By Arthur Flynn


During the 1960s Sidney Poitier was one of the top American actors. His appearance and name over a poster for a film world-wide was guaranteed to bring in the crowds of all ages. His films ranged from romances to strong dramatic roles as with In the Heat of the Night.

The majority of his films were shot in America. One of his few films produced outside the United States was To Sir, with Love in 1967 which was made and set in England.

The film was written and directed by James Clavell based on the best-selling novel by E.R. Braithwaite. It was a semi-autobiographical and his experiences of teaching in a tough school in a poor area of East London in 1950.

Many of Braithwaite’s associates were not happy with the character played by Poitier as he was too likeable and sympathetic.

Along with Poitier who played the teacher Mark Thackery was Judy Geeson as Pamela, Christian Roberts as Denham and Suzy Kendall. Many young actors and unknown filled in the supporting roles.
Poitier’s deal to appear in the film was a flat fee of $30,000 plus 10% of the box office gross. The film’s unexpected success meant that he eventually earned $45,000.

The film reminded him of his early years in reality. He had a rough period in his childhood years. At 15 he was sent to live with his brother as he was getting into too much trouble in his home in Nassau.

The plot of the film centred on engineer Mark Thackery who arrives to teach a totally undisciplined class at an East End school. Still hoping for a good engineer job, he hopes he will not be too long at the school. He starts implementing his own brand of classroom discipline, forcing the pupils to treat others with respect.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own