In Stanley Kramer’s best film, “The Defiant One,” two escaped convicts, one white (Tony Curtis), the other black (Sidney Poitier), make an odyssey toward freedom in the Deep South. It’s a journey that’s both physical and literal and figurative.
Chained to each other, the relationship between the vastly diverse men gradually changes from initially deep hatred and suspicious animosity to trustable partnership to ultimately genuine camaraderie.
Their flight is replete with obstacles. In its course, the duo encounter a vicious lynching mob, but are saved by Big Sam (Lon Chaney), an upright and fearless man who stands up against the mob.
The film contrasts sheriff Max Muller (Theodore Bikel), a human sheriff with a streak of justice, and the brutish state policeman, who is motivated by vengeance and punishment; he wants to use his hunting dogs in the chase because to him the captives are like dogs themselves. Sheriff Muller has to remind the policeman that their job is to capture, not to execute, the convicts, and that they are there as representatives of the law.
Oscar Nominations: 9
Picture, produced by Stanley Kramer
Director: Stanley Kramer
Actor: Tonny Curtis
Actor: Sidney Poitier
Supporting Actor: Theodore Bikel
Supporting Actress: Cara Williams
Story and Screenplay (Original): Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith
Cinematography (b/w): Sam Leavitt
Editing: Frederick Knudson
Oscar Awards: 2
Story and Screenplay
John Jackson (Tony Curtis)
Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier)
Sheriff Max Muller (Theodore Bikel)
Captain Frank Gibbons (Charles McGraw)
Big Sam (Lon Chaney Jr.)
Solly (King Donovan)
Mac (Claude Akins)
Editor (Lawrence Dobkin)
Lou Gans (Whit Bissell)
The Woman (Cara Williams)
Running time: 97 Minutes