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In the Heat of the Night is a 1967 American mystery drama film directed by Norman Jewison. It is based on John Ball's 1965 novel of the same name and tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a black police detective from Philadelphia, who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi. It stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, and was produced by Walter Mirisch. The screenplay was by Stirling Silliphant. The film won five Academy Awards, including the 1967 awards for Best Picture and Rod Steiger for Best Actor.
|In the Heat of the Night|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Norman Jewison|
|Produced by||Walter Mirisch|
|Screenplay by||Stirling Silliphant|
|Based on||In the Heat of the Night by John Ball|
|Music by||Quincy Jones|
|Cinematography||Haskell Wexler, A.S.C.|
|Edited by||Hal Ashby|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$24.3 million|
In the Heat of the Night is a 1967 American mystery drama film directed by Norman Jewison. It is based on John Ball's 1965 novel of the same name and tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a black police detective from Philadelphia, who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi. It stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, and was produced by Walter Mirisch. The screenplay was by Stirling Silliphant.
Although the film was set in the fictional Mississippi town of Sparta (with supposedly no connection to the real Sparta, Mississippi), most of the movie was filmed in Sparta, Illinois, where many of the film's landmarks can still be seen. The quote "They call me Mister Tibbs!" was listed as number 16 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes, a list of top film quotes. In 2002, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Chief Gillespie leads the investigation. A doctor estimates that Colbert had been dead for a few hours. Wood finds a black man, Virgil Tibbs, at the train station and arrests him. Gillespie accuses Tibbs of the murder but is embarrassed to learn he is a top homicide detective from Philadelphia. Gillespie phones Tibbs' chief, who confirms this and recommends that Tibbs should assist the investigation. This idea appeals to neither Gillespie or Tibbs, but they reluctantly agree.
Gillespie arrests another suspect, but Tibbs clears him. The victim's widow is frustrated by the ineptitude of the police and impressed by Tibbs. She threatens to halt construction of the factory unless Tibbs leads the investigation. The two policemen begin to respect each other as they are forced to work together.
Tibbs initially suspects plantation owner Endicott, a racist who publicly opposes the new factory. When Tibbs attempts to interrogate Endicott, Endicott slaps him in the face and Tibbs slaps him back. Endicott sends a gang of hooligans after Tibbs. Gillespie rescues him from the fight and tells him to leave town for his safety, but Tibbs is convinced he can solve the case. He examines Colbert's body and suggests the murder happened earlier than initially thought. He examines Colbert's car and deduces that Colbert was murdered elsewhere and the culprit moved the body. Tibbs asks Wood to retrace his car patrol route on the night of the murder, and Gillespie joins them. When Tibbs notices that Wood has changed his route, Gillespie starts suspecting Wood, though Tibbs hints there is another reason.
Gillespie discovers that Wood made a sizable deposit into his bank account the day after the murder while Purdy, a local, files charges against Wood for getting his 16-year-old sister Delores pregnant. Gillespie arrests Wood, despite Tibbs' protests, and Delores is interrogated. Purdy is offended that a black man was present at the interrogation, and he gathers a mob to get revenge. Tibbs reveals that the murder was committed at the site of the planned factory and clears Wood. He also admits that he knew why Wood had changed his route: Delores is an exhibitionist and Wood has been spying on her.
Tibbs visits a backstreet abortionist, who reveals that someone paid for Delores to have an abortion. When Delores arrives, Tibbs follows her outside and is confronted by the murderer, Ralph. Purdy's mob tracks down Tibbs and holds him at gunpoint; he responds by proving that Ralph got Delores pregnant. Ralph shoots Purdy dead before Tibbs disarms him. Ralph is arrested and confesses to Colbert's murder: he robbed Colbert to fund Delores's abortion but accidentally killed him.
The final scene shows Tibbs boarding a train bound for Philadelphia, as Gillespie respectfully bids him farewell.
Jewison, Poitier, and Steiger worked together and got along well during the filming, but Jewison had problems with the Southern authorities, and Poitier had reservations about coming south of the Mason–Dixon Line for filming. However, despite their reservations, Jewison decided to film part of the film in Dyersburg and Union City, Tennessee, anyway while the rest was filmed in Sparta, Chester (Harvey Oberst chase scene), and Freeburg (Compton's diner), Illinois.
The famous scene of Tibbs slapping Endicott is not present in the novel. According to Poitier, the scene was almost not in the movie. In the textbook Civil Rights and Race Relations in the USA 1850-2009 (Access to History), Poitier states: "I said, 'I'll tell you what, I'll make this movie for you if you give me your absolute guarantee when he slaps me I slap him right back and you guarantee that it will play in every version of this movie.' I try not to do things that are against nature." However, Poitier's version of the story is contradicted by Mark Harris in his book, Pictures at a Revolution. Harris states that copies of the original draft of the screenplay that he obtained clearly contain the scene as filmed, which is backed up by Jewison and Silliphant.
The film is also important for being the first major Hollywood film in color that was lit with proper consideration for a black person. Haskell Wexler recognized that standard strong lighting used in filming tended to produce too much glare on dark complexions and rendered the features indistinct. Accordingly, Wexler toned it down to feature Poitier with better photographic results.
In contrast to films like The Chase and Hurry Sundown, which offered confused visions of the South, In the Heat of the Night offered a tough, edgy vision of a Southern town that seemed to hate outsiders more than itself, a theme reflecting the uncertain mood of the time as the Civil Rights Movement attempted to take hold. Canadian director Jewison wanted to tell an anti-racist story of a white man and a black man working together in spite of difficulties. Jewison said that this film proved a conviction he had held for a long time: "It's you against the world. It's like going to war. Everybody is trying to tell you something different and they are always putting obstacles in your way."
In one famous scene, Gillespie mocks the name 'Virgil' by saying "That's a funny name for a nigger boy that comes from Philadelphia! What do they call you up there?" An irritated Tibbs replies: "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" The line was later listed as number 16 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes, a list of top film quotes, and was also the title of the sequel. An iconic scene that surprised and perhaps shocked audiences at the time occurs when Tibbs is slapped by Endicott. Tibbs responds by slapping him back.
In a San Francisco pre-screening, Jewison was concerned when the young audience was laughing at the film as if it were a comedy. The audience's stunned reaction to the slapping scene convinced Jewison that the film was effective as drama. That scene helped make the film so popular for audiences, finally seeing the top black film actor physically strike back against bigotry, that the film earned the nickname, Super-spade Versus the Rednecks. During the film's initial run, Steiger and Poitier occasionally went to the Capitol Theatre in New York to amuse themselves seeing how many black and white audience members there were, which could be immediately ascertained by listening to the former cheering Tibbs's retaliatory slap and the latter whispering "Oh!" in astonishment.
Then-freshman critic Roger Ebert in 1967 gave In the Heat of the Night a positive review and placed it at number ten on his top ten list of 1967 films. AD Murphy of Variety magazine felt it was a good but uneven film.
The film currently holds a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, out of 46 reviews collected with an average rating of 8.2/10. Its consensus states, "Tense, funny, and thought-provoking all at once, and lifted by strong performances from Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger, director Norman Jewison's look at murder and racism in small-town America continues to resonate today."
|In the Heat of the Night|
|Soundtrack album by|
UAL 4160/UAS 5160
|Quincy Jones chronology|
The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones, and the soundtrack album was released on the United Artists label in 1967. The title song performed by Ray Charles, composed by Quincy Jones, with lyrics by Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman was released as a single by ABC Records and reached #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #21 on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.
Allmusic's Steven McDonald said the soundtrack had "a tone of righteous fury woven throughout" and that "the intent behind In the Heat of the Night was to get a Southern, blues-inflected atmosphere to support the angry, anti-racist approach of the picture .. although the cues from In the Heat of the Night show their age". The Vinyl Factory said "this soundtrack to a film about racism in the South has a cool, decidedly Southern-fried sound with funk-bottomed bluesy touches, like on the strutting 'Cotton Curtain', the down 'n' dirty 'Whipping Boy' or the fat 'n' sassy 'Chief's Drive to Mayor'".
All compositions by Quincy Jones
Steven H. Scheuer's Movies on TV (1972–73 edition) gives In the Heat of the Night its highest rating of 4 stars, recommending it as an "[E]xciting, superbly acted and directed film about prejudice, manners and morals in a small Mississippi town", with the concluding sentences stating, "[D]irector Norman Jewison does an outstanding job in creating the subsurface tension of life in a 'sleepy' Southern town, and the supporting performances are uniformly fine. A first-rate film in all respects." Leonard Maltin's TV Movies & Video Guide (1989 edition) follows Scheuer's example with its own highest rating of 4 stars, concluding that "[M]arvelous social thriller hasn't dated one bit—tough, funny, and atmospheric, with unbeatable acting and splendid Quincy Jones score. Five Oscars include Best Picture..."
Mick Martin's & Marsha Porter's DVD & Video Guide (2007 edition) also puts its rating high, at 4 stars (out of 5), finding it "[A] rousing murder mystery elevated by the excellent acting of Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier."
British references likewise show high regard for the film, with David Shipman in his 1984 The Good Film and Video Guide giving 3 (out of 4) stars, noting that "[A]s mystery or detective story this film is only fair but it has enormous tension. Within its given framework, it is good on the colour question. There is tension in the eyes of the black (Sidney Poitier), who happens to be a homicide officer, and malevolence in those of the local police chief (Rod Steiger). These are two remarkable performances, well supported by Warren Oates, Lee Grant and Larry Gates."
Another British film critic with a highly personal Film Guide, Leslie Halliwell, gave 2 stars (out of 4) describing it in the 5th edition (1985) as an "[O]verrated policier in which the personality clash is amusing (and was timely) but the murder puzzle is a complete throwaway." The Guide continued to be published after Halliwell's death in 1989 and, in the 21st edition, Halliwell's Film Video & DVD Guide 2007, John Walker, who took over as the Guide's author, raised the rating to the highest level of 4 stars and rewrote the evaluation to state that it is "[A] tense and exciting thriller that also explores racism through the explosive clash of two contrasting personalities."
The Academy Film Archive preserved In the Heat of the Night in 1997.
In the Heat of the Night was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning five. They are as follows:
American Film Institute recognition
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: In the Heat of the Night (film)|
Films directed by Norman Jewison
Awards for In the Heat of the Night