In The Heat Of The Night (1967) Lee Grant Blogathon Review

This post is published as part of Realweegiemidget Reviews and Angelman’s Place‘s Lee Grant Blogathon.

Arguably every bit as topical and important now as it was when it was released, “In The Heat Of The Night” tells the story of a black Police Detective, Virgil Tibbs (a superb Sidney Poitier) who finds himself pressed into assisting in the investigation of a murder in a racist town in the deep south of America. Standing uneasily between Tibbs and the hostile townsfolk is the local Chief Of Police Gillespie (an exceptional Rod Steiger) a man who must confront his own prejudices as he grudgingly learns to respect the urbane interloper.

Although her role is a small one, Lee Grant is a powerful and pivotal influence on the narrative of the film. As the widow of the murdered man, it is her insistence on justice – and her ability and willingness to use her late husband’s hanging-in-the-balance investment in the town – that brings the reluctant police officers together and prevents other prejudiced parties from driving Tibbs out of town. In the hands of a less accomplished actress, it’s a role that could easily have faded into the background, especially given the powerhouse performances from Steiger and Poitier but instead she brings a steely resolve and implacable irresistibility to the role that ensures, despite the powerful forces trying to tear apart the [reluctant] partnership of the men who will ultimately catch her husband’s killer, she is enough to keep them together.

Director Norman Jewison isn’t in the mood for subtlety as he brings a stark, raw vision of the seething hatred at the heart of small-town southern America at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and while the screenplay is somewhat erratic and distracted in its unravelling of the murder mystery at its centre (the case is eventually solved and the killer identified in a rushed and somewhat unsatisfying denouement which feels unearned and slightly arbitrary) it’s the performances and characters who become the central focus.

Notable for its defining themes, the ‘slap heard around the world’ – an iconic moment in cinema history when bigoted plantation owner Endicott (Larry Gates) strikes Tibbs only for Tibbs to strike him right back – and the performance of the main cast, cinematically it’s all a little bit underwhelming. The camera work is sluggish and shots are often held so long they become distracting rather than daring and the editing and structure often don’t help the mystery to flow as well as it could. On the other hand, the score, by Quincy Jones, is superb, as is the title song performed by Ray Charles, helping to build the atmosphere and underline the conflicted nature of American society, then and now.




  1. Realweegiemidget Reviews August 21, 2018

    Always wanted to see Lee Grant in this role, you’ve now convinced me to watch her in this film – putting it on the to watch pile now. Thanks for joining the blogathon with this great post.

    • nuwansenfilmsen August 25, 2018

      Oh yes, Gill. It’s a brilliant movie. Sidney Poitier was brilliant in his lead role, as was Lee Grant, in her supporting role. I love this movie. I need to re-watch it, sometime.

      • Realweegiemidget Reviews August 25, 2018

        I’m sure I saw this some time ago, but now knowing the cast better from other performances it will be interesting to watch again.

  2. Christopher Cooper August 21, 2018

    Bravo to you on a wonderful post on a very important film—you are right, it is still just as relevant today, as racism is far from dead in 2018.

    Lee Grant is Hollywood’s secret weapon—she is at once a character actor and a star, and her presence always makes one sit up and take notice. Need to see her in this one again.

    Thanks for participating in the blogathon. Love your blog and look forward to exploring more.

  3. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman) August 21, 2018

    In the Heat of the Night creates and sustains its mood, and it is amazing to consider that it still makes an impact all these years later.

  4. William Schoell August 22, 2018

    Great write-up on this picture, reminding me that I haven’t seen it in years and need to revisit it. Grant is excellent, as always.

  5. nuwansenfilmsen August 25, 2018

    Sidney Poitier and Lee Grant are superb in this movie. Of course, I loved it way more than you did, despite it’s minute flaws. The thing is there way more movies today, with way more flaws, that go on to win accolades. This is a gem of a movie, and you are right, it’s very applicable today. Especially the racism angle.

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