By Paula Delaney
In the Heat of the Night – dir Norman Jewison – 1967
In the Heat of the Night is not a film about an unsolved crime. It’s a film about race relations in the South in the 1960’s, and a film that reminds the viewers who have witnessed the civil rights movement of the ambivalence and intolerance surrounding the acceptance of black Americans. The two main characters, Virgil Tibbs and Chief Gillespie, embody the emotions of America during this controversial time. The chief, who is initially cast as a racist more out of ignorance than out of hatred, eventually accepts Virgil for the man that he is, giving hope to not just himself but to the rest of the country. A touching scene at the end shows Tibbs boarding a train, while the Chief, blustery and arrogant, pauses from his constant tough-guy gum chewing and breaks into an uncharacteristic smile as he bids Tibbs good-bye. This is the message of In the Heat of the Night.