Friday, 11 June 2010

Best Actor 1967: Rod Steiger in In the Heat of the Night

Rod Steiger received his third and final Oscar nomination for play Police Chief Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night.

In the Heat of Night is a mystery set in the south about a Northern black detective (Sidney Poitier) who must work with the white police force to solve a murder. I find the mystery is very well done and the examination of race is perfectly and very carefully done.

 Rod Steiger I find is incredibly effective in this role that could have been too stereotypical or  overblown but that is not the way Rod Steiger plays it. First of all Steiger does his southern dialect very well. He sounds completely natural the whole time and he never sounds phony for a moment, which many do when doing a southern accent.

Steiger I find gives a great performance throughout the film, and fully realizes his character. He gives Gillespie more depth than one might expect from the character. Steiger shows Gillespie as a tough chief of police who seems to be racist in his own way and hard on everybody. Steiger though I find subtly shows that the the Chief really is not exactly this way. Instead Steiger shows that the chief put on a bit of a front and is not exactly the person he pretends to be. Not that the chief is not tough, he is but he is not really as pig headed or racist as he may come off as.

Stieger shows that Gillespie has to act this way to live in that portion of the South. The scenes where Steiger shows this are brilliant because Gillespie never says it but instead Steiger shows it so perfectly without saying anything. Such as the scene where the mayor says he can't be chief anymore because he let Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) slap the wealthy and racist Andicott. Steiger so perfectly shows that he really knows he is not that way, without only his face and reaction to what the town's mayor says. The biggest scene where he shows the true natural Gillespie is where he speaks with Tibbs at his home. Steiger finally shows the more withdrawn and senstive man perfectly.

Steiger is great throughout and he has the right presence the whole time, but his performance also works so well because of the way he works with Sidney Poitier. They both work together perfectly to create brilliant scenes together. Neither wishes to control the scene but each have their way of moving the scene along perfectly. Sometime one is quiet and the other is loud and vice versa. Both create the conflict between Tibbs and Gillespie work effectively. They both also slowly and perfectly show their greater respect for each other and eventually their mutual respect in that last scene, where Steiger's smile is just perfect.


Anonymous said...

I just am not fond of this performance at all.

joe burns said...

He'll be your pick. I think he was good, but I don't really remember him, I remember Poiter more, but I don't recall much of him either. It's been a while since I've seen the movie.

Louis Morgan said...

Sage Slowdive: How Come?

Joe Burns: See it again Joe.

Fritz said...

Great analysis. Made me think more about the performance!

Louis Morgan said...

Thanks you Fritz.

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with you here. The more I think about this year, and this lineup the more I'm convinced that Oscar got this right, and I loved Newman and Hoffman.