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The Defiant Ones (1958)

Approved | | Crime, Drama | 27 September 1958 (USA)
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Two escaped convicts chained together, white and black, must learn to get along in order to elude capture.

Director:

Stanley Kramer
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 12 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tony Curtis ... John 'Joker' Jackson
Sidney Poitier ... Noah Cullen
Theodore Bikel ... Sheriff Max Muller
Charles McGraw ... Capt. Frank Gibbons
Lon Chaney Jr. ... Big Sam (as Lon Chaney)
King Donovan ... Solly
Claude Akins ... Mack
Lawrence Dobkin ... Editor
Whit Bissell ... Lou Gans
Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer ... Angus (as Carl Switzer)
Kevin Coughlin ... Billy
Cara Williams ... Billy's Mother
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Storyline

When the truck that is transporting convicts has an accident on the road, the inmates John "Joker" Jackson and Noah Cullen that are chained to each other escape. They hate each other but they need to help each other to succeed in their intent of going north to jump in a train and reach freedom. Meanwhile the humane Sheriff Max Muller organizes a posse to track them down in a civilized manner and respecting justice. Joker and Cullen reach a small farm where a lonely woman helps them to get rid of their chains. She offers to drive her car with Joker and her son Billy while Cullen would escape through the swamp to the railroad. But when Joker learns that she sent Cullen to a trap, he leaves her and is shot in the shoulder by Billy. Joker seeks out Cullen to save him and when they meet each other, their former hatred has changed to friendship and respect. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They couldn't like each other less. They couldn't need each other more. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 September 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Flucht in Ketten See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$778,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print) (copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The only Best Picture Oscar nominee of the year to be also nominated for Original Screenplay. See more »

Goofs

When Joker and Cullen arrive at the mud pit, their shirts are only partially wet, though they've been in the rain for some time. See more »

Quotes

Noah Cullen: [to John] Go on, tell me all that big talk about Charlie Potatoes, when the chains off and nobody chasing you. Come on. You can't, can you? You can't because you're nothing. You're not even a man! You're a monkey on a stick. That cracker mob back there, they pull the string and you jump.
[John punches him]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Get on the Bus (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Long Gone
Adapted from "Long Gone (From Bowlin' Green)" (1920)
Music by W.C. Handy (as William C. Handy)
Words by Chris Smith
Sung a cappella by Sidney Poitier (uncredited) several times
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Covers A Lot Of Ground
9 October 2006 | by ReelCheeseSee all my reviews

This Stanley Kramer classic covers a lot of ground -- literally and figuratively. Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are white and black inmates who, while chained together at the wrist, escape their captors when their prison truck hits the ditch. Now Curtis is forced to put aside his prejudice and work with his new partner in getting the cuffs off and ensuring their newfound freedom lasts.

As its reputation suggests, THE DEFIANT ONES is first and foremost a study of racism. It has a deliberate unpleasantness about it as it brings to life the unsavory attitudes of the past. A young boy who stumbles across the convicts races to the arms of Curtis for fear Poitier will hurt him. A lonely farm wife who takes the men in has to be told that yes, Poitier deserves a meal, too. And as the men face hanging at the hands of some rednecks, Curtis appeals to them on the grounds a white man can't be lynched. Yet the film carries no tired, moralistic messages, instead allowing the racism on display to speak for itself.

THE DEFIANT ONES goes well beyond its central theme. It's an exciting adventure, along the lines of THE FUGITIVE, as our anti-heroes elude their captors and try to survive in the unforgiving wilderness. It's a story of raw human emotions at work and of overcoming adversity by putting our trust in others. And it's a story of loyalty and the capacity of the human heart to change. We come away with the sense that the people involved with this picture knew they were part of something truly special.

Though he was given second billing, Poitier easily steals the show with his dignified performance. He brilliantly conveys the tortured, yet still upbeat soul of a young black man who came of age in a time of unimaginable difficulty. He often doesn't have to speak to let us know the pain he has and will continue to endure. Poitier proves that critics aren't just being kind when they cite him as one of the great black actors of his or any other era (though as we see here, he is definitely no singer!).

THE DEFIANT ONES moves just a touch slow at times, particularly when the focus is placed on Curtis. But this is a movie as important as it is worth watching.


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