In the Heat of the Night
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for In the Heat of the Night can be found here.

When wealthy Sparta, Mississippi factory owner, Philip Colbert, is found murdered, Sparta Police Chief Bill Gillespie's (Rod Steiger) prime suspect is Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a black man found waiting for a train, until he learns that Detective Tibbs is actually the number one homicide expert in the Philadelphia Police Department. During a time in 1967 during which the Deep South was still a hotbed of racial tension, Gillespie reluctantly asks Tibbs for his help.

Yes. In the Heat of the Night (1965) was written by American author John Ball [1911-1988]. In his book, Ball introduces the Virgil Tibbs character, who went on to appear in five more novels. The movie won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture and spawned to two sequels, They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970) and The Organization (1971) as well as a TV series, 'In the Heat of the Night' (1988-1995).

Gum. The director wanted Gillespie to chew gum to establish a link to a notorious southern sheriff who chewed tobacco. Steiger protested until he realized that he could use it to provide insight into his moods and thought processes. It is said that he chewed 263 packs of gum.

When Virgil found the branch on the floor of Colbert's car, he first thought that Endicott (Larry Gates) had to be Colbert's killer because the fern came from his greenhouse. He had to abandon this theory later on, after receiving reports from three witnesses who saw Colbert driving back into town after visiting Endicott. Now it became obvious that Colbert had visited Endicott in his greenhouse, the plant stuck to his shoes, and he drove back to town where he met his killer. The branch didn't lead Virgil to the real killer, but it did show that Endicott wasn't guilty.

How does the movie end?

Virgil arranges to speak with Mama Caleba (Beah Richards), an old black woman who runs a store and does abortions on the side. She admits to arranging an abortion for Delores Purdy (Quentin Dean), who walks into the store just as Virgil and Mama are talking. Delores panics and races back outside into the arms of Ralph Henshaw (Anthony James), just as her brother Lloyd (link=nm0666247]) drives up with a half dozen or so good old boys. As they advance toward Virgil with their guns, pipes, brass knuckles, and bottles of booze, Virgil stops them by telling Lloyd to look into Delores' purse where he'll find the $100 she got from Ralph for the abortion. 'He got her to tell you that Sam Wood did it,' Virgil explains. 'He made a fool out of you, Purdy.' Against Delores' screams that Virgil is a 'stinking liar', Lloyd does as Virgil says and finds the money. As Lloyd turns his gun on Ralph, Ralph shoots him. In the chaos that follows, Virgil grabs Ralph's gun and holds the group at bay. Later, in Gillespie's office, Ralph confesses to accidentally killing Colbert when he attempted to rob him to get the money for Delores' abortion. In the final scene, Gillespie gives Virgil a lift to the train station. They shake hands and say goodbye to each other. As Virgil begins to board the train, Gillespie says, 'You take care, y'hear?' Virgil replies, 'Yeah,' boards the train, and the train starts heading north.

The final scene (as the credits roll) starts with a closeup of Virgil in the window of the train. As the scene progresses, the camera backs off further and further, finally shooting the train from high up in the air. Although it hasn't been confirmed, the shot was most likely made from a helicopter. Also, if you watch closely, you can see that the closeup of Virgil in the window was shot using a zoom lens. The camera is actually in a much further distance from the train. First, it zooms out, only then it begins to back off.

It was filmed in Sparta, Illinois. The bridge scene was at Chester, Illinois on the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri. Incidentally, the train depot has been restored to its former glory and is now an art museum with a section devoted to the film (movie posters, scripts, autographed photos, etc.). Mama Caleba's grocery store, which was near the depot is gone, but the downtown area is said to look pretty much the same.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 10 months ago
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