Sidney Poitier Fast FactsCNN LibraryUpdated 10:05 PM ET, Wed February 11, 2015Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Fifty years ago Sunday, Sidney Poitier became the first black performer to win an Academy Award for best actor. Poitier, who won the Oscar for his performance in "Lilies of the Field," was one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1960s, and he remains a Hollywood legend at age 87. Here's a look back at his film career.Hide Caption 1 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier, who was born in Miami and raised in the Bahamas, first earned note for his performance in the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle." He played Gregory Miller, an inner-city tough who harasses a teacher -- played by Glenn Ford, right -- but is far from the worst of the students. The film is also notable for popularizing the song "Rock Around the Clock."Hide Caption 2 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier was paired with Hollywood A-lister Tony Curtis in 1958's "The Defiant Ones." It's a story of two escaped prisoners, a black man and a white man, who are chained together and have to learn to respect and work with each other. Poitier was nominated for an Oscar, becoming the first black man to earn a best actor nod. The film was directed by Stanley Kramer, who was known for his message movies.Hide Caption 3 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Otto Preminger helmed the 1959 movie version of "Porgy and Bess," the famed folk opera about the residents of Charleston, South Carolina's, fictional Catfish Row. Poitier played the disabled Porgy, who tries to free Bess from her abusive lover, Crown. The film's all-black cast and challenging subject matter -- a drug dealer, Sportin' Life, has a major role -- didn't appeal to audiences despite such classic songs as "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So," and the film received mixed reviews.Hide Caption 4 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – The Lorraine Hansberry play "A Raisin in the Sun" was turned into a 1961 movie with Poitier as Walter Younger, who's trying to raise a family on Chicago's South Side. When the family receives a financial windfall, Walter faces some difficult decisions. Louis Gossett Jr. made his film debut in the movie.Hide Caption 5 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – In the 1963 film "Lilies of the Field," Poitier -- seen here with Lilia Skala -- plays a workman who helps a group of East German nuns construct a chapel in the Arizona desert. Poitier's performance earned him an Oscar, a first for a black actor. Since then, three other black performers have won best actor: Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker.Hide Caption 6 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – In 1965's "A Patch of Blue," Elizabeth Hartman plays a blind woman who develops a romance with Poitier's character, an office worker. The interracial romance was tough stuff for the time, and a scene of Hartman and Poitier kissing was cut from the film's showings in the South. Hide Caption 7 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier's 1967 was one of the most dominant years ever enjoyed by an actor, with three successful and notable films. One of them, "To Sir, with Love," turned "Blackboard Jungle" on its head, this time with Poitier as a teacher of misfits in working-class England. The movie's theme, sung by Lulu, was the No. 1 song of 1967.Hide Caption 8 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – "In the Heat of the Night" paired Poitier, as Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs, with a Southern sheriff played by Rod Steiger. The two solve a murder in the Deep South. The 1967 film won best picture of the year. Poitier's Tibbs character appeared in two sequels: "They Call Me MISTER Tibbs" (1970), which references Poitier's most famous line in the original, and "The Organization" (1971).Hide Caption 9 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier plays an idealistic -- and idealized -- doctor in 1967's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." His character is planning to marry the daughter of upstanding San Franciscans played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn -- if they approve of the union. The film was another huge hit.Hide Caption 10 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier's first film as a director was the 1972 Western "Buck and the Preacher," in which he co-stars with Harry Belafonte. The two men protect a wagon train of recently freed slaves in 1860s America.Hide Caption 11 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Bill Cosby and Poitier teamed up in three successful 1970s films, the first of which was 1974's "Uptown Saturday Night." The two try to track down Poitier's character's stolen wallet, which contains a winning lottery ticket. Cosby and Poitler also starred in "Let's Do It Again" (1975) and "A Piece of the Action" (1977). All three films were directed by Poitier.Hide Caption 12 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier's most successful film as a director was 1980's "Stir Crazy," a box-office smash starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder as two men who get thrown in prison for a crime they didn't commit. The comedy made more than $100 million and was the third-highest-grossing film of the year.Hide Caption 13 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier has rarely acted in the last three decades. One of the few films he made was "Sneakers" (1992), in which he and Robert Redford co-star as members of a security firm. The cast also includes Dan Aykroyd, David Straithairn and River Phoenix. Hide Caption 14 of 15Sidney Poitier's prominent roles 15 photosSidney Poitier's prominent roles – Poitier played Nelson Mandela in the 1997 TV movie "Mandela and de Klerk," which is about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the rise of Mandela, who was released from prison by F.W. de Klerk and later succeeds him as president. Michael Caine played de Klerk. Hide Caption 15 of 15 (CNN)Here is a look at the life of Sidney Poitier, award winning actor, and civil rights and anti-apartheid activist.Personal:Birth date: February 20, 1927Birth place: Miami, FloridaBirth name: Sidney PoitierFather: Reginald Poitier, tomato farmerMother: Evelyn (Outten) PoitierMarriages: Joanna Shimkus (January 23, 1976-present); Juanita Marie Hardy (April 29, 1950-July 9, 1965, divorced)Children: with Joanna Shimkus: Sydney Poitier, November 1973; Anika Poitier, February 1972; with Juanita Marie Hardy: Gina Poitier, May 1961; Sherri Poitier, July 1956; Pamela Poitier, April 1954; Beverly Poitier, July 1952Other Facts:Nominated for two Academy Awards. Winner of one competitive and one honorary award.Nominated for and winner of one Grammy Award.Nominated for two Emmy Awards.Grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas. The family later moved to Nassau. His parents sent him to live with relatives in Miami at 14. After an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan, he left Miami at 16 and moved to New York.Lying about his age, he joined the Army at 16. He feigned insanity to obtain a discharge after nine months, and later admitted the ruse in his autobiography, "Measure of a Man."A heavy Bahamian accent and limited reading ability cost him an acting job at Harlem's American Negro Theater. He overcame the accent by imitating radio announcers and improved his reading skills by studying newspapers.Has dual citizenship in the United States and the Bahamas.Timeline:1946 - First audition after losing his accent earns him the role of understudy to Harry Belafonte in "Days of Our Youth."1950 - Film debut in "No Way Out," a study of violent racial prejudice.1959 - First African-American to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor - "The Defiant Ones" (1958).August 28, 1963 - One of many Hollywood celebrities in attendance at the March on Washington.1964 - Wins Academy Award for Best Actor for "Lilies of the Field" (1963). He is the first African-American to win for Best Actor and only the second to ever win an Academy Award. Hattie McDaniel was the first; she won Best Supporting Actress for "Gone with the Wind" (1939).1967 - Stars in three of the highest-grossing films of the year, "In the Heat of the Night," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "To Sir, with Love."August 14, 1967 - Keynote speaker at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta.1980 - Publishes his autobiography, "This Life."1983 - Nineteen-year-old David Hampton pretends to be "the son of Sidney Poitier" and convinces wealthy New Yorkers to provide him with food, clothing, money and a place to stay. Hampton is charged with grand larceny when his lies are discovered. "Six Degrees of Separation," a stage play in 1990 and a movie in 1993, is based on the story.1992 - Receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.1995 - Receives Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.April 16, 1997 - Appointed Bahamian ambassador to Japan.2000 - Publishes second autobiography, "Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography."2000 - Wins the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for "The Measure Of A Man."2002 - Receives an honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."2006 - Receives the Marian Anderson Award in recognition of his humanitarian and diplomatic work and the Cunard Britannia Award for Lifetime Contribution to International film from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).2008 - Releases new book "Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter."July 30, 2009 - Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.May 7, 2013 - His sci-fi book, "Montaro Caine," is released. 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