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The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2000)

de Sidney Poitier

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1,823449,535 (3.62)32
"I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite the contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questioning. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set. "In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure--as a man, as a husband and father, and as an actor. Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. "In the kind of place where I grew up," recalls Poitier, "what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters ... and that's it." Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life. Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition. Here, finally, is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, pride and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity, What emerges is a picture of a man seeking truth, passion, and balance in the face of limits--his own and the world's. A triumph of the spirit, The Measure of a Man captures the essential Poitier.… (mais)
Adicionado recentemente porsalemsmsm, Fairmount-library, biblioteca privada, Scopa, Itacoms, Ho-ChunkLibrary, Flowercreek, SMUMCLibrary, AthenaSophia
Bibliotecas HistóricasRuth Bader Ginsburg
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Biography
  BooksInMirror | Feb 19, 2024 |
N.B. In my personal history, this review is dated—this was actually towards the end of my Episcopalian period, now over—but I have to give Past Ted some credit, and I understand both how he desired, and felt capable of, integrating Sidney into his world view.

****

It’s a pretty good book.

I’m an Episcopalian, but when I first started exploring things that I allowed that I didn’t understand at about 27, (2016), I went to a TEC place just because it was the closest spiritual center to my house. (And I stay largely because they’re not politically or morally objectionable, and because they’re not too weird or whatever to me personally, although they can be a little funny at times, since they certainly march to the beat of a more classical drum, you know.) I feel like Sidney would relate to that—the spiritual center closest to me, that’s where I go.

I’m reading The Green Bible now, an edition of the Good Book, you know, that highlights the scripture passages that relate to nature, and has essays in the front about religion and the environment. There are a surprising number of green passages. Of course, not all animals are vegetarian, as they should be—👌—but there is a certain goodness in nature. (Sidney actually alludes to the order in the apparent badness too.) It actually makes sense that there’s a lot of nature in the Bible; people were very connected back then, you know, and were until pretty recently, at least in some ways. Until industrialization—which happened as late as the 20th century in many areas— people were very close to the heart of the earth, like Sidney was in his childhood in the rural Bahamas in the early 20th century.

Of course, he does talk about racism some, but he also talks about how he had it better than many American Blacks—being born pretty far away from cities and white people, way out in the islands, you know. He was certainly poor, but it was a poverty unknown to industry, advertising, jealousy, right.

I don’t know what to say about him except that he certainly had healthy roots, right; and he showed that you can make movies and still have your values.
  goosecap | Jan 10, 2023 |
Interesting insights into his values and how he developed them over the years. I would have liked more on his family but this is a great read that makes you contemplate life. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
Poitier from Cat Island, Bahamas to Hollywood
Review of the HarperOne paperback edition (2007) of the HarperOne hardcover original (2000)

I went with several friends to see the recent AppleTV+ documentary Sidney when it had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022. We wanted to see it on the big screen even though we knew it would be available online only a few weeks later. We not only enjoyed the film but had the added bonus of hearing a panel discussion afterwards which was moderated by Gayle King with 2 of the film's producers Oprah Winfrey and Derik Murray and 5 of Poitier's 6 daughters. My friend Tony later lent me his copy of Poitier's memoir/autobiography, which I enjoyed just as much.


Film still from the 2022 documentary film "Sidney" directed by Reginald Hudlin. Image sourced from the Toronto International Film Festival.

Although The Measure of a Man is billed as a "spiritual autobiography" it still contains a considerable amount about Poitier's acting career with anecdotes about various theatrical and film productions. The most interesting background story was about the original theatrical production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (1959) where Poitier's perception of the play was in direct opposition to that of everyone else. He states his case for it very well and reveals that he was in conflict with the producers, the playwright and the rest of the cast, esp. Claudia MacNeil (who played the mother) throughout, and yet the play was a huge success on the stage and later as a film. Probably the underlying tension added to the suspense and tension on stage, but Poitier does note that MacNeil would always find a way to not give in to him during her performances.

There are other fascinating stories throughout which involve the secret background to Poitier having to deal with the studio system and various anti-civil rights bureaucracy throughout his early career. These were things like being asked to sign "loyalty oaths" (this would have been during the McCarthy era) disavowing his association with civil rights figures such as Paul Robeson. Poitier refused to sign those, risking being dismissed from productions, but retained the jobs thanks to the associated directors (some of the lawyers did at least show a degree of shame at having to even ask him to sign).

The main refrain of the book always goes back to Poitier's childhood on Cat Island in the Bahamas, and the upbringing which he had from his parents. The dignity and forthrightness which was instilled in him from those days guided his journey throughout his life and is reflected in the legacy of film work which he left behind. It is easy to forget in the present day what groundbreaking films such as "Blackboard Jungle", "To Sir With Love". "A Patch of Blue", "The Defiant Ones", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", "Lilies of the Field, "In the Heat of the Night" "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs" and "A Raisin in the Sun" were back in the day. This memoir and the recent film documentary reminds us of all of it.

Trivia and Link
The documentary Sidney premiered at TIFF on September 10, 2022 and was later made available online September 23, 2022 via the AppleTV+ streaming channel. You can see the trailer for the film on YouTube here. ( )
  alanteder | Dec 3, 2022 |
A man with Sidney Poitier's chops is entitled to take himself seriously. With the subtitle "A Spiritual Biography", the reader is advised to expect nothing less. For the most part, Mr. Poitier managed to balance his seriousness with enough self-deprecation and light-heartedness to keep this from being a "preachy" sort of book. Occasionally, though, in spite of his marvelous voice and diction (and those fleeting Island cadences!), I did find myself drifting away as one may do in church, losing the thread of his discourse on some too familiar sermon topics, such as the overindulgence of a generation of children which led to the sex-drugs-rocknroll culture, and so on. When talking about his experiences as a child growing up in the Bahamas, or as a young black man determined to make his way with honor in the world of theater and movie-making at a difficult time, Poitier is mesmerizing. Hearing him reminiscence about what it took to make films like "The Defiant Ones" and "A Patch of Blue" makes me very grateful for his moral presence in the world, as much as for his artistic contributions. His narration ranges from an easy conversational style to something more dramatic, almost Shakespearean at times. Recommended if you admire his work. ( )
2 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jun 11, 2020 |
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To my wife, Joanna Shimkus-Poitier, whose love and support has kept me steady in the wind.
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"I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite the contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questioning. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set. "In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure--as a man, as a husband and father, and as an actor. Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. "In the kind of place where I grew up," recalls Poitier, "what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters ... and that's it." Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life. Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition. Here, finally, is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, pride and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity, What emerges is a picture of a man seeking truth, passion, and balance in the face of limits--his own and the world's. A triumph of the spirit, The Measure of a Man captures the essential Poitier.

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