About Webb Weekly

Webb Weekly is a family-oriented newspaper direct mailed to over 58,000 homes each week.

Webb Weekly

280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

Phone & Fax

Phone: 570-326-9322
Fax: 570-326-9383

Get In Touch With Us

Latest Issue


To Sir, with Love: A Tribute to Sidney Poitier

When Sidney Poitier died on Jan. 6 at the age of 94, he left behind a body of work as weighty, beloved, and ground-breaking as any other actor you can name. Author, director, diplomat, and star of more than 50 films, Poitier was the first black man to kiss a white woman on screen, the

When Sidney Poitier died on Jan. 6 at the age of 94, he left behind a body of work as weighty, beloved, and ground-breaking as any other actor you can name.

Author, director, diplomat, and star of more than 50 films, Poitier was the first black man to kiss a white woman on screen, the first black to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar (“The Defiant Ones,” 1958) — and the first to win one, for “Lilies of the Field” in 1963. During 1967’s “In the Heat of the Night,” Poitier’s character gets slapped by a white man, then firmly and instantly returns the favor — a moment Peniel Joseph calls “the slap heard round the world.”

But the actor’s career got off to an unlikely start.

Son of working-class Bahamian parents, he gained U.S. citizenship by being born three months early while the family was visiting Miami.

After several menial jobs and a stint in the Army, Poitier failed an audition for the American Negro Theatre — largely because of his heavy Bahamian accent.

Thankfully, an elderly Jewish co-worker spent months having the young actor read aloud from the newspaper. Auditioning again for ANT, Poitier was cast in an all-black “Lysistrata,” shortly thereafter making his film debut opposite Richard Widmark in 1950’s “No Way Out.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Having performed in the Broadway premiere of “Raisin in the Sun,” Poitier churned out one incredible film after another: “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1951), “The Blackboard Jungle” (1955), “Edge of the City” (1957), “Porgy and Bess” (1959), “A Patch of Blue” (1965) and the 1961 screen version of “Raisin.”

In 1967, three of his most acclaimed films made him America’s top box-office draw — over John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Julie Andrews, and Elizabeth Taylor.

First came “To Sir, with Love,” with its gorgeous title tune by Scottish pop star Lulu; Poitier plays a tough British teacher in a school filled with mouthy and obstreperous kids — who are nonetheless won over by his unswerving courage and devotion.

Next up: “In the Heat of the Night,” a virtually perfect film that was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning five. Poitier stars as fiery Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs, who solves an ugly Mississippi murder even as his every step is dogged by vicious racists seeking to kill him.

That same year, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” cast Poitier opposite Hollywood legends Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They play upper-class San Francisco parents facing their daughter’s romance with a black man; a mere six months before the film’s release, interracial marriage had still been illegal in 17 states.

Together with “Lilies,” these are the films fans recall most fondly. But I can also strongly recommend “The Defiant Ones.”

Nominated for a whopping nine Oscars, it stars Poitier and Tony Curtis as escaped convicts charging across the forbidding American south while handcuffed together; Curtis’s character — a bigoted redneck, and Poitier’s — don’t take crap from anybody. In a rare move for the Academy, both men were nominated for Best Actor — and the film’s ending reverses the “white savior” trope long before that term became familiar.

As journalist Lesley Stahl put it in her 2013 interview with Poitier, “his typical character was dignified, proud and ethical — upright, well-educated and often stronger than the white people around him.” Poitier took some heat for his insistence on playing people who seemed too good to be true, but as he told Stahl, this was a deliberate choice as he strove to break stereotypes for black characters and to serve as a role model for others in his wake.

Poitier also told Stahl that he had it written into his contract for the Tibbs role that he would return the white man’s slap and that this scene could never be excised no matter where the film was shown.

Later in life, Poitier did some directing — including a trio of lesser-known but very funny comedies in which he starred opposite Bill Cosby. He served on the Disney board (1995-2003) and as Bahamian ambassador to Japan (1997-2007); played both Thurgood Marshall and Nelson Mandela on TV; was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II; wrote three autobiographies and a novel; and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

His passing elicited a flood of tributes from the likes of President Biden, Morgan Freeman, Oprah Winfrey, Ron Howard, and Harry Belafonte, among many others.

Vanity Fair hailed him as “the Martin Luther King Jr. of the movies,” and Hollywood Reporter summed it up this way, “Poitier was the first actor to star in mainstream Hollywood movies that depicted a Black man in a non-stereotypical fashion, and his influence, especially during the 1950s and ’60s as a role model and image-maker, was immeasurable.”