Photo courtesy of Dallas International Film Festival
Sidney Poitier’s complex career as the virtually the only African-American movie star of the Civil Rights era peaked in 1967 with two major hits—the interracial romantic comedy Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and the racially fraught murder mystery, In the Heat of the Night, which won Best Picture. The former drew mixed reviews then and hasn’t aged well, while the latter still resonates.
In a decade remembered for innovative New Hollywood films like Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider, this Poitier vehicle united some the finest established industry talents: Directed by Norman Jewison from a Sterling Silliphant script with rich cinematography by Haskell Wexler; music by Quincy Jones and title song performed by Ray Charles; crisp editing by future director Hal Ashby. Low-key but intense Poitier plays off Rod Steiger’s edgy Method performance, with strong support from Lee Grant and Warren Oates.