Rick’s Real/Reel Life: To Sidney, With Love

Sidney Poitier in one of his big three films from ’67: “To Sir, With Love.”

1967 was the “Summer of Love”
and year that audiences truly loved Sidney Poitier.
Oscar-winning actor was 40, and at the height of his stardom. He starred in
three diverse films that year which dealt with race, to varying degrees. All
were huge commercial hits. One got critical raves, and the other two got mixed
reviews, but gave praise to Poitier.

In the Heat of the

still packs a punch and is a bonafide classic. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? got mixed notices, but had Poitier
plus Hepburn and Tracy, and is still Sidney’s greatest film success.

Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray, aka “Sir,” in “To Sir, With Love.”

Then there’s To Sir, With Love, which falls in the
middle of Poitier’s ’67 film trio. The school drama was criticized as too pat
and sentimental. Still, this film connected Sidney Poitier to desired young
audiences of the US and world. Poitier carried the film this time, about a school
teacher in a rough British neighborhood, and which struck a major chord. So
successful was this film, it’s neck and neck with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? as Poitier’s biggest hit.

“Sir” with his class of unruly students who have been shunted to his school.

To Sir, With Love was released at the very height of the
British invasion. The London location shooting, the winning young Brit
performers as the students, and Lulu with her signature title tune, all gave the
sweet story some oomph. Finally, there’s Sidney Poitier. He brings his star
power and subtle talents to “Sir,” aka Mark Thackeray, who has worked upwardly
in life the hard way and finds these deadbeat kids exasperating. 

Sidney Poitier does a great slow burn as “Sir” in “To Sir, With Love!”

Thackeray is an
interim teacher for the remainder of the school year, waiting for an
engineering job application to come through. In the meantime, the rather rigid
teacher sees these teens as a challenge. And they love to be-devil teachers. Game
on! The kids are defiant; he’s not a pushover. Poitier’s “Sir” is a force to be
reckoned with, showing his stern moral compass, but also compassion, humanity,
and humor that balances the character. 

“Sir” finally loses his cool with his class, but has an epiphany while blowing off steam.

Thackeray, after a bad
day with the students, finally decides to treat them like adults, with
consequences. This works, though there’s a learning curve. The problem-solving
is more than a bit pat, which critics noted even at the time. This is always an
issue with stories about public education on film. The conflicts are often resolved
too easily and unrealistically. As someone who’s worked in public schools, I’d
say the gloss is easier to take than audiences facing the awful truth! Issues
about sex, race, dysfunction, and poverty are touched upon, but very
discreetly. To Sir, With Love seems quaint
from today’s standpoint, but there are a number of memorably touching moments
between “Sir” and his students. 

A tender scene when the class shows up for the funeral of a friend’s mother. 

The saving grace of To Sir, With Love is that it’s naturally
performed by the stellar British cast. And of course by Poitier as “Sir,” who’s
got one of his best vehicles.What’s amazing is that Sidney Poitier was NOT nominated
for an Oscar in any of his ’67 films. The field was tough and he may have cancelled
himself out. Then again, couldn’t Columbia or United Artists have pushed harder
with one of their Poitier movies? What’s amazing is he got none, and for some
reason Lulu’s theme song also wasn’t nominated! “To Sir, With Love” was the
number 1 hit of the year in the US! And
Doctor Dolittle’s “Talk to the
Animals” won best song that year. This pretty much sums up Oscars in a

Love the scene where “Sir” loosens up and dances before his departure!

My pick would have
been to replace Spencer Tracy’s sentimental nod, with Poitier nominated for
either To Sir with Love or especially
In the Heat of the Night. Hell, if
the Oscars could tie the best actress category that year, I think Rod Steiger
and Sidney Poitier would have been a great winning Best Actor duo.

Sidney Poitier nearly
made it to 95, when he passed Jan. 6, 2022, but here’s a look back at Poitier
at 40. He had three huge hits in a single year. This was practically unheard of
after the studio system era. That Sidney Poitier was a man of color makes this achievement
extra special. Cheers to Mr. Poitier, with love.

“Sir” gets the prize for hanging in there! 

My look at
Sidney Poitier’s iconic performance as Virgil Tibbs, In the Heat of the Night:

FYI: I put the movie overflow on my public FB movie

Check it out & join!  https://www.facebook.com/groups/178488909366865/

Mr. Thackeray has a change of heart in the finale of “To Sir, With Love.”

Source : https://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/2022/02/to-sidney-with-love.html

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