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More Poitier

April 07, 1991|SUSAN KING

Several of Sidney Poitier's films are available on video. Here are 10 of his best:

Poitier had been appearing in movies for four years when writer-director Richard Brooks cast him in 1955's "The Blackboard Jungle" (MGM/UA Home Video). Though 27 at the time, Poitier is believable as a troubled 17-year-old student befriended by an understanding English teacher (Glenn Ford) at a tough New York City high school. The soundtrack features Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock."

Poitier received his first best actor Oscar nomination for 1958's riveting drama "The Defiant Ones" (MGM/UA Home Video). The movie, directed by Stanley Kramer, stars Poitier and Tony Curtis, also an Oscar nominee, as two escapees from a Southern chain gang who flee the police chained to each other.

In 1959, Poitier made his last Broadway appearance in Lorraine Hansberry's landmark play "A Raisin in the Sun." Two years later, Poitier repeated his performance in the acclaimed film version (RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video). Directed by Daniel Petrie, "A Raisin in the Sun" revolves around a proud black Chicago family and the family members' attempts to make a better life for themselves.

Poitier won an Oscar for his memorable work in 1963's "Lilies of the Field" (Key Video), beating out such nominees as Albert Finney ("Tom Jones") and Paul Newman ("Hud"). In the sweet, low-key comedy-drama, Poitier plays a gentle handyman who helps a group of German nuns (led by Lila Skala) build a chapel.

His 21st film, "The Bedford Incident" (RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video), marked the first time Poitier's race was never mentioned and played no part in the movie. The taut 1965 Cold War thriller reteams Poitier with Richard Widmark, who was in his first film "No Way Out." Look for a young Donald Sutherland in a supporting role.

"Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" (RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video) caused a sensation when it was released in 1967 because it was Hollywood's first movie to show an interracial couple. Spencer Tracy, in his last movie, and Katharine Hepburn play a happily married and liberal couple who are shocked when their only daughter (Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton) brings home her fiancee (Poitier). Hepburn won the Oscar as did William Rose's screenplay. Stanley Kramer directed.

"In the Heat of the Night" (MGM/UA Home Video), which beat out "Guess" as the best film of 1967, finds Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, a sophisticated Philadelphia police detective who helps a Southern sheriff (Oscar-winner Rod Steiger) solve a murder. Poitier also starred in two sequels, "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs" and "The Organization," and the movie became the basis for the current NBC series.

"To Sir, With Love" (RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video) was one of 1967's biggest hits. Poitier gives a strong performance as a new teacher who is assigned to a rough London school and eventually gains the respect of his students. Written and directed by James Clavell ("Shogun").

Poitier teamed with Bill Cosby for the first time in 1975's comedy "Uptown Saturday Night" (Warner Home Video), which Poitier also directed. It's a silly, entertaining bit of nonsense about two friends who get involved with the mob (led by Harry Belafonte) when they try to retrieve a stolen winning lottery ticket.

After a decade's absence from the screen, Poitier returned in top form in 1988's thriller "Shoot to Kill" (Touchstone Home Video), as a big-city cop who teams up with a mountain guide (Tom Berenger) to nab a murderer who has infiltrated a hunting party in the Pacific Northwest.

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