Smooth List – Sidney Poitier

In the month of December, I’ve decided to give myself a gift and resume my “Smooth Men” List. For those of you who weren’t here the first time around, this is a list of men who have come into my life in one way or another who define what it means to be “smooth.” For me, it’s more than just sexy, good looking. Smooth is the deepest sense of self, a man who’s smooth is the epitome of class, elegance, charm, personality, and yes, handsomeness. He embodies what it means to be a “real man”, a man who never stops reaching for his dreams whatever they may be, who strives for excellence in everything he does and demands it from those around him.

As such, it was only fitting that my first addition to the list after its long hiatus is one Mr. Sidney Poitier.

sidneypoitier

This man of great note is an astonishing example of what it means to persevere, to fight and win. He’s from an elite tier of actors who’ve managed to shape the very fabric of cinema, giving it scope and depth, making it more than just a means to entertain, but a true art.

Though his entire catalogue of work is admirable, it was his work in film To Sir, With Love that first got my attention. Imagine me, all of seven years old or so, and seeing this silky man with his gorgeous accent walk into a classroom full of White students and command every second of the screen. I was forever moved, incapable of seeing any other man ever capturing that poise, that seething energy. His was a presence I’d never seen nor felt before in my life and it coloured every other encounter with other actors since.

Then my father introduced me to his work with Bill Cosby, their comedic collaborations bringing out the humour of the elegant man. Uptown Saturday Night [1] was my first encounter with the man’s comedic timing, his usually serious brogue pushed aside for the sarcasm and wit of the genre. But it was A Piece of the Action [1] that became one of my favourite films. He balanced the seriousness of the material with his natural charm and created a classic piece of comedy sorely underrated in cinematic history.

It was a bit later in life when I saw A Raisin in the Sun [1]. His turn as Walter Lee changed the scope of a Black actor’s presence on screen. Of course, I was much younger when I saw his iconic turn as Virgil Tibbs in film In the Heat of the Night [1], not fully understanding the historical effect it would have for every Black man coming up in the 60s. His power, elegance, unapologetic candour in these two films followed him for the duration of his career, making him one of the most respected and celebrated actors of all time.

Whether an actor, director or activist, Mr. Poitier encapsulates the word “smooth”: daring, fearless, strong, masculine. He’s a gentleman of the highest order and as such holds one of the highest spots in my heart.

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