Directed by Norman Jewison
I saw this film quite awhile ago, pre List and pre Best Picture winners, when I was watching AFi's top 100 movies (I have an unhealthy list addiction in case you haven't figured that out yet). Anyway, while I can't say this film left the strongest impression, I do agree that it is a worthy addition to the List.
Virgil Tibbs, played by Sidney Poitier, is just passing through a Southern town so, of course, is taken to the police station. When it is revealed that Tibbs is actually a homicide detective in Philadelphia (side note: why is the line not "They call me Detective Tibbs?"), he is urged by both the mayor and his own chief to stay and solve a recent murder. The catch is, he has to work with a racist Southern police chief (was that too repetitive?).
I have never been that much of a fan of films or books dealing with race issues in the South. They tend to just upset and disgust me, without ever bringing anything new to the table. However, I do have to give credit to this film. Of course, the acting was fantastic, but I was impressed most by the story. Sure, it was a bit contrived, but it had me guessing the entire movie and was never boring.
Poitier refused to shoot in the South, having been attacked by the KKK before.
Rod Steiger was asked by the director to always be chewing gums during his scenes. Is that where the "jerk police officer chews gum in your face" trope started?
#75 in AFI's top 100.
They Call Me...