Sidney Poitier Broke His Promise to Leave His Wife for Diahann Carroll
The actors first worked together on a 1959 musical.
After the years pass, the secrets come out. In the 1960s, one pair of famous castmates carried on a nine-year-long affair after first working together on a movie musical. Sidney Poitier met a co-star through the 1959 film Porgy and Bess, and they kicked off an affair that involved him promising to leave his wife for her, his co-star actually leaving her husband, and an unhappy ending. At least, it wasn't a happy ending for them romantically—the two did become friends years later.
Read on to find out which fellow celebrity Poitier carried on an affair with and to find out more about what happened during their drama-filled romance.
Poitier and Diahann Carroll fell for each other in 1959.
Poitier starred in Porgy and Bess opposite Dorothy Dandridge, but he fell in love with an actor who had a smaller role: Diahann Carroll, who played Clara in the musical adaptation. At the time, Carroll was married to her first husband, music producer Monte Kay, and Poitier was married to his first wife, Juanita Hardy. During their marriage, Poitier and Hardy welcomed four daughters; Carroll welcomed a daughter with Kay in 1960.
"We had not been on the set of Porgy and Bess in 1959 more than a few days when I realized that she was unique," Poitier told People in 1980. "She had fantastic cheekbones, perfect teeth and dark, mysterious eyes. She was confident, inviting, sensuous—and she moved with a rhythm that absolutely tantalized me. I invited her to dinner, telling her that since we were both married we would talk about our absent loved ones. And we did. I acted very, very gentlemanly for weeks, but halfway through the picture we fell in love. As I got to know her, I realized she was one of the brightest women I had ever known."
After appearing in Porgy and Bess together, Poitier and Carroll went on to co-star in 1961's Paris Blues.
Carroll said Poitier told her they should leave their spouses.
In her 2008 memoir, The Legs Are the Last to Go, Carroll wrote that Poitier told her that he would leave Hardy for her and convinced her that she should divorce Kay. Carroll and Kay divorced in 1963, but Poitier remained married to Hardy.
Carroll said that Poitier had bought her a large apartment and had her decorate it, but then he had doubts about leaving his wife.
"I was only home a few days when he called to say his wife was having second thoughts," Carroll wrote (via Page Six). "Our wedding plans would have to be postponed. When the apartment was ready and I was about to move my daughter in with me, Sidney told me he didn't want her there … He changed the locks so I couldn't get in. Then he made me write him a check to offset his purchase and decorating costs. I did as I was told, submissive and desperate."
Poitier said he "felt trapped" by his children.
In his 1980 interview with People, Poitier said that he didn't leave his wife for Carroll—even though his wife knew about the affair—because of their children.
"To a large degree I felt trapped by my four daughters," he said. "They were young and I loved them."
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Even after Poitier divorced, he and Carroll did not marry.
Poitier and Hardy split two years after Carroll divorced her husband, but the Oscar-winner told Carroll that he did not want to live with her daughter and go right into another marriage.
"She asked me to move out of my home, and I did. She asked me to get a divorce. I went to Mexico and got one," he said. "I made one request: to live together for six months while Diahann's parents looked after her daughter so I wouldn't be jumping from one marriage straight into another. But she wouldn't do it. It was then that our relationship started to unravel."
Carroll decided to start seeing other people, which she said upset Poitier to the degree that he berated her over the phone.
"Sidney called me at my hotel," she wrote in her book. "'You [expletive], whore, tramp,' he yelled. 'I know he just left your bed. I won't have you running around with other men. You belong to me!'"
They became friends later in life.
Carroll and Poitier eventually put their painful romantic past behind them.
"Sidney and I are now friends," the Tony-winning star wrote in her book (via the New York Post). "That's a lovely thing that comes as you age—forgiveness and perhaps a relaxing of standards."
The actors both remarried after their affair. Poitier was married to actor Joanna Shimkus from 1976 until his death in 2022 at age 94; they had two daughters. Carroll married three more times: to store owner Fred Glusman, magazine editor Robert DeLeon, and singer Vic Damone. She passed away in 2019 at age 84.