Sidney Poitier Movies
“Uptown Saturday Night” (1974)
Uptown Saturday Night, starring Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier, who directed this silly ghetto comedy, marks a Hollywood turning point. Stuffed with stereotypes and pre-politically correct/“woke”/cancel culture-Puritanical protestations against good humor, it has amusing moments. At times I laughed out loud. Chiefly, this 1974 all-black crime comedy is a long step down for one of Hollywood’s greatest artists.
Whatever Bill Cosby’s guilt or innocence—he was exonerated following a recent criminal conviction, which was ruled a mistrial—Mr. Cosby was once among America’s most successful comedians and his deft humor is on display here. Mr. Poitier uses Cosby, cast as a playful taxi driver, to drive the comedy in this tale of middle-aged friends who go out on the town and end up in trouble with warring southside Chicago thugs.
When a bowl of punch at a church picnic gets spiked with alcohol, it’s easy to think of the multiple claims and criminal accusations against Bill Cosby. Some of the humor in Uptown Saturday Night relies on stereotypes. A car chase climax ridiculously and abruptly changes settings from Chicago’s ghetto to what’s clearly Southern California’s mountains or somewhere that couldn’t be anywhere near the vicinity of flat Chicagoland. Calypso singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte is badly done up as a Vito Corleone knockoff. Richard Pryor’s hilarious cameo and Sidney Poitier’s character’s love for his wife keep Uptown Saturday Night on track—look for Flip Wilson as a preacher—and this can easily be seen once for guiltless fun. Sadly, this comes off as a plea on Sidney Poitier’s part for ‘street’ credibility after being denounced in the New York Times as a “n****r” placating white audiences—arguably by placating black audiences. At least Uptown Saturday Night paved way for Sidney Poitier’s hilarious and superior Stir Crazy five years later.
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