CANNES, France (AP) – France gave Sidney Poitier its highest arts honor at the Cannes Film Festival, where the culture minister praised the Oscar winner for tearing down barriers for black actors in Hollywood.
Poitier, 79, was named a commander in France’s order of arts and letters Thursday. In 1964, he became the first black performer in a leading role to win an Academy Award, for “Lilies of the Field.”
“You are the champion of equality between men,” Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said.
Poitier thanked his parents, who were field workers in the Bahamas, for giving him a sense of honesty, integrity and compassion.
He also thanked the directors who broke convention to hire him, calling them “men who chose to change that pattern because it was not democratic, it was not American, it was not human.”
Poitier’s screen credits also include roles in “The Defiant Ones,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “A Patch of Blue” and “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Hurt, son awarded degrees
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – William Hurt played a dual role at the University of the Arts: proud father and honored guest.
Hurt, who won an Oscar for 1985’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree Wednesday on the same stage that his son Alexander later received his bachelor’s degree in theater arts.
“And now I can do your teeth … “Dr. Hurt,”‘ the 56-year-old actor joked about his new title.
He then delivered the commencement address, a wide-ranging speech in which he quoted famous figures from Mark Twain to Frank Lloyd Wright to Shakespeare.
“Art is resuscitation, it is rejuvenation,” Hurt told the graduates. “Thank you for becoming my peers.”
Hurt portrayed a Philadelphia gangster in last year’s “A History of Violence” – the mention of which drew whoops from the crowd. His screen credits also include roles in “Children of a Lesser God” and “Broadcast News.”