In the Heat of the Night (1967)

109-110 mins | Drama | 2 August 1967

AFI's
100 YEARS... 100 MOVIES
AFI's
100 YEARS... 100 MOVIES

Director:

Norman Jewison

Producer:

Walter Mirisch

Cinematographer:

Haskell Wexler

Editor:

Hal Ashby

Production Designer:

Paul Groesse

Production Company:

The Mirisch Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

Erroneously referring to the title as Heat of the Night, the 16 Jun 1965 LAT announced that The Mirisch Corporation was set to produce a motion picture adaptation of John Ball’s first mystery novel, In the Heat of the Night. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, founder Walter Mirisch felt that the crime story made a strong statement about contemporary race relations, and scheduled the project as one of the company’s nineteen upcoming films. Three days later, a 19 Jun 1965 NYT article noted the involvement of actor Sidney Poitier and writer-producer Robert Alan Arthur, who previously worked with Poitier on a televised Philco Playhouse production of A Man is Ten Feet Tall. Arthur did not remain with the project, and the 3 Jan 1966 LAT reported that writing duties had been assumed by Stirling Silliphant, who adapted Poitier’s latest film, The Slender Thread (1965, see entry). The screenplay was completed by Feb 1966, at which point it was offered to director Norman Jewison. A 17 Aug 1966 HR item stated that Rod Steiger had been hired to play Police Chief “Bill Gillespie.” The 24 Aug 1967 LAHExam identified Steiger and Poitier as “old friends” who had long sought an opportunity to work together.
       With a director and principal cast in place, crewmembers began a three-month location scout of roughly 150—200 townships throughout the Southern and Midwestern U.S. before deciding on Sparta, IL. The fictional setting of “Wells,” MS, was changed to Sparta for the film, allowing the art department to use existing signage and storefronts. Conflicting dates in ... More Less

Erroneously referring to the title as Heat of the Night, the 16 Jun 1965 LAT announced that The Mirisch Corporation was set to produce a motion picture adaptation of John Ball’s first mystery novel, In the Heat of the Night. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, founder Walter Mirisch felt that the crime story made a strong statement about contemporary race relations, and scheduled the project as one of the company’s nineteen upcoming films. Three days later, a 19 Jun 1965 NYT article noted the involvement of actor Sidney Poitier and writer-producer Robert Alan Arthur, who previously worked with Poitier on a televised Philco Playhouse production of A Man is Ten Feet Tall. Arthur did not remain with the project, and the 3 Jan 1966 LAT reported that writing duties had been assumed by Stirling Silliphant, who adapted Poitier’s latest film, The Slender Thread (1965, see entry). The screenplay was completed by Feb 1966, at which point it was offered to director Norman Jewison. A 17 Aug 1966 HR item stated that Rod Steiger had been hired to play Police Chief “Bill Gillespie.” The 24 Aug 1967 LAHExam identified Steiger and Poitier as “old friends” who had long sought an opportunity to work together.
       With a director and principal cast in place, crewmembers began a three-month location scout of roughly 150—200 townships throughout the Southern and Midwestern U.S. before deciding on Sparta, IL. The fictional setting of “Wells,” MS, was changed to Sparta for the film, allowing the art department to use existing signage and storefronts. Conflicting dates in contemporary news items and production notes suggested that filming began either 19 or 26 Sep 1966. Production headquarters were located in Chicago, IL, and additional shooting was completed in the cotton-growing community of Dyersberg, TN, where filmmakers constructed a greenhouse containing a $15,000 orchid collection from growers in Signal Mountain, TN. The ten-to-twelve-week schedule brought roughly $500,000 to the local community. On 14 Nov 1966, however, DV reported that the crew left TN a day and a half early to finish production on a studio lot in Los Angeles, CA. Jewison claimed the crew lacked the cooperation from the local community and felt “insecure” at the location, hinting at racial tensions in the region; Poitier reportedly did not leave his motel room “except when necessary.” The 18 Nov 1967 NYT stated that the final cost was less than $2 million.
       According to the 15 Aug 1966 HR, Jewison used the photographic technique of “forced development” to compensate for underexposure, since most of the scenes were shot at night. In a 28 Dec 1967 letter to the AMPAS Sound Effects Award Committee, he explained that much of the picture was shot on handheld MOS cameras, while effects were recorded on “wild tracks” and mixed into the soundtrack during post-production. Jewison also claimed that several scenes were improvised by the actors.
       Prior to its domestic release, the 16 May 1967 NYT named In the Heat of the Night as one of fourteen American films scheduled to play out of competition at the Moscow Film Festival in Russia in Jul 1967. Contemporary sources indicated that the picture would also be screened at the Academy Award Theater in Los Angeles on 28 Jul 1967 and 5 Aug 1967 for events benefitting the Inner City Cultural Center and Reparatory Company, and the Frostig Center of Educational Therapy. A 2 Aug 1967 NYT item announced its release that day at the Capitol, Broadway and 31st Street, and 86th Street East Theatres. In Los Angeles, the film began an exclusive engagement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre 23 Aug—17 Oct 1967, with more playdates added citywide the following day.
       Well-received by critics, In the Heat of the Night won five Academy Awards: Actor (Rod Steiger), Film Editing, Sound, Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium), and Best Picture, and earned additional nominations for Directing and Sound Effects. The film was also nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, of which it won three: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Rod Steiger), Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Sterling Silliphant), and Best Motion Picture – Drama. AFI ranked it #75 on the 2007 list of 100 Years…100 Movies—10th Anniversary Edition, and #21 on the list of 100 Years…100 Cheers. Poitier’s “Virgil Tibbs” is the nineteenth most heroic character on the list of 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, while the line, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” is #16 on the list of 100 Years…100 Quotes.
       In 1970 and 1971, Poitier reprised his role for They Call Me Mr. Tibbs and The Organization (see entries), which followed Tibbs’s career as a detective in San Francisco, CA. Tibbs returned to Sparta in the long-running television drama series, In the Heat of the Night (NBC, 1988—1992; CBS, 1992—1995), which starred Howard Rollins and Carroll O’Connor. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Nov 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1967
p. 3, 7.
Filmfacts
1967
pp. 171-73.
Films and FIlming
Nov 1967
pp. 21-22.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1966.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1966.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1967
p. 3.
Life
28 Jul 1967
p. 10.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
24 Aug 1967.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Jun 1965
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jan 1966
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1967
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 1967
Section C, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1967
Section C, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1967
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
23 Aug 1967.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1967
Section C, p. 17.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Jun 1967
p. 696.
New York Times
19 Jun 1965
p. 19.
New York Times
16 May 1967
p. 51.
New York Times
2 Aug 1967
p. 27.
New York Times
3 Aug 1967
Section III, p. 26.
New York Times
18 Nov 1967
p. 45.
New Yorker
5 Aug 1967
p. 64.
Newsweek
14 Aug 1967.
---
Saturday Review
8 Jul 1967
p. 39.
Saturday Review
19 Aug 1967
p. 45.
Time
11 Aug 1967
p. 72.
Variety
21 Jun 1967
p. 6.
Village Voice
17 Aug 1967
p. 21.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Norman Jewison-Walter Mirisch Production
The Norman Jewison-Walter Mirisch production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Property
COSTUMES
Men's cost
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Asst to the prod
Casting
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel In the Heat of the Night by John Ball (New York, 1965).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"In the Heat of the Night," music by Quincy Jones, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, sung by Ray Charles
"Foul Owl," music by Quincy Jones, lyrics by Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
2 August 1967
Premiere Information:
Moscow Film Festival screening: July 1967
New York opening: 2 August 1967
Los Angeles opening: 23 August 1967
Production Date:
19 or 26 September--mid November 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch Corp.
Copyright Date:
2 August 1967
Copyright Number:
LP34525
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Sound
Color
Deluxe
Widescreen/ratio
Duration(in mins):
109-110
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In Sparta, Mississippi, one hot September night, the murdered body of wealthy industrialist Philip Colbert is found in an alley. Hunting for suspects, the police pick up Virgil Tibbs, a well-dressed black man, and bring him to headquarters for questioning. To the consternation of police chief Bill Gillespie, Tibbs turns out to be a top homicide detective from Philadelphia, who has been in town visiting his mother. Ordered by his superior in Philadelphia to assist with the case, Tibbs conducts the postmortem examination and thus displays his superior knowledge of criminology. Though enraged, Gillespie reluctantly acquiesces in Tibbs's findings. As the investigation gets underway, Gillespie accuses young Harvey Oberst of the murder when he catches him with the dead man's wallet, but Tibbs quickly proves that Oberst stole the wallet after he found the body. Tibbs, for his part, is so determined to establish the guilt of Eric Endicott, an influential but insolent and bigoted conservative who opposed Colbert's progressive plans for a modern factory, that he too makes a false accusation. Gradually, as Tibbs and Gillespie combine their efforts, a grudging tolerance develops between them. After Gillespie has wrongly charged his own deputy, Sam Wood, with the murder, the local tease, Delores Purdy, is dragged into the police station by her brother, who claims that she is pregnant by Wood. Upon learning about an abortionist called Mama Caleba, Tibbs visits the woman and is still with her when Delores arrives, accompanied by the actual father of her child, diner counterman Ralph Henshaw. Tibbs confronts him, and Henshaw confesses that he murdered Colbert to obtain the money for Delores' abortion. With the case closed, Gillespie drives Tibbs to the ... +


In Sparta, Mississippi, one hot September night, the murdered body of wealthy industrialist Philip Colbert is found in an alley. Hunting for suspects, the police pick up Virgil Tibbs, a well-dressed black man, and bring him to headquarters for questioning. To the consternation of police chief Bill Gillespie, Tibbs turns out to be a top homicide detective from Philadelphia, who has been in town visiting his mother. Ordered by his superior in Philadelphia to assist with the case, Tibbs conducts the postmortem examination and thus displays his superior knowledge of criminology. Though enraged, Gillespie reluctantly acquiesces in Tibbs's findings. As the investigation gets underway, Gillespie accuses young Harvey Oberst of the murder when he catches him with the dead man's wallet, but Tibbs quickly proves that Oberst stole the wallet after he found the body. Tibbs, for his part, is so determined to establish the guilt of Eric Endicott, an influential but insolent and bigoted conservative who opposed Colbert's progressive plans for a modern factory, that he too makes a false accusation. Gradually, as Tibbs and Gillespie combine their efforts, a grudging tolerance develops between them. After Gillespie has wrongly charged his own deputy, Sam Wood, with the murder, the local tease, Delores Purdy, is dragged into the police station by her brother, who claims that she is pregnant by Wood. Upon learning about an abortionist called Mama Caleba, Tibbs visits the woman and is still with her when Delores arrives, accompanied by the actual father of her child, diner counterman Ralph Henshaw. Tibbs confronts him, and Henshaw confesses that he murdered Colbert to obtain the money for Delores' abortion. With the case closed, Gillespie drives Tibbs to the railway depot. The two men shake hands in acknowledgment of the mutual respect that has grown between them. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

Sidney Poitier on IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT

Norman Jewison on IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT

Laurence Fishburne on IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.