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In the Heat of the Night (1967)


EugeniaH
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Last night I watched In the *Heat of the Night* (1967), with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. A gritty drama that pushed boundaries in the subject of race relations. So many wonderful scenes.

 

******SPOILERS***********

 

Terrific acting by Steiger (as Gillespie) when he finds out, after he interrogates and berates Tibbs (Poitier) on suspicion of his being a killer, that Tibbs is a cop. He wordlessly looks at his police badge, and his humiliation and embarassment is total.

 

The scene where Gillespie and Tibbs are driving past the cotton fields. The look on Tibbs' face as he watches the African American workers speaks volumes - Tibbs the well-paid professional from the north, in his expensive clothes, contrasted with the poor laborers from the South.

 

And of course, the very dramatic scene where Larry Gates as Endicott slaps Tibbs, with Tibbs angrily and indignantly slapping him right back...

 

Also of note is Lee Grant, who played the widow of Colbert, in her reaction to the news that her husband was murdered. Grant, in an interview, said of that scene, that she had lost her own husband and used that experience in playing her role.

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Don't forget it spawned the TV series "In th Heat of the Night" (1988-1994). Found it amusing at the time they cast America's favorite bigot in it. Can only imagine how many people were glued to the TV during its premiere . My only disappointment is that they didn't cast Rob Reiner as his deputy.

 

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*In the Heat of the Night* is a very good movie. One of my favourite scenes is the one in which some young girl (I think back then they would have referred to her as "white trash", but I hesitate to use such a politically incorrect expression) is interrogated by Steiger ( with Poitier sort of looking on) as to her and her young man friend's whereabouts the night of the murder.

I don't know who this actress is, but she delivers a delicious performance, savouring every word of her speech - something about how the young man had taken her to the graveyard and encouraged her to lie down on one of the gravestones. It was such a hot night, and that stone was "real cool and smooooth".

Love the girl's thick Southern accent, and the suggestive way she drawls out her story. Just a fine little scene.

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> I don't know who this actress is, but she delivers a delicious performance, savouring every word of her speech - something about how the young man had taken her to the graveyard and encouraged her to lie down on one of the gravestones. It was such a hot night, and that stone was "real cool and smooooth".

> Love the girl's thick Southern accent, and the suggestive way she drawls out her story. Just a fine little scene.

The actress' name is Quentin Dean and she did deliver a fine performance, unfortunately her career stalled and she passed away nearly a decade ago. She's also in STAY AWAY JOE, WILL PENNY and THE YOUNG RUNAWAYS, all of which have aired on TCM. that was it for her feature film career.

 

What got me when she was delivering that dialogue was that I knew just what she was talking about. It was only a few years earlier than my friends and I would sneak into the cemetary on a hot summer night and laen against the marble while smoking cigs appropriated from our parents.

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I think all the acting was terrific. The **** didn't seem to me to be too exaggerated and cliche. I liked the first suspect that was thrown in jail. When he spoke with Tibbs he kept pronouncing Gillespie's name as "Gillepsie" (at least, this is what I kept hearing). I thought that was a nice touch.

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> Terrific acting by Steiger (as Gillespie) when he finds out, after he interrogates and berates Tibbs (Poitier) on suspicion of his being a killer, that Tibbs is a cop. He wordlessly looks at his police badge, and his humiliation and embarassment is total.

Gillespie's reaction is actually more one of bewilderment at how any place in a society he thinks he knows could grant a black man any kind of authority, especially over white people. The humiliation and embarassment come later as he begins, slowly, incrementally, to see Tibbs as a human being and not an adversary and threat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

> I liked the first suspect that was thrown in jail. When he spoke with Tibbs he kept pronouncing Gillespie's name as "Gillepsie" (at least, this is what I kept hearing). I thought that was a nice touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He actually pronounces it "gill-LEPS-pee."

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I love this film, the writing, the acting, the sets, music, etc. but then again I'm a northern whitey gal who actually lived through this shameful time. I once traveled south with my business manager (a black man) and experienced first hand some of that backward thinking.

 

Thankfully, I think this time is over. And surprisingly, it happened within our lifetime!

 

TikiKid is 14 and befuddled by the entire idea of "prejudice". She just doesn't "get" this movie at all, nor Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. While great films, they have lost all impact to those who simply can't relate.

 

They are now "period" pieces to be used as illustration of what once was.

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This one of those rare films that garnered much praise and won so many awards that actually deserved every accolade and award it received. Rod Steiger's acting style was always over the top, an actor you either loved or hated , I was always a fan. The evident rage he exhibits towards `Virgil`when he first learns he is a highly paid police specialist is so convincing you feel its really happening right in front of you. His rage and feelings of his own personal failures are so real you can feel his humiliation and sense of inferiority and sense just how dangerous this man could be. Its not difficult to imagine how terrifying it would be for the **** arrested by these `lawmen` accused of robbing Sparta of its economic future how alone and threatened he would feel back in those dark and menacing cells, all that separates a police officer in Sparta from the **** is the bed sheet and hood. Great film that deals convincingly with the last days of `approved` racism and bigotry, but it also reminds us that race hate was never confined solely to `whites`.

 

 

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TikiSoo, in another forum some years back, a young black forum member mentioned his mother wouldn't let him see "Gone With The Wind" because of how black people were portrayed in the film.

"She said they were either uneducated slaves or housekeepers."

 

Well now...

 

In antebellum America, black people WERE uneducated slaves or housekeepers! Very few escaped that fate. You can't sweep the truth under the rug because you find it distasteful. I told him that what should anger him is that black people in movies that portrayed contemporary times being shown as uneducated maids and butlers. And believe me, there were plenty!

Sepiatone

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*Gillespie's reaction is actually more one of bewilderment at how any place in a society he thinks he knows could grant a black man any kind of authority, especially over white people.*

 

Sprocket Man, I like your take on this. I think you are right. Thanks also for the clarification on Gillespie's name.

 

 

Movies like this are so important in showing life as it really was. What I like about *In the Heat of the Night* is that it shows both points of view equally - the prejudice of the ****, and an African American like Tibbs who is obviously so intelligent, smarter than the **** (he is the one who ends up solving the case), a man who shatters all of their stereotypes. When Tibbs slaps Endicott, while Endicott doesn't come around to a more enlightened point of view, Tibbs is still standing up for himself and fighting back, which was revolutionary for movie audiences of that time. It's said that it's the first time an African American is shown rising up against a white man so dramatically in film....

 

 

The viewer decides for himself which side he is on, nothing is forced down his/her throat.

 

(UPDATE): Reading stjohnrv's post - he brings up a good point I had forgotten, that the prejudice wasn't confined to the ****. Tibbs is shown with a revealed hatred toward white people (personified by Endicott). He says, "I'm gonna pull him down off that hill!!"

 

Edited by: EugeniaH on Jan 15, 2012 12:26 PM

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  • 2 years later...

I saw In The Heat of the Night when it came out, and while the acting was terrific and the plot fairly good, both then and now it seems much more 1967 Hollywood than 1967 Mississippi.  The idea that a character like Gillespie would ever allow an outspoken and forceful black man like Tibbs to work with him, no matter how well qualified he was to aid in the murder case, just doesn't ring true in that time and place.  Certainly there weren't any real life stories from Mississippi in the mid-60's that paralleled anything remotely like that.

 

If anyone should want a much better and more realistic depiction of the racial conditions of the Deep South during that time frame, Michael Roemer's Nothing But a Man with Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln is the gold standard.  Given the Hollywood bias for blockbusters with big name stars, it never got the recognition of the Steiger / Poitier movie*, but it was highly acclaimed by all the critics and it's now listed on the National Film Registry.

 

*Jaime Christley of Slant Magazine put it best when he wrote that "It can't be overstated just how Nothing But a Man is militantly tone-deaf to the Hollywood muzak of race relations."

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In The Heat Of The Night, through Noir shaded glasses a visual review.

 

Forget about that is was produced at the height of the civil rights struggle becoming a benchmark film that has won accolades world over and look at it terms of a sort of Edward Hopper-esque, color Neo Noir. The compositions and muted colors render practically every scene a visual treat. If you've never seen it you will be pleasantly surprised, with a great Quincy Jones score to boot. 10/10 for me.

 

Its Noir influences are readily homaged in the 40th Anniversary Issue's menu sequence:

 


 

Below are composite screen caps that are a visual treat:

 

Noir-ish 

HOTNnoircomp_zps6a593553.jpg

 

Hopper-esque

HOTNhopperesquecomp_zps3be83c27.jpg


 

Portraits

HOTNportraitcomp_zpsa60b9efd.jpg


 

Compositions

HOTNnoircomp2_zps8040462e.jpg

 

Atmospherics 

HOTNcompcomp_zpsf734ef18.jpg

 

The great opening sequence with the arrival of the train accompanied by Ray Charles singing In the Heat of the Night you know you are back in Noirsville.

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This is the first time I actually fully understood who the murderer was and why he murdered. The other times I've seen it (twice, I think) I think I was just paying attention to the characters and the great visuals that cigarjoe has mentioned.

 

Right, cigarjoe, I agree, it is quite a noirish film in many ways, as the stills you post here demonstrate.

 

The film is, to me, as much about character and atmosphere as it is about the state of race relations in MIssissippi circa 1967.

There are many scenes that are memorable, but two that come to mind for me are not only memorable, but kind of funny. That is, there's something about them that amuses me.

 

The first is the scene in which that incredibly tall skinny gangly guy, the diner employee, has just dropped a coin in his jukebox. Some tune comes on that I've never heard, but clearly the diner clerk has. I love the way he bends his head over the juke machine, all the better to hear the song, and grins. (Later, you realize the lyrics to the song could apply to him and Dolores.)

 

The other scene, which I already described on this thread when it was first posted two years ago, is the one where the cheaply sexy teenage girl describes how a man tempted her to go with him "to the coolest place in town - the graveyard." The way she talks about how "real coooool and smooooth the marble felt against my body" is almost indecent. She clearly takes some kind of pleasure in relating this story. There's something both sexy and comical about this scene.

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   Let's not forget the late, great Warren Oates' contribution as Sam Wood. I hope he finally got that piece of pie.

 

   As an aside, this movie was filmed in Sparta, Illinois because Poitier refused to live south of the Mason Dixon line for two months.

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Everybody.. Take out a stick of gum and chew the **** out of it. This movie is awn..!

 

P.S. Don't forget to throw the gum wrapper on the ground

 

Steiger's gum chewing is a thing of beauty. Notice how he modulated it -- or stopped, especially when his character was deep in thought.

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This is the first time I actually fully understood who the murderer was and why he murdered. The other times I've seen it (twice, I think) I think I was just paying attention to the characters and the great visuals that cigarjoe has mentioned.

 

Right, cigarjoe, I agree, it is quite a noirish film in many ways, as the stills you post here demonstrate.

 

The film is, to me, as much about character and atmosphere as it is about the state of race relations in MIssissippi circa 1967.

There are many scenes that are memorable, but two that come to mind for me are not only memorable, but kind of funny. That is, there's something about them that amuses me.

 

The first is the scene in which that incredibly tall skinny gangly guy, the diner employee, has just dropped a coin in his jukebox. Some tune comes on that I've never heard, but clearly the diner clerk has. I love the way he bends his head over the juke machine, all the better to hear the song, and grins. (Later, you realize the lyrics to the song could apply to him and Dolores.)

 

The other scene, which I already described on this thread when it was first posted two years ago, is the one where the cheaply sexy teenage girl describes how a man tempted her to go with him "to the coolest place in town - the graveyard." The way she talks about how "real coooool and smooooth the marble felt against my body" is almost indecent. She clearly takes some kind of pleasure in relating this story. There's something both sexy and comical about this scene.

Well, if you are truly eclectic, you should know down-home C&W too.

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   The diner clerk is played by Anthony James. Director Jewison decided against using Sam the Sham's hit song "Little Red Riding Hood" in favor of the one heard in the film which is "Fowl Owl on the Prowl" by Glen Campbell. Either one sets the proper tone, er, tune.

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This film has kind of gotten short shrift because it was viewed as not as groundbreaking and hip as BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE GRADUATE, other nominees the same year. Beating them didn't help.

 

That depends on your point of view. The film was incredibly groundbreaking because Tibbs wasn't subservient to anyone, rolling back years of Hollywood tradition and imagery. The scene in which he slaps the plantation owner who strikes him first set the tone for the John Shafts, Slaughters and Pam Grier characters who would emerge in the 1970s -- and beyond. In today's movies, how many people have tried to mess with Samuel L. Jackson characters -- especially Nick Fury -- and lived to regret it?

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That depends on your point of view. The film was incredibly groundbreaking because Tibbs wasn't subservient to anyone, rolling back years of Hollywood tradition and imagery. The scene in which he slaps the plantation owner who strikes him first set the tone for the John Shafts, Slaughters and Pam Grier characters who would emerge in the 1970s -- and beyond. In today's movies, how many people have tried to mess with Samuel L. Jackson characters -- especially Nick Fury -- and lived to regret it?

When I was reading marvel comic books back in the early 1970s, Nick Fury was a white guy. The character's race was changed for the sake of modern political correctness.

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post-41875-0-99842800-1399225433_thumb.jpg

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When I was reading marvel comic books back in the early 1970s, Nick Fury was a white guy

 

Welcome to the Ultimate Marvel Universe! They came out with a new line of books called Ultimates in the early 2000s that rebooted many of the characters. One of the most interesting changes was that the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. looked exactly like Samuel L. Jackson! My first thought was, "Oh, boy, here comes a major lawsuit." But it turns out that Jackson is a comic book fan and it flattered him. And I'm sure he was pleased to portray Fury in the movies for a few megabucks!

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