Wednesday, April 10, 2013

333. The Defiant Ones

The Defiant Ones
Directed by Stanley Kramer

333!  That's one third of the way through people!  Well, almost.  Still exciting though!

This movie was pretty hard to find and the only way I was able to watch it was by, um, watching it online.  Let's move on; it is better for all of us if I don't include that many details.

In one of the most obvious symbols in the history of cinema, we have this obscure little film.  Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are chained together after escaping from a truck carrying convicts.  Of course, racial tensions are explored.

So, on the one hand, I like the premise, though it is a bit heavy handed in its message.  The idea of two people that don't get along forced to go on an adventure with each other, and then proceeding to gain a deeper understanding of each other isn't exactly a fresh concept, even in 1958.  Now, of course, that is pretty much the premise of every romantic comedy film.  Still, it is well done here and we get some great dialogue from the two actors.

Now I am going to drop a truth bomb here.  I have never been a big fan of Sidney Poitier.  I know some people think he is the greatest actor of all time but I have never been super impressed.  He's not terrible, just not fantastic.  I do like Tony Curtis, though.

I guess my final assessment is that it does make for an entertaining watch but its lack of subtlety is a major flaw.  I would like to at least be given a little bit of room for my interpretation but the overall message of this film is "racism is bad."  I am not saying that is not a good theme and it was particularly pertinent in the late 1950s.  For the modern viewer, however, you don't really get a lot out of it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Elvis Presley originally wanted the leading role.  Thank god he was talked out of it.

Because the South was so segregated, there is absolutely no way that a black man and a white man would be chained together.  This glaring inaccuracy was the reason that Robert Mitchum turned down the main role.


  1. Sometimes, I suppose, you need to throw the message in the face of the audience. Earlier films touching on racism has been too afraid of the subject to really matter. This one goes all out and does it beautifully.

    1. Yeah it's strange that it is so hard to find!

  2. Great film, two great performances, Tony Curtis is making a late bid for my Best Actor pick of the 50s.

    Could your problem with Sidney Poitier be that he was always cast in the role of The Black Man in worthy films because regular lead roles weren't really open to him at that time?

    I'm wondering if the ending might have been different if the production code didn't insist that bad guys (in this case escaped convicts, however much we may sympathise with them) never got away with it?