In the Heat of the Night
April 9th, 2022

In the Heat of the Night [1967]

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle as we screen six films starring the late, great Sidney Poitier. First up is Norman Jewison’s Oscar-winning (Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Screenplay – Adapted, Best Soung & Best Editing) film In the Heat of the Night [1967].

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Venue Information:

Downtown Central Library Auditorium
1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203
(Enter from Clinton Street between Oak and Washington Streets)
716-858-8900 •
COVID protocol will be followed.

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Best Picture winner about a black police detective from Philadelphia who forces a bigoted Southern sheriff to accept his help with a homicide investigation after a wealthy Chicago businessman is murdered in a small Mississippi town. The film spawned two sequels and a TV-drama.


  • Academy Awards – 1968 – Nominee: Best Director, Best Effects, Sound Effects
  • Academy Awards – 1968 – Winner: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), Best Sound, Best Film Editing
  • BAFTA Awards – 1968 – Nominee: Best Foreign Actor, Best Film from any Source
  • BAFTA Awards – 1968 – Winner: Best Foreign Actor, UN Award
  • Directors Guild of America – 1968 – Nominee: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
  • Writers Guild of America – 1968 – Nominee: Best Written American Drama (Screen)
  • Golden Globes (USA) 1968 | Nominee: Best Director, Best Actor – Drama, Best Supporting Actress (2)
  • Golden Globes (USA) – 1968 – Winner: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor – Drama, Best Screenplay
  • National Film Preservation Board – 2002 – National Film Registry

“I never had an occasion to question color, therefore, I only saw myself as what I was… a human being.”

Courtesy of TCM:

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” returned Poitier to the familiar turf of “Negro problem” pictures, but with a contemporized twist: instead of battling the unabashed ignorance of racist America, he found himself opposite sophisticated Northerners played by Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film). The grand old screen duo played an ostensibly enlightened couple who find their liberal sensibilities strained when their daughter brings home her fiancé, an older, divorced doctor, who just happens to be Poitier. Again under Kramer’s direction, the picture parlayed the myriad pitfalls of the stark realities simple “love” still faced, given the country’s darkly drawn racial lines, especially at the zenith of the civil rights movement; the Supreme Court had just that summer struck down 14 Southern states’ standing laws against interracial marriages, and Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated while the film was still in theaters. The film’s heady discourse struck a chord, taking in a for-the-time whopping $56.7 million at the box office in North America.

But Poitier’s most dauntlessly cool performance came in “In the Heat of the Night,” a steamy neo-noir that set Poitier in the heart of the deep South – still so blatantly segregated that Poitier nixed location shooting in Mississippi, prompting the production to move to tiny Sparta, IL. Poitier played a Philadelphia homicide detective, Virgil Tibbs, initially accused of a murder in a hick Mississippi town, who then assists the local Sheriff Gillespie (Rod Steiger) solve the case. Under the deft direction of Norman Jewison, Poitier and Steiger played a dueling character study; a sophisticated black authority the likes of which the town has never seen versus an abrasive, outwardly racist yokel stereotype more enlightened and thoughtful than he lets on. The film also proved a hit, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor (Steiger).

Poitier’s three films in 1967 made him, by total box-office receipts, the No. 1 box-office draw in Hollywood. And yet, even in the thick of his success, Poitier’s singular identification as the spokesman for African-Americans came with proportionate scrutiny. While he had embraced the civil rights movement publicly – he keynoted the annual convention of Martin Luther King’s activist Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967 – some in the African-American community (as well as some film critics) began vocalizing their displeasure with the never-ending string of saintly and sexless characters Poitier played. Black playwright and drama critic Clifford Mason became the sounding board for these sentiments in an analysis published on the front page of The New York Times’ drama section on Sept. 10, 1967. Mason referred to Poitier’s characters as “unreal” and essentially “the same role, the antiseptic, one-dimensional hero.”

Although devastated by the attacks, Poitier himself had begun to chafe against the cultural restrictions which cast him as the unimpeachable role model instead of a fully flawed and functioning human. Sidney Poitier attempted to take a greater hand in his work, penning a romantic comedy that he would star in called “For the Love of Ivy” (1968), and attempting a more visceral representation of the travails of inner city America in “The Lost Man” (1969), but neither met the success of his previous films or effectively muted his critics. The Times’ Vincent Canby called the latter, “Poitier’s attempt to recognize the existence and root causes of black militancy without making anyone – white or black – feel too guilty or hopeless.” He also founded a creator-controlled studio, First Artists Corp., with partners Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand. But his damaged image, amid an up-and-coming crop of black actors unencumbered by his “integrationist” stigma, enforced a sense of isolation about Poitier, likely amplified by a falling out with his longtime friend Belafonte and his estrangement from wife Juanita.

Some of that oddly went reflected in an unlikely, blaxploitation-infused sequel, “They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!” (1970), in which he reprised his classic character to ill-effect. By 1970, Poitier had struck up a passionate new romance with Canadian model Joanna Shimkus and exiled himself to a semi-permanent residence in The Bahamas. He would make one more forgettable Tibbs sequel, “The Organization” (1971), but he would return to Hollywood in a different capacity.

With Hollywood now recognizing the power of the black purse, even for cheaply produced “blaxploitation” pictures, Columbia saw the potential for “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), in which Harry Belafonte and Poitier would play mismatched Western adventurers who team up to save homesteading former slaves from cowboy predators. Belafonte co-produced and Poitier, after initial squabbles with the director, was given reign and Poitier, after initial squabbles with the director, was given reign by the studio to complete the film in the director’s chair.

He produced, directed and starred in his next outing, a tepid romance called “A Warm December” (1973), which tanked, but he found his stride soon after back among friends. He directed and starred with Belafonte, Bill Cosby and an up-and-coming Richard Pryor in their answer to the blaxploitation wave, “Uptown Saturday Night” (1974), an action/comedy romp about two regular guys (Cosby and Poitier) whose devil-may-care night out becomes an odyssey through the criminal underworld. “Uptown” proved such a winning combo that Poitier would make two more successful buddy pictures starring himself and Cosby: “Let’s Do it Again” (1975) and “A Piece of the Action” (1977).

Poitier also returned to Africa and an actor-only capacity for another anti-apartheid film, “The Wilby Conspiracy” (1975), co-starring Michael Caine. After marrying Shimkus in 1976, he returned to the States most notably to direct Pryor’s own buddy picture; the second comedy pairing Pryor with Gene Wilder, “Stir Crazy” (1980), a story about two errant New Yorkers framed for a crime in the west and imprisoned. With Poitier letting the two actors’ fish-out-of-water comic talents play off their austere environs, the film became one of highest-grossing comedies of all time. A later outing with Wilder, “Hanky Panky” (1982), and a last directorial turn with Cosby, the infamous flop “Ghost Dad” (1990), proved profoundly less successful.

After more than a decade absent from the screen, Poitier made a celebrated return as an actor in the 1988 action flick “Shoot to Kill” and the espionage thriller “Little Nikita” (1988), though both proved less than worthy of the milestone. He would take parts rarely after that; only those close to his heart in big-budget TV movie events: NAACP lawyer -later the U.S.’s first African-American Supreme Court justice – Thurgood Marshall in “Separate But Equal” (ABC, 1991), Nelson Mandela, the heroic South African dissident and later president, in “Nelson & De Klerk” (Showtime, 1997), and “To Sir, With Love II” (CBS, 1996). He also took some choice supporting roles in feature actioners “Sneakers” (1992) and “The Jackal” (1997).

In 1997, the Bahamas appointed Poitier its ambassador to Japan, and has also made him a representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Poitier No. 22 in the top 25 male screen legends, and in 2006, the AFI’s list of the “100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time” tabulated more Poitier films than those of any other actor except Gary Cooper (both had five). In 2002, he was given an Honorary Oscar with the inscription, “To Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being,” and in 2009, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. trade, accepts one teaching marginal, troubled cockney students in London and reached them via honest empathy and by treating them as adults. Buoyed by the popular title song by Brit-pop star Lulu (who also played a student), the film became a sleeper hit.


  • Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin’ to Tell You (2013)
  • Sing Your Song (2011)
  • Tell Them Who You Are (2004)
  • The Last Brickmaker in America (2001)
  • The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn (1999)
  • Free of Eden (1999)
  • David and Lisa (1998)
  • Mandela and de Klerk (1997)
  • The Jackal (1997)
  • To Sir With Love II (1996)
  • Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995)
  • A Century Of Cinema (1994)
  • World Beat (1993)
  • Sneakers (1992)
  • Shoot To Kill (1988)
  • Little Nikita (1988)
  • The Spencer Tracy Legacy (1986)
  • A Piece Of The Action (1977)
  • The Wilby Conspiracy (1975)
  • Let’s Do It Again (1975)
  • Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
  • Buck and the Preacher (1972)
  • A Warm December (1972)
  • Brother John (1971)
  • The Organization (1971)
  • King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis (1970)
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970)
  • The Lost Man (1969)
  • For Love of Ivy (1968)
  • To Sir, With Love (1967)
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • Duel at Diablo (1966)
  • A Patch of Blue (1965)
  • The Slender Thread (1965)
  • The Bedford Incident (1965)
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
  • The Long Ships (1964)
  • Lilies of the Field (1963)
  • Pressure Point (1962)
  • A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
  • Paris Blues (1961)
  • All the Young Men (1960)
  • Virgin Island (1960)
  • Porgy and Bess (1959)
  • The Defiant Ones (1958)
  • The Mark of the Hawk (1958)
  • Edge of the City (1957)
  • Band of Angels (1957)
  • Something of Value (1957)
  • Good-Bye, My Lady (1956)
  • Blackboard Jungle (1955)
  • Go Man Go (1954)
  • Red Ball Express (1952)
  • Cry, the Beloved Country (1952)
  • No Way Out (1950)
Rod Steiger, director, Norman Jewison and Sidney Poitier, rehearsing the script for ‘In the Heat of the Night.’ Everett Collection

“Betrayal … is my favorite subject.”

Courtesy of TCM:

A consummate craftsman known for eliciting fine performances from his casts, director Norman Jewison addressed important social and political issues throughout career, often making controversial or complicated subjects accessible to mainstream audiences. Jewison transitioned from directing variety shows on television to feature films in the early 1960s, helming several forgettable studio-driven comedies. He emerged later in the decade with the gritty gambler drama “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) and the Cold War farce “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966). But it was his simple, but superbly acted small-town crime drama, “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), that etched Jewison’s name in stone, thanks to an Oscar-winning performance from Rod Steiger and the immortal line, “They call me Mister Tibbs,” uttered by co-star Sidney Poitier. Jewison went on to helm the unforgettable adaptation of the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971) before enjoying counterculture success with his take on the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973). Following the futuristic satire “Rollerball” (1975), Jewison had a series of critical and financial setbacks until the moving drama, “A Soldier’s Story” (1984), which he soon followed with the box office smash, “Moonstruck” (1987). He again settled into a bit of a funk until emerging once again with the biopic “The Hurricane” (1999), perhaps his finest work since “In the Heat of the Night.” Over the course of his long and venerable career, Jewison managed to keep himself relevant by continuing to tell stories that had universal appeal.

Born on July 21, 1926 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Jewison was raised by his father, Percy, who ran a dry goods store, and his mother, Dorothy. After developing a love for film at an early age, Jewison spent his high school years at Malvern Collegiate Institute, from which he graduated in 1944. After briefly serving in the Canadian Navy at the close of World War II, he attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and received an honor award for writing and directing several college productions. Returning to Toronto and finding the job market in television wanting, Jewison drove a taxi cab to earn his bread before moving to London, England where he landed occasional work as a script writer for a children’s show and bit actor for the BBC while working odd jobs in-between. His long struggle to find consistent television work ended when he received an invitation to join a training program at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jewison started work as an assistant director and quickly rose up the ranks to director and producer, helming such major variety and comedy programs as “The Big Review” (1952) and “The Barris Beat” (1956).

In 1958, American television network CBS took note of Jewison’s talents and hired him to revitalize the weekly live music show, “Your Hit Parade” (NBC/CBS, 1950-59) during its last season on the air. His good work on the show led to several made-for-television specials starring artists such as Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye and Harry Belafonte. But his biggest contribution to the small screen at the time was directing “The Judy Garland Show” (CBS, 1962), which served as a successful comeback vehicle for the embattled actress and singer. Jewison returned to direct episodes of “The Judy Garland Show” (CBS, 1963-64), an hour-long variety series that materialized from the previous year’s hit television special. Disillusioned by the effects of the ratings wars on the quality of television programming, Jewison relocated from New York to Hollywood to helm his first film, “40 Pounds of Trouble” (1963), an updating of the classic “Little Miss Marker” (1934), about a selfish casino manager (Tony Curtis) who adopts a spunky orphaned waif (Claire Wilcox). The film did well enough for Universal Studios to offer him a seven-picture contract, which resulted in his second film, “The Thrill of It All” (1963), a star vehicle for Doris Day and James Garner and scripted by Carl Reiner that became one of the studio’s biggest hits that year.

Still under contract with Universal, Jewison continued directing light-hearted comedies, showing no early signs of the socially and racially conscious director yet to come. He helmed “Send Me No Flowers” (1964), which paired Doris Day with Rock Hudson, and worked again with Reiner and Garner for “The Art of Love” (1965), a comedy of errors about a struggling artist (Dick Van Dyke) in Paris trying to fake his own death to make enough money to return home. Growing tired of the lightweight scripts offered by the studio, he eagerly delved into more serious fare after finding a loophole in his contract that allowed him to switch professional loyalties to MGM. Jewison replaced Sam Peckinpah at the helm of “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965), a tense and gritty tale about a New Orleans poker player (Steve McQueen) who challenges reigning champ The Man (Edward G. Robison) to a private game. Jewison reached new creative heights – not to mention achieved full artistic control – with “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966), a farcical take on the Cold War that featured an all-star cast, including Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin and Eva Marie Saint. After winning a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, the film earned the director-producer an Oscar nod in the same category.

Ever since his critical and box office success with “Russians,” Jewison enjoyed the coveted final cut on his films ever since. He followed with perhaps his most significant film, the pioneering race drama “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), which told the tale of a black Yankee detective (Sidney Poitier) who partners with a racist Southern police chief (Rod Steiger) to solve a murder in a small Georgian town. The dynamic pairing of Poitier and Steiger – the latter of whom won an Oscar for his performance – became one of the most memorable in cinema history, thanks in part to Poitier’s famous line, “They call me Mister Tibbs.” Meanwhile, the film itself earned top honors at the Academy Awards, winning a total of five awards, including for Best Picture. “In the Heat of the Night” was a landmark film, long remembered for being among Jewison’s finest work. Following up, he reunited with Steve McQueen to make “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968), an action-packed heist flick that was a triumph of style over substance which Jewison called “the only amoral-immoral film I’ve ever done.”

Jewison returned to comedy, albeit with a harder edge, for “Gaily, Gaily” (1969), adapted from Ben Hecht’s autobiographical novel of his apprenticeship on a Chicago paper. He made up for that film’s lack of commercial success with his next two movies; both of which were adaptations of very successful stage musicals. For the first, “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971), Jewison faced one of the most agonizing casting decisions of his career, turning down both Zero Mostel, who had originated the role of Tevye on Broadway, and his good friend Danny Kaye in favor of the little-known Israeli actor, Topol. He let the press know that he wanted an Israeli Jew who didn’t speak English well in order to make the character more believable. His gamble paid off in a big way, as Topol made a distinct and lasting impression as the poverty-laden milkman who finds himself facing challenges to long-held traditions. Filmed on location in Yugoslavia, “Fiddler” received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director and earned three, for Best Sound, Best cinematography (Oswald Morris) and Best Musical Scoring (John Williams). The film also raked in the profits while becoming one of the most beloved musicals of all time.

A similar commercial fate awaited Jewison’s take on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera hit, “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973), which he filmed in Israel while managing to simultaneously produce Ted Kotcheff’s offbeat Western, “Billy Two-Hats” (1973). Employing a contemporary feel to an ancient story, including Roman soldiers carrying machine guns instead of swords “Superstar” starred Ted Neeley as the rock ‘n’ roll Messiah who is put to death for claiming he is King of the Jews. Not as cohesive or critically lauded as “Fiddler,” Jewison’s quirky musical was significant for being a sharp look at the late-1960s counterculture world from which it derived. Proving his flexibility as well as his versatility, Jewison jumped to the future the helm the sci-fi satire, “Rollerball” (1975), which was a pointed critique on modern corporations hijacking both democracy and humanity. His next film, a labor movement political drama, “F.I.S.T” (1978), was a giant flop despite the director’s careful attention to detail and casting of Sylvester Stallone as the leader of a fledgling union. Jewison continued on in a similarly disappointing vain, directing a powerful Al Pacino in the otherwise limp legal drama, “…And Justice for All” (1979), and the Goldie Hawn-Burt Reynolds vehicle, “Best Friends” (1982), which bombed at the box office despite both stars being at the top of their game.

Jewison finally turned things around with the socially conscious military drama, “A Soldier’s Story” (1984), adapted from the 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Charles Fuller. A solid whodunit atop a probing look at racism within blank ranks during World War II, the film featured most of its original Negro Ensemble Company cast, including Adolph Caesar in his Oscar-nominated role as the bigoted master sergeant found shot to death on a country road near a Louisiana army base. It also marked Jewison’s first collaboration with Denzel Washington, as well as his return to the ranks of Oscar nominees when “A Soldier’s Story” earned a nod for Best Picture. Though it had not completely escaped its theatrical origins, the movie was nonetheless riveting and well-received by both critics and audiences. The same cannot be said for his next stage-to-film transfer, “Agnes of God” (1985), a fleshed-out adaptation of John Pielmeier’s minimalist Broadway play that was bogged down by a confusing murder mystery. Jewison enjoyed mighty box office at the helm of playwright John Patrick Shanley’s original screenplay “Moonstruck” (1987), deftly handling the romantic comedy about a widowed bookkeeper (Cher) married to a man she d s not love (Danny Aiello), only to be romanced by his younger brother (Nicolas Cage). “Moonstruck” was a huge success all around, wining Oscars for Best Actress (Cher), Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis) and Best Screenplay (Shanley).

With “In Country” (1989), however, Jewison delivered a disappointing treatment of Bobbie Ann Mason’s acclaimed novel, despite a fine performance by Bruce Willis as a cynical, shell-shocked recluse and beautifully-handled concluding scenes at Washington D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He served up another disappointing comedy with “Other People’s Money” (1991), which starred Danny DeVito as the nefarious Larry the Liquidator, only to fall in love with the daughter-in-law (Penelope Ann Miller) of the company’s president (Gregory Peck). Following a three-year hiatus, Jewison reemerged to direct the tepid romantic comedy “Only You” (1994), starring Marisa Tomei as a bride-to-be who leaves her groom at the altar to go search for her true soul mate (Robert Downey, Jr.). He followed with the sappy comedy-drama “Bogus” (1996), featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Gerard Depardieu in a story of a young boy’s reliance on an imaginary friend to cope with the death of a parent. Marking a return to the small screen after several decades removed, Jewison served as executive producer of the historical biopic, “Geronimo” (TNT, 1993), which chronicled the rise and fall of the famous Apache chief.

Continuing to find new life in television, Jewison executive produced and directed the “Soir Bleu” segment of the Showtime anthology series, “Picture Windows” (1994). Back in Canada, he executive produced Bruce McDonald’s feature “Dance Me Outside” (1994) and then shared executive producing responsibilities with McDonald on the Canadian series, “The Rez,” in 1996. On the heels of accepting the prestigious Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award, he helmed the feature-length Showtime documentary “Norman Jewison on Comedy in the 20th Century: Funny Is Money” (1999). But all that he did during the entire decade was just prelude for “The Hurricane” (1999), his masterful, albeit controversial, biopic about Reuben ‘Hurricane’ Carter (Denzel Washington), a former middleweight boxing champion unjustly imprisoned 19 years for murders he did not commit. Aided by three Canadian activists (John Hannah, Liev Schreiber and Deborah Unger), who helped him earn an appeal that overturned his conviction, Carter is finally released from prison a new and rehabilitated man. A grand tribute to the power of the human spirit, “Hurricane” was surpassed only by “In the Heat of the Night” as being one of Jewison’s best films. But it was largely shut out of consideration at the Academy Awards, save the Best Actor nod for Washington.

After directing “The Hurricane,” Jewison slowed down his output to a practical crawl, directing only one motion picture in the next decade. He did return to the small screen to helm “Dinner With Friends” (HBO, 2001), an adaptation of Donald Marguiles’ play about a seemingly perfect and happy couple (Andie McDowell and Dennis Quaid) who are shocked to hear that their best friends (Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear) are divorcing, forcing them to reexamine both their friendship with the couple and their own marriage. Jewison next directed “The Statement” (2003), a compelling thriller about an elderly man (Michael Caine) whose past as an executioner for the Vichy regime during World War II is revealed in 1992 after a failed attempt on his life necessitates an investigation spearheaded by an aggressive French prosecutor (Tilda Swinton) and a military colonel (Jeremy Northam). While he remained in the public eye by appearing onscreen in several interviews, Jewison remained unofficially retired from the film business, though he emerged in 2005 to release his autobiography, This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me. In 2010, the Directors Guild of America bestowed upon him their highest tribute when they announced that he would be receiving the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to motion pictures.


  • The Statement (2003)
  • Dinner With Friends (2001)
  • The Hurricane (1999)
  • Bogus (1996)
  • Only You (1994)
  • Other People’s Money (1991)
  • In Country (1989)
  • Moonstruck (1987)
  • Agnes Of God (1985)
  • A Soldier’s Story (1984)
  • Best Friends (1982)
  • … And Justice For All (1979)
  • F.I.S.T. (1978)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
  • Gaily, Gaily (1969)
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
  • In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966)
  • The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
  • The Art of Love (1965)
  • Send Me No Flowers (1964)
  • Forty Pounds of Trouble (1963)
  • The Thrill of It All (1963)

Here is a curated selection of links for additional insight/information:

  • Cultivate Cinema Circle info-sheet – link
  • “The hot surge of racial hate and predjudice that is so evident and critical now in so many places in this country, not alone in the traditional area of the Deep South, is fictionally isolated in an ugly little Mississippi town in the new film, In The Heat of the Night, which opened at the Capital and the 86th Street East yesterday. Here the corrosiveness of prejudice is manifested by a clutch of town police and a few weaseling nabobs and red-necks toward a Negro detective from the North who happens to be picked up as a suspect in a white man’s murder while he is passing through town. But the surge of this evil is feelingis also manifested by the Negro himself after he has been cleared of suspicion and ruefully recruited to help solve the crime. And in this juxtaposition of resentments between whites and blacks is vividly and forcefully illustrated one of the awful dilemmas of our times.” — Bosley Crowther, The New York Times [1967] – link
  • “This is an uncommonly alive little thriller, knowing just what it wants to do and doing it well; and any qualms one may have after the negro is arrested that is going to be another of those cinematic sorties into the Deep South are soon dispelled…Jewiston is much helped by Haskell Wexler’s hard, sharp lighting and imagitive framing, in all the night scenes, and in one superbly constructed daylight sequence in which a suspect plunges through a golden autumn wood, dogs at his heels, and out on to a bridge, and the camera pulls back to watch him stagger across, then moves away to take in the police chief calmly waiting in his car to cut him off. Wexler’s camerawork frequently gives an extra dimension to the ambivalence of the main theme, the way each man warily plays off the other. When the negro finally boards the train and the police chief hands him his suitcase, the two men know little more about each other and each other’s prejudices.” — David Wilson, Sight & Sound [1967] – link
  • In the Heat of the Night’s social commentary is knotted into its generic outline, but exists mostly in the figure of Poitier as Tibbs. His is a physical presence that both commands and demands respect. ‘They call me Mr Tibbs,’ he booms, when the dehumanising slurs of ‘boy’ and ‘nigger’ become too much. In that final handshake between Tibbs and Gillespie, as the chief sees him off, at last, for his train to Memphis, there is something more than the resolution of two different men who have, in the end, learnt something from each other. It’s a simple gesture, black skin on white, cementing the status of Poitier’s touch as one that transfers dignity to others, onscreen and off.” — Joanna Di Mattia, Senses of Cinema [2017] – link

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