaboration between Poitier and Wesley.

Sidney Poitier’s production company, Verdon-Cedric Productions, Inc., had a contract with Columbia Pictures, which gave them first look and exclusive rights to Poitier produced and directed projects for a period of four years.

Sidney Poitier on the set of FAST FORWARD

Poitier scoured the USA for four months in search of young, formally trained dancers. From the thousands of applicants demonstrating exceptional competence in ballet, jazz, modern, and contemporary technique, Poitier chose eight talented and versatile leading cast members. He said: "I looked at almost 3,000 dancers and after I found a handful, I had to select eight who could not only dance exquisitely but act as well. You won't find better dancing because these kids are among the very best dancers in America."

Poitier saw this film as one that is 'as much about self-sufficiency as it is about dance. It is a movie about young people who have taken hold of their lives and taken responsibility. They go out using the pleasure principle of dancing but they use it to mold their destination, to captain their own ship."

Choreographer Rick Atwell developed the film's seven spectacular dance sequences. He said that Poitier “knew exactly what he wanted, so we agreed at the outset that this was not to be a film about break dancing, but a broad amalgam of the beauty of dance. I worked to create a potpourri of dance, including my own style of movement, some ballet, some jazz, and other world-recognized techniques as well as smatterings of the hot contemporary street dance."

The film received mixed reviews and grossed an underwhelming $2.8 million at the U.S. box office. None of Tom Scott’s score appeared on the Qwest Records song-track LP released for the film. The LP has not been re-issued on CD.

 Posted:   Dec 15, 2023 - 11:44 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Sidney Poitier made his first on-screen acting appearance since 1977 in the 1988 action adventure SHOOT TO KILL. The film finds F.B.I. agent “Warren Stantin” (Poitier) teaming up with tracker “Jonathan Knox” (Tom Berenger) to pursue a murderer after he vanishes into the mountains and infiltrates a hiking party of five sportsmen (played by Clancy Brown, Richard Masur, Andrew Robinson, Frederick Coffin, and Kevin Scannell) who have come to the area for a fishing trip and are being led through the rugged wilderness by a local guide named “Sarah” (Kirstie Alley). Knox also happens to be Sarah’s boyfriend.

Tom Berenger and Sidney Poitier in SHOOT TO KILL

Roger Spottiswoode directed the film, which was shot in Seattle, WA, and British Columbia, Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were contacted and asked for cooperation during filming. However, the RCMP declined based on the script’s portrayal of “illegal activities” and representation of the RCMP “as bungling idiots.” In response, a script change removed the RCMP name, and replaced it with a made-up organization called the British Columbia Provincial Police.

The $15 million production did moderately well at the U.S. box office, grossing $29.3 million. John Scott’s score was released by Intrada in 2011.

 Posted:   Dec 16, 2023 - 2:42 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Producer Harry Gittes spent four years developing the 1988 thriller LITTLE NIKITA. Former Columbia Pictures chairman David Puttnam was credited with suggesting actor Sidney Poitier as a casting choice. Poitier ended a nine-year hiatus from feature films by joining the cast. Poitier had read more than 200 scripts over a ten-year period, none of which held his interest prior to LITTLE NIKITA. Said Poitier: “When I got this script of LITTLE NIKITA, I said, 'Okay, I'll read it.' At about page fifteen, I was interested. That was unusual for me. I was apprehensive that at page forty I would lose interest. But instead, it was still there. Well, I got to page eighty and I was just flying. I really got revved up. I told them I liked it, and that's the way it went." Although LITTLE NIKITA was filmed before SHOOT TO KILL, the latter opened in theaters a month before LITTLE NIKITA

In the film, Poitier plays a San Diego FBI agent, “Roy Parmenter,” tracking a Russian double agent codenamed "Scuba" (Richard Lynch) who was responsible for killing Roy's partner twenty years ago. It seems Scuba has come out of hiding to eliminate ten "sleepers" (Russian spies who've been living in America for many years under aliases) to blackmail his mother country into paying him $200,000. Two of these spies are husband and wife “Richard and Elizabeth Grant” (Richard Jenkins and Caroline Kava) who operate a successful tree-nursery business and have a son, “Jeff” (River Pheonix), who's unaware of his parents' true identities.

Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix in LITTLE NIKITA

"For Roy Parmenter, we needed someone with tremendous emotional power, with a solid center, somebody who knows who he is, and someone who projects this authority and warmth at the same time", said director Richard Benjamin about the decision to cast Poitier in the role of the FBI Agent, and added, "Sidney has the authority of a real movie star.”

Poitier said: "We don't know things about [Roy Parmenter]. We wonder about him. That's how I play him, as a man who protects himself in ways that would keep private, those parts of him that we wonder about. My character is forced to re-examine himself. What he does in this movie is face certain realities, and he has to make decisions that are contrary to what would ordinarily be expected of him under normal circumstances. The conflict he becomes involved with is a microcosm of the conflict between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies. Not only is the life of a boy and his family involved, as in the movie, but it's the lives of the whole human species. It is a relationship picture about love and commitment. It is a picture about family. The least of it is the spy stuff."

Benjamin said it was exciting to have the dynamic energy between veteran Sidney Poitier and then young rising star River Phoenix, the latter of whom Benjamin praised: "He is a young actor who stayed right up with Poitier all the way. They have great chemistry. River has wonderful instincts. He is not only a superb actor, but he is real. He cannot fake, that's not in River, only the truth is in him, and it's wonderful to see. He has one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood." Poitier added: "I feel River Phoenix is one of our finest young actors and destined to leave an indelible imprint on American films." Reportedly, however, River Phoenix thought Richard Benjamin treated him like a child.

Principal photography began on 29 December 1986 in San Diego and Los Angeles, CA. Director Benjamin exceeded the fifty-nine-day schedule by two days. Benjamin needed footage of the ballet Sleeping Beauty, and approached the American Ballet Theater, which was, coincidentally, performing the ballet in San Diego at the time of production. The four-minute sequence was filmed at the Spreckels Theatre and the San Diego Performing Arts Center.

When Columbia Pictures chief David Puttnam first watched this movie, he told Richard Benjamin that it was one of the worst movies he had ever seen, according to editor Jim Clark, who was drafted in to see if he could rescue it.

When the $15 million picture finally opened, it was to mixed reviews and a disastrous box office performance of just $1.7 million domestically. Marvin Hamlisch’s score has not had a release.

 Posted:   Dec 18, 2023 - 1:38 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Needing a project during the hiatus between seasons of his popular NBC Television program, “The Bill Cosby Show,” Cosby became interested in a script that had been languishing at Universal Studios. Titled “Thursday,” screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson had written it as a project for Steve Martin. Steven Spielberg was ready to produce it on a $30 million budget, and Phil Joanou was hired to direct, but Universal cancelled the project at the last moment, in July 1987.

The 30 November 1987 Newsday announced that producer Rob Cohen had taken over and hired director John Badham. Steve Martin returned to the project, and principal photography was scheduled to begin March 1988. However, the film failed to go into production. The following year, new screenwriters “Cosbyized” the script to make it more family friendly, and Sidney Poitier, who had worked with Cosby on three previous films, was brought in to direct.

In the film, re-titled GHOST DAD, a workaholic trying to put together a critical business deal, “Elliot Hopper” (Bill Cosby), has neglected his three kids in the process, hoping his efforts at the office will finally provide a solid future for the family after the tragic death of his wife. On his way to a meeting, Elliot steps into a taxi driven by a Satan-worshiping lunatic, who eventually plunges the vehicle into a river. Emerging from the drink as a bewildered spirit, Elliot learns he only has a few days to set things right before he’s whisked away to the afterlife, forcing him to hash out a plan to continue existing as a ghost to achieve the family security he was working for.

Sidney Poitier lining up a shot for GHOST DAD

The film was completed after sixty-seven shooting days. Universal Studios originally hoped to release GHOST DAD in time for Christmas 1989, but the film did not go into general release until 29 June 1990. The original screenwriter, Phil Alden Robinson, was not listed in credits.

Producer Stan Robertson blamed newspaper critics for the $30 million production’s disappointing domestic gross of $25 million. GHOST DAD was the final film directed by Sidney Poitier. Henry Mancini’s score for the film has not had a release.

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