Oscar Movies: In the Heat of the Night

Norman Jewison's In the Heat of the Night (1967), is the only problem film about racial discrimination against blacks to have won Best Picture, though later pictures with similar issues, like Martin Ritt's Sounder in l972, and A Soldier's Story in l984, also directed by Norman Jewison, were also nominated. But in l967, the timing was “right” to honor a topical film, and In the Heat of the Night, about the collaboratioon of a bigotted police chief (Rod Steiger) and a black homocide detective (Poitier), won 5 Oscars, including Best Actor to Steiger.

Of the five nominated films that year, the best was Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, a revolutionary film in more senses than one. But its glamorizing attitude toward the two gangster characters, and the fact that it was made by the New Hollywood–Warren Beatty served as producer and star–all worked against it. To think that the Academy honored In the Heat for best editing and sound, over the amazing achievements in these areas in Bonnie and Clyde, is still shocking.