Entertainment

Sidney Poitier: TCM Greatest Classic Legends

by Ed Tapper
Contributor
Tuesday Mar 19, 2013
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One of the most beloved actors of the 20th century, Sidney Poitier became the first African-American screen star to assume major, leading roles. His sensitive performances ennobled the African-American experience, and brought into sharp focus the many injustices of racial prejudice. He undertook a widely diverse group of roles, from the delinquent student in "Blackboard Jungle," to the dedicated schoolteacher in "To Sir With Love." His many memorable films have been well represented on home video. Among its new releases, TCM is paying homage to Poitier with a new compilation entitled "TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Sidney Poitier."

The set essentially replicates a 4-DVD Poitier Collection released in 2009; but instead of "Warm December," the new compilation includes the 1955 "Blackboard Jungle." This expose on inner-city juvenile delinquency catapulted Poitier to stardom. And he is wonderful in it, as is Glenn Ford, as an idealistic, rookie teacher. Among the other tough kids were future TV stars Vic Morrow and Jamie Farr.

The little known film "Something of Value" is a true oddity. The film is set in Kenya, where a native African resistance organization has formed to drive out the British ruling class. Miscast Rock Hudson and Poitier were raised as brothers, but as racial tensions mount, find themselves enemies. Despite a fine supporting cast including Wendy Hiller as Rock’s mother, the film is stilted, uneven, and often morbidly violent.

Regardless of the film, the great Poitier is incapable of turning in a bad performance.

The best film of the lot is the 1957 "Edge of the City." Here Poitier is teamed with John Cassavetes. As longshoremen who become intimate friends, the two must suffer the brutality and bigotry of co-worker Jack Warden, in a knockout performance. Fine support from Ruby Dee and direction from Martin Ritt make this gritty, noirish flick an all-out winner.

One of Sidney’s popular favorites, "A Patch of Blue," fills out the bill. He is sympathetic as a do-gooder who befriends a naïve blind girl. Their interracial friendship raises eyebrows and vexes the girl’s blousy, abusive mother, played by Shelley Winters in an Oscar-winning performance.

The films are all presented in more than acceptable quality and are sparsely supplemented with various extras. Regardless of the film, the great Poitier is incapable of turning in a bad performance. So, if the offerings on TCM’s new compilation sound appealing, don’t hesitate to make the investment.

TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Sidney Poitier
DVD
$27.92
www.warnervideo.com

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