Pairing wine with movies! See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies, and many more, at Trailers From Hell. This week, we salute the recently departed actor Sidney Poitier.
I opened the door to my home and heard my wife crying. Out loud. As she is not one who finds herself openly weeping all that often, I was concerned. With tears streaming down her face she said, “Sidney Poitier died.” She did not know him personally, had never met him, but, for her, it was as if a close relative had been struck down. Browsing through social media posts, it is apparent that many feel that way. My wife has met a number of celebrities during her time in Los Angeles, but never Poitier. That will always live within her on the minus side of her life’s ledger.
A Raisin in the Sun appeared in 1961, two years after the Broadway play of the same name was acclaimed as one of the best ever written. The film went on to garner a handful of awards, but was skipped over by the Oscars. Besides Poitier’s screen-filling presence, the movie also starred Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Louis Gossett, Jr., in his first film.
In the movie, we see the Younger family’s struggle to get ahead in Chicago amid personal tragedy, money troubles and race discrimination. Unlike TV’s The Jeffersons, they never make it to a “deluxe apartment in the sky.” They do, however, manage to maintain the family’s dignity while “movin’ on up” to a modest home.
A raisin wine is the perfect pairing here. Don’t shrug it off – making wine with grapes which have dried into raisins dates back around 6,000 years. Vin Santo is usually a deliciously sweet wine, although it can be found in a dry style. The Vin Santos from Tuscany, especially Chianti and Valpolicella, are a real treat.
In 1958, Stanley Kramer directed The Defiant Ones. Poitier co-stars with Tony Curtis as two escaped convicts who are chained together. They don’t like each other much at first – they’re on a deep-South chain gang in the 1950s – but through their struggle for freedom comes a mutual respect.
The story of two opposites shackled together has been borrowed repeatedly over the years. In a Warner Brothers cartoon, Sylvester the Cat is chained to a bulldog, while in The Thing With Two Heads, Ray Milland and Rosy Grier end up in the same body.
The ones who are defiant, Poitier and Curtis, wind up singing their way back to prison, where they probably are enlisted in the Friday night talent show. That sounds like a setup for a riot in the cell block, but Kramer left that up to our imaginations.
Defiance Vineyards of the Paso Robles area offers a decidedly defiant Petite Sirah. They say they have tamed the tannins, so you may find yourself singing your way back for another bottle.
In The Heat of the Night came out in 1967, in the wake of several major race riots and in the same year as a handful of others. Poitier’s performance may have been a bit more inspired, coming in that environment, and it no doubt served as a touchstone for black Americans of that day.
Poitier plays police detective Virgil Tibbs, and he plays the hell out of the role. However, it was co-star Rod Steiger who grabbed the Best Actor Oscar that year. A Philadelphia cop, Tibbs stands his ground in Mississippi as he grinds out the catchphrase of his career – “They call me Mister Tibbs!” Heat, indeed.
A Tibbs wine would make a perfect pairing. How about that? There’s a Mayhall Tibbs Winery that puts out a $10 Pinot from Santa Barbara’s Sta. Rita Hills! I don’t know what kind of Pinot you’re getting for ten bucks, but it’s a cheap way to drink local with your movies.