The Biddle brothers, shot while robbing a gas station, are taken to the prison ward of the County Hospital; Ray Biddle, a rabid racist, wants no treatment from black resident Dr. Luther Brooks. When brother John dies while Luther tries to save him, Ray is certain it's murder and becomes obsessed with vengeance. But there are black racists around too, and the situation slides rapidly toward violence. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Richard Widmark was apparently very uncomfortable with some of the racist comments his character, Ray Biddle, made, especially given his friendship with Sidney Poitier. As a result, after some of the takes involving particularly venomous remarks, Widmark actually apologized to Poitier for the remarks his character had made. See more »
After Dr. Brooks retrieves the spinal tap tray from the cabinet and heads back to the ward where Ray and George Biddle are being treated, the shadow of the boom microphone can be briefly seen on the wall upper left on the screen. See more »
After watching this film on television a couple weeks ago (TMC is the best), I was surprised how obscure 'No Way Out' really is. However, I wasn't exactly surprised.
The film follows Dr. Brooks (Sidney Poitier), an ER doctor whose first real-world experience is as intern in the prison ward of a New York hospital. While on duty, the brothers Biddle (the older of which is played by Richard Widmark), come in following a confrontation with the police. Both suffer from superficial injuries, but the younger brother's health is declining rapidly due to what Brooks diagnoses as a brain tumor. The kid dies while Brooks is operating, feet away from his brother. The racist Ray Biddle soon accuses Brooks of murder, but won't allow an autopsy to be conducted on his brother to determine the cause of death.
Poitier turns in a great performance as the hard-working young doctor, who is debased by the hollow accusations of a bigot. They dig at his core and bring up insecurities that would be common to anyone in the medical field, but are aggravated by the pure hatred of Widmark's equally well-played character.
While the script borders on stereotypes at times, you have to remember that these stereotypes were very real during the time it was written. The writer does a fantastic job of adding depth, personality, beyond the paper figures. Brooks is a practical man, who supports his family and tries to not let the circumstances bring him down. Behind the veneer of hatred, Biddle is a deeply insecure and misguided man who has let circumstance blacken his core. Mankiewicz and Samuels do an amazing job at bringing life to a situation that was taboo for the time.
Aside from the competent acting and well-executed script, the film featured a moving and well-choreographed race riot that fully captures the raw hatred that can surface between groups of people who face the same everyday problems and circumstances, but are torn by one difference (color, or creed, or religion).
This is definitely a film well worth seeing. For its time, the movie was groundbreaking for its portrayal of both racists and their victims. While today the movie may seem tame, it undoubtedly struck some sensitive nerves during its release. The film deserves to be more widely known, if only for its content.
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