The Sidney Poitier Collection
A Patch of Blue (1965) – full review!
Something of Value (1957) – throughout most of Sidney Poitier’s career as an actor that primarily appeared in race relations dramas he played African-Americans whereas in this one he actually plays an African a Kenyan in fact named Kimani Wa Karanja. As children Peter (Rock Hudson) and Kimani grow up doing everything together. But as adults the Black East African ‘boy’ is fit only to carry his White East African ‘bwana’ friend’s rifle for him something neither of them really understands though (naturally) Peter is slightly more accepting of it. When Kimani’s father (Ken Renard) is imprisoned indefinitely for following a custom deemed barbaric by the ruling class of British colonists he runs away to join a criminal gang (led by Juano Hernandez’s character) that later becomes an insurgency group dubbed Mau Mau; read your history if you’re unfamiliar with the real back-story. Predictably Peter and Kimani will inevitably meet again on opposite sides of the law. The movie also features the comely Dana Wynter as Peter’s love interest come wife; their relationship parallels that of his aunt Elizabeth (Wendy Hiller) and Uncle Jeff (Robert Beatty). Jeff and two of their children are murdered during the Mau Mau Uprising. Walter Fitzgerald plays Peter’s father who had been a friend of Kimani’s dad and whose knowledge and skills help to end the revolt. Michael Pate plays a White settler that reflects the colonists’ racism; William Marshall plays the Black leader that organizes the revolution starting with a meeting in Nairobi. Richard Brooks (Blackboard Jungle (1955)) directed and adapted the screenplay from Robert C. Ruark’s novel of the same name.
A Warm December (1973) – I wish I could remember which successful actor first uttered the now clichéd line “what I really want to do is direct” in response to the question: “Now that you’ve won an Academy Award what are you going to do now?” While it seems natural for an accomplished actor to be able to convey and teach his craft to others as a director it doesn’t always work out that way. As evidence here is a dreary drama (and rip-off of Love Story (1970)) in which the only bright spots are psychedelic polyester shirts that its star – Sidney Poitier who’d won his Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field (1963) – wears. While this wasn’t the actor’s first attempt to direct it was the first for (his) Verdon Productions Limited. His first attempt to direct was the mildly successful comedy – Buck and the Preacher (1972) produced by co-star Harry Belafonte – a genre to which Poitier would quickly return and make a few hits with Bill Cosby and (later) Gene Wilder. Unfortunately the acting in this drama is deplorable and so is its dialogue; the screenplay contrived to make Poitier’s character a motorcycle racing doctor widower was written by Lawrence Roman. It’s fairly obvious that it wouldn’t have been made without Poitier’s financial backing; the actor’s obvious motivation was to promote awareness of sickle-cell anemia (vs. leukemia). Poitier gave opportunities to an inexperienced (and largely incapable) cast of unknowns including Ester Anderson who plays the actor’s ill-fated love interest and Yvette Curtis who plays his daughter. At the beginning of the movie (set mostly in London) the soundtrack hints at a Cold War spy subplot that never materializes; perhaps it would have been a more interesting movie if it had one.