Comfortable and Furious

Memorable Movie Scenes: Part 26

Movie: In The Heat Of The Night

Rod Steiger won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Police Chief Bill Gillespie, but the great Sidney Poitier is the powerhouse in yet another movie that showcases ugly racism. Anyone of lesser stature and presence could not have survived the racist headwinds in Sparta, Mississippi.

Mr. Colbert, the industrial developer that was building a factory in this God-forsaken town had been just brutally murdered. Detective Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia homicide detective is unfortunately passing through this shithole of a town and was arrested at the train station for the murder, because he was a stranger and black. This was really top-notch police work by Officer Sam Woods (Warren Oates), one of several inept clowns that masqueraded as law officers in this Mississippi town.

After Officer Tibbs was verified and reluctantly vindicated by Chief Gillespie, Tibb’s journey through racist Hell got worse as his boss in Philadelphia ordered him to stay and help the hapless Mississippi crew of peace officers with the murder investigation. The resentment and undermining because of Gillespie’s own incompetence and bigotry was epic, and boiled over in the scene in the video above. It was memorable.

“You’re pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you, Virgil. That’s a funny name for a nigger boy that comes from Philadelphia, what do they call you up there?” -Chief Gillespie

“They call me, MR. TIBBS!” -Virgil Tibbs

For a full 10 seconds we were treated to Poitier’s magnificent acting skills as he first seethed at the insults, then slowly gained his composure. Just utter greatness.



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