In the Heat of the Night

Directed by Norman Jewison
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In the Heat of the Night is a 1967 film, based on the John Ball novel published in 1965, which tells the story of a Northern Black police detective who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a racist small town in Mississippi. It won the Academy Award for best picture in 1967.

When a wealthy man planning to build a factory in Sparta, Mississippi, is murdered, Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is pressured to find his killer quickly. Northerner Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), passing through, is picked up at the train station with a substantial amount of cash in his wallet. Gillespie, heavily prejudiced against blacks as he is, jumps to the conclusion he has his culprit, but is embarrassed to learn that Tibbs is a respected Philadelphia homicide detective who had been visiting his mother. After this racist treatment, Tibbs wants nothing more than to leave as quickly as possible even though his captain recommends he stay and help, but the victim's widow (Lee Grant) is impressed by the detective's expertise clearing another wrongly accused suspect of the crime and threatens to stop construction on the much-needed factory unless he leads the investigation. Gillespie then talks Tibbs into lending his services. Despite the rocky start to their relationship, they come to respect each other as they are forced to work together to solve the crime.


Norman Jewison


John Ball (novel)

Stirling Silliphant (screenplay)


Sidney Poitier … Detective Virgil Tibbs

Rod Steiger … Police Chief Bill Gillespie

Warren Oates … Officer Sam Wood

Lee Grant … Mrs. Leslie Colbert

Larry Gates … Eric Endicott

James Patterson … Purdy (Delores' brother)

William Schallert … Mayor Webb Schubert

Beah Richards … Mayor Webb Schubert

Beah Richards … Mama Caleba (aka Mrs. Bellamy)

Peter Whitney … Officer George Courtney

Kermit Murdock … H.E. Henderson (banker)

Larry D. Mann … Watkins

Quentin Dean … Delores Purdy

Anthony James …Ralph Henshaw (diner counterman)

Arthur Malet … Ted Ulam (mortician)

Scott Wilson … Harvey Oberst (murder suspect)

Matt Clark … Packy Harrison

Eldon Quick … Charlie Hawthorne (photographer)


  • Rod Steiger was asked by director Norman Jewison to chew gum when playing the part. He resisted at first but then grew to love the idea, and eventually went through 263 packs of gum during the shooting of the film.
  • The scene that took place at the sheriff's house featured dialog that came out of improvisations between Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.