If you combine a screening of Sidney Poitier’s ‘To Sir with Love’ during Black History Month with an introduction and discussion by local film historian John DiLeo, you’ll have an exceptional Milford tribute evening. Newly renovated theater on Sunday February 6th. , at 16
“Sidney Poitier was one of the greatest actors of all time,” said Milford Theater Artistic Director Beth O’Neil. Poitier died on January 6 at the age of 94. “We are delighted to pay tribute to him by showing one of his greatest performances as it should be seen – on the big screen. John DiLeo will no doubt be able to educate us all on some of the brightest parts of Mr. Poitier’s illustrious career.
DiLeo said Poitier’s work falls within the period of his expertise. “I’ve seen all of his major work and I’m very aware of that work,” he said.
People throw around words like “icon” and “legend,” DiLeo said, but it’s hard to overstate the impact of Poitiers’ life and legacy.
He was the first African-American man to be nominated for an Oscar, for “The Defiant Ones” in 1958. Five years later, he won an Oscar for “Lilies of the Field.”
“He was notable not only for earning respect and praise for his work at a time when opportunities were really not available to black actors, but he went even further and became a ‘true Hollywood movie star. ‘” DiLeo said.
Poitier was extremely active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama for his artistic and humanitarian achievements. Early in her career, Poitier made a conscious decision to reject roles that did not align with her values or reflect poorly on her race. He kept this promise all his life, even turning down certain roles if necessary. And he paved the way for other black actors.
‘You thought you knew’
DiLeo will focus on Poitiers’ golden age of cinema and fame. Poitier once again defied odds and paved the way for black players to pursue him.
DiLeo says 1967 is like a time capsule: In 12 months, Poitier made ‘To Sir With Love’, ‘In the Heat of the Night’ (which won the Best Picture Oscar) and ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner .”
When asked why he chose ‘To Sir with Love’ for this tribute, DiLeo said, “I think people have fond memories of that one, and ultimately it’s a good movie. I don’t don’t really like to show downers during the winter.
DiLeo has been a film historian and local staple of intelligent commentary and reviews of hundreds of films. He has lived in Milford for 22 years and shares his tremendous passion for filmmaking with the local community and beyond. Born into what he admits to being a “movie-obsessed family (they watched all kinds of movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s), his passion became his hobby.
Finally, he was lucky enough to be able to make a career out of it. DiLeo’s first book, “And You Thought You Knew Classic Movies,” was published in 1999 by St. Martin’s Press. Famed New York film critic Pauline Kael called it “the smartest movie quiz book I’ve ever seen.”
In the meantime, DiLeo has appeared at the Black Bear Film Festival as well as the Milford Theatre. He currently hosts an ongoing Hitchcock series at the theater in the Sunday afternoon slot (please see sidebar).
DiLeo’s seventh book (and first hardcover) will be released on February 22. It’s titled “There Are No Small Parts: 100 Outstanding Cinematic Performances With Screen Times of 10 Minutes or Less.”
When asked what was the best compliment he had ever received, he replied, “I always trust John and he never disappoints me.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Pauline Kael’s name.
Events at the Milford Theater with John DiLeo include the rest of the Hitchcock series on Sunday afternoons. Theater opens at 3 p.m., events start at 4 p.m. Masks and proof of vaccination required.
January 23 — Strangers on a Train
January 30 — North by Northwest
February 6 — To sir, with love.
Tickets are $10 and are available at hemilfordtheater.freshtix.com.
For more information, visit johndileo.com.