February is a month of celebration in the pop culture community — between the Grammy and the Academy Awards, the best in the music and cinema fields will be recognized in the next month. However, between the awards buzz for those two big nights, we want to make sure not to overshadow February’s significance: Black History Month. So to follow the month’s trend of celebration, we plan to spend all of February going through the most important African-American pop culture personalities of the last 29 years. We continue today with 1982.
In 1982, “An Officer and a Gentleman” was released to rave reviews. The naval movie has no great racial importance or even overtones, but for his work as an officer, Louis Gossett Jr. was awarded the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. It would be the first Oscar victory by an African-American since Sidney Poitier won Best Actor in 1964. That had to be the cherry on top for Gossett, who worked with Poitier in his first Hollywood film in 1961, “A Raisin in the Sun”.
Of his part in “An Officer and a Gentleman”, Roger Ebert wrote, “And Lou Gossett, Jr. does such a fine job of fine-tuning the line between his professional standards and his personal emotions that the performance deserves its Academy Award.”
We also award Gossett here as a way to celebrate his presence in “Roots”. Our series, which started in 1979, did miss one of the most important racial pop culture pieces in the last half-century, but we hope Gossett’s dual presence in that TV series and this series rectify that oversight. “Roots” was as important as a TV series can get, and it will have effects that continue for years after people have forgotten. It seems Hollywood executives are ready to move past the United States 1850s in order to show more modern-day tragedies, but we just hope there are room for both.
We think Gossett, still an active volunteer in the Boys and Girls Club, would feel the same.