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Slap Heard ‘Round the World

On a day when Hillary Clinton’s going negative is getting rave reviews I thought I’d take a breather from politics. I heard an interview with the author of a new book about the Best Picture nominees for the 1968 Oscars called Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood; really interesting stuff.

’68 was a pivotal year for Hollywood films; movie makers had finally shaken off the “moral” limitations of the Production Code and started taking on cultural taboos in a more direct – and honest – manner. It kicked off a Hollywood artistic revival that lasted about ten years and included some of the best films ever made, right up until The Blockbusters in the mid-seventies when Uni-Studio came along and ate up the movies.

I don’t know if movies can change the world but really good ones can push things along once in a while.

Here’s a clip from In the Heat of the Night, one of the all-time great films, and starring the always elegant Sidney Poitier. The clip here has been referred to as “the slap heard round the world” and I think you’ll see why:

That’s Rod Steiger as the sherrif and I understand he tried that “I don’t know” line eighteen times until he got it right. He sure does get it right. I’ve also heard Poitier explain that in the original script, his character was supposed to take that slap with the typical stoicism expected of black characters in a Hollywood film. But he refused to play it that way and the result is a watershed moment. Hope you enjoy.

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March 5, 2008   |  Filed Under Living Now   |    Permalink


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