The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (Oprah's Book Club)

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (Oprah's Book Club)

Sidney Poitier

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0061357901

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"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 that contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questing. 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."
—Sidney Poitier

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 a 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 to who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition.

Here is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, price and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity. What emerges is a picture of a man 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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Atlanta bus station with thirty-nine dollars in my pocket. So I had to decide where I was going to go and what I was going to do. I knew that Miami wasn’t for me, because Miami designated me, by law and social custom, as being undeserving of human consideration. While waiting at that bus station, I decided to test the waters in Atlanta. I remember taking an excursion by streetcar, roaming around for hours with all my senses alert for resemblances to the Miami of my recent acquaintance. I covered

this movie. But what’s it about?” “Family stuff,” he said. “You know, this is family stuff.” And the guys at Columbia nodded, and Stanley said, “It’s gonna be warm, it’s gonna be human, and it’s gonna be—” whatever. He still didn’t really lay it out. But after a certain point, before the serious money was committed, the folks at Columbia had to see the script; they really had to know what they were buying. So Stanley said, “Look, I’ve got these three people. I’ve got Tracy and Hepburn. Do you

knew Stanley Kramer; in fact, Tracy was Kramer’s favorite actor. The two men had worked together on Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Thus Tracy and Hepburn were obliged to bring to bear on me the kind of respect they had for Kramer, and they had to say to themselves (and I’m sure they did). This kid has to be pretty okay, because Stanley is nuts about working with him. As for my part in all this, all I can say is that there’s a place for people who are

sense of safety. Even before the unraveling of her parents’ marriage, the social status that my success had brought to the family had begun to be a difficult issue for her with friends at school. She didn’t want the responsibility of having to negotiate a compromise between friends, self, and family for fear of forcing all her troubles into open view. For her, being looked upon as different, as not belonging, would be disastrous. She feared being an awkward, self-conscious misfit among regulars,

1950s reaction to Hilda Simms in television play segregation in Atlanta restaurant self-esteem and self-image and social conscience of filmmakers and student activism and wariness and Whipper, Leigh, and Raisin in the Sun Randolph, A. Philip Richards, Lloyd Risk: childhood on Cat Island and childhood in Nassau and learning about stretching one’s abilities and Robeson, Paul Rolle, Yorick Rose, Doris Rose, Philip Sagan, Carl Sands, Diana Sense memory

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