THEY CALL ME MR. PIKER
Last week I watched “In the Heat of the Night” for the first time. Great movie. And, although some may say it’s outdated, the movie is very representative of its time. Smack dab in the middle of the civil rights movement, here’s this story of a racist southern sheriff who needs the help of a Black homicide detective from Philadelphia to solve a murder case. The role of Bill Gillespie, Sparta Chief of Police, won Rod Steiger an Oscar for Best Actor, but it’s easy to argue that Sidney Poitier was just as good, if not better as Detective Virgil Tibbs. By now, even those who haven’t seen the movie are probably familiar with the movie’s most famous line, “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” Not only is the movie a first-rate murder mystery with outstanding acting, writing, and directing, but is culturally significant as an allegory for Whites and Blacks learning to live and work together, as well as respect each other. By the film’s end, Steiger’s bully of a police chief grows to kind of like Mr. Tibbs and I believe admire him for his skill and intelligence as a police officer. “In the Heat of the Night” very deservingly won the Academy Award for Best Picture for 1967 by vividly capturing a very specific time and place in our country’s evolution. It’s a highly enjoyable film and an extremely important one. I’m just sorry I didn’t see it sooner.