Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A to Z Challenge - I is for In the Deep South in the 1960's

Today's installment for the A to Z challenge is the Academy Award wining best picture of 1967 In The Heat of the Night.  Nominated for seven awards and winning five including Rod Steiger for Best Actor, this is one of the best movies of the decade and it winning Best Picture changed the film industry, more on that later.

The film stars a great cast along with Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Lee Grant, and the very underrated but so talented Warren Oates.  It is a simple murder investigation with a twist, it's in a small southern town in the 1960's that is heavily segregated and the main investigator a black police officer from Philadelphia.  The acting is magnificent and is full of suspenseful drama.

But it is the social overtones that define this movie.  Rod Steiger is a police chief who is caught between doing things the old way and pleasing the establishment and having to accept that Sidney Poitier's character knows more than him and is the only way for him to solve this case.  This delicate balance he attempts is why he won Best Actor.  And Sidney Poitier is great as usual.

The other significant reason why I choose this film to comment on is the doorway it opened to future Best Picture winners of the next decade.  This ended the era of musicals and epics winning Best Picture and started the era of the gritty drama or movies that didn't always have a happy ended.  In essence, the Hayes code was over.  From this point on, with rare exception, this was the type of film to be nominated and win Best Picture.

Personally I think it was the best thing to happen.  The quality of movies from this era of the late 1960's and early 1970's are some of the finest to be made.  The only other era that could compare and you could claim was better would be the mid to late 1930's and early 1940's.  And of course the clip for today has to be the great "They call me Mr. Tibbs" scene.


  1. I just found your blog on the A to Z. I'm a film buff and make cards...anyhoo...Love this film! I think my favourite is when Mr. Tibbs gets slapped and he slaps that man right back. It is gritty, scary(when he is being chased and about to be killed but the Sheriff saves the day) and tense. It has great acting and writing. Great movie! I'm talking about films too

    1. Thanks, glad you found the blog. That scene with Endicott is another powerful scene. Sidney Poitier added the slap back because he felt it would have been out of character to ignore it, and he handled that scene perfectly. But Rod Steiger in that scene is amazing. The look on his face of what happened and how he is conflicted and does nothing. His Southern instincts are to defend the honor of Endicott, but his police instincts are conflicted with knowing that Sidney Poitier was in the right to defend himself. This is why I believe he won the Oscar for Best Actor.

      Another great Rod Steiger film is The Pawnbroker, he gives such a performance. It's a very depressing film, but a good drama.

  2. I watched In the Heat of the Night for the first time last year and loved it! As you say the socio-political aspects in it are brilliant and the moment when Sidney Poitier slaps Endicott had me gasping in shock and awe.
    Great post and theme - I've been meaning to attempt to watch all the Best Picture nominees but I haven't got around to it yet.
    I is for my favourite band - Imagine Dragons

  3. One of the greatest films ever made. So glad you included it in your reviews!

  4. This is frequently shown on TCM so I guess maybe I should watch it. I might have seen it at some point in the past--pretty sure I have, but can't remember exactly.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out