7 August 2012 10:27 AM, PDT | Moviefone | See recent Moviefone news »

They called it the "Slap Heard 'Round the World." It happened partway through "In the Heat of the Night" -- a movie released at the height of racial tensions during the Civil Rights Era exactly 45 years ago (on August 2, 1967) -- in a scene where a bigoted Southern cotton plantation owner slaps Sidney Poitier (and Poitier slaps back just as hard). Years of deferential behavior, both from Poitier in saintly role-model performances, and from every black actor ever to perform in a Hollywood movie, halted with a mighty thwack. It's one of the most memorable moments in film history and helped earn "In the Heat of the Night" the Best Picture Oscar that year. Even today, the scene remains brutally effective, a reminder of how much has changed in 45 years, and how much has not. The film -- in which a racist Southern sheriff (Rod Steiger) and a haughty black police »

- Gary Susman

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