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 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 2:42 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Back to Sidney Poitier.

Warner Bros. acquired the rights to Robert Penn Warren's novel BAND OF ANGELS for $200,000 on 13 September 1955, a few months before its publication. The title referred to the short life expectancy of freed Negros who fought with Union troops during the Civil War, but the film dealt very little with that subject.

In the film, the daughter of a plantation owner, “Amantha Starr” (Yvonne De Carlo), returns to attend the funeral of her father. It is at this point that the fact of her mother’s grave being in a different section of the plantation brings home the realization that not only is she of mixed race, but that the status she once took for granted is now forfeit. Instead, she is now to be designated as property, denied full human dignity, and sold as one might sell some personal belongings. Driven to the point of suicide by the shock and horror of what lies before her, Amantha is thrown what at first appears to be an unlikely lifeline. She is bought by “Hamish Bond” (Clark Gable), a wealthy man who installs her in his household under somewhat unusual terms. In truth, his domestic arrangements are generally unusual; his housekeeper (Carolle Drake) and his assistant “Rau-Ru” (Sidney Poitier) both have a complex, and in the latter’s case a volatile relationship with Bond. As the country lurches into the chaos and tumult of the Civil War, the nature of these varied relationships will be tested, torn, and reshaped by the trauma of conflict, and the truths about the past lives of all the principals.

Clark Gable, Yvonne De Carlo, and Sidney Poitier in BAND OF ANGELS

Sidney Poitier joined the film company late, a month after production had begun in January 1957. Raoul Walsh directed the 1957 release. Many of the reviews criticized the film's superficial and melodramatic treatment of racial issues. A number of reviews noted discrepancies between the novel and the film. The Hollywood Reporter stated that in the novel, "the story seems to have been of a girl torn between two worlds. In the picture there is only the vaguest hint of a potential romance between Miss De Carlo and Poitier....The screenwriters seem to have been held back from being more explicit in their delineation of the De Carlo-Poitier relationship."

The New Yorker commented, "What Mr. Warren was after in his novel was a description of Southern society when slavery was still the order of the day. What we are offered here is a spate of romantic hokum." Daily Variety predicted that the film would encounter opposition below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Despite the reservations of the critics, to their credit, the filmmakers had tried to be more explicit. The story as originally presented to the Production Code Authority was called "an unacceptable treatment of illicit sex between the leading characters" because of their master-slave relationship. A certificate of approval was granted only after the scenes containing illicit sex were removed.

Location shooting took place near Baton Rouge, LA, on the banks of the Mississippi River, and on two antebellum plantations. A packet boat more than one hundred years old was also used in the film.

Max Steiner’s score was released on an RCA Victor LP. It was re-issued on CD first by Entr’Acte in 1987 and then by RCA Spain in 1999. The film ended up in the top 30 films of the year at the U.S. box office, with a gross of $7.1 million.

 Posted:   Nov 19, 2023 - 11:24 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

African labor leader “Obam” (Sidney Poitier), who has just been elected to his country’s mostly white legislative council, is reviled by his brother “Kanda” (Clifton Macklin), the leader of the labor party’s radical bloc. On the night of the governor’s ball, Obam’s wife “Renee” (Eartha Kitt) asks him to remove his handkerchief, which bears THE MARK OF THE HAWK, the symbol of the labor party. Kanda has been hanging dead hawks on the porches of the local whites to insinuate that Obam is aiding him in violent uprisings.

Sidney Poitier and Eartha Kitt in THE MARK OF THE HAWK

Sidney Poitier said that his biggest surprise was Eartha Kitt, perpetually portrayed in the tabloid press as a vacuous starlet, whom he felt acted with great integrity and intelligence in this, her feature film debut. Michael Audley directed this UK – U.S. co-production, which marked Sidney Poitier's first lead role in a film. The film was partially shot on location in Nigeria, with interiors at Associated British Elstree Studios.

Matyas Seiber provided the unreleased score, which was conducted by Louis Levy. The film grossed a below-average $1.9 million in the U.S.

 Posted:   Nov 20, 2023 - 9:16 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In his first film for producer-director Stanley Kramer, Sidney Poitier co-starred with Tony Curtis in 1958’s THE DEFIANT ONES. The two played a pair of prison escapees—“John Jackson” (Curtis) and “Noah Cullen” (Poitier)—who were shackled together. Theodore Bikel played "Sheriff Max Muller," who organizes a posse of state troopers and civilian volunteers to track them down. Curtis requested that Poitier's name appear with his above the movie title, marking a first for Poitier in his career.

All three were nominated for Academy Awards. With his nomination, Poitier became the first African-American to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Poitier also received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor-Drama. He lost both awards to David Niven for SEPARATE TABLES. However, Poitier won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the Best Foreign Actor award from BAFTA.

Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in THE DEFIANT ONES

The production was filmed on a closed set because of the provocative nature of the topic. The film's river-crossing sequence was photographed on the Kern River, near Kernville, CA. To film the scene, Curtis and Poitier were shackled together wearing rubber diving suits under their prison clothing. While wading through the swiftly running, thirty-eight-degree river, they were carried away by the rapids and finally caught by stunt men at a designated position one hundred yards downstream.

Sidney Poitier came to the set with a great deal of respect and admiration for Stanley Kramer. He recalled: "Stanley was always a forerunner of terribly good things; he was the type of man who found it essential to put on the line the things that were important to him. People have short memories: in the days he started making films about important social issues, there were powerful Hollywood columnists who could break careers. He knew this, and he said to himself, 'What the hell, either I do it or I can't live with myself.' For that attitude, we're all in Stanley Kramer's debt. He's an example of the very best of a certain type of filmmaker."

Nathan E. Douglas, credited onscreen as co-author of the screenplay, was a pseudonym for Nedrick Young, who had been blacklisted in 1953 for invoking the Fifth Amendment as an "unfriendly witness" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In January 1959, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences repealed an amendment that prohibited Academy Award recognition to anyone admitting or refusing to deny membership in the Communist Party. Douglas and his co-author, Harold Jacob Smith, were then nominated and subsequently won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The controversy surrounding the issue continued, however, and in a September 1959 New York Times news item, it was charged that the American Legion singled out independent producers for employing blacklisted talent while ignoring the major studios. Stanley Kramer and United Artists were among those criticized for producing a picture using a blacklisted writer. In 1996, the Writers Guild of America officially restored Young's credit, along with credits for the writers of nine other films written by blacklisted writers.

The film was acclaimed for its promotion of race relations, winning the 1959 annual Brotherhood Media Award presented by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Prague Film Festival Award for films designed to promote "better relations between people."

Special screenings for integrated audiences in several Southern cities were arranged by the Protestant Film Council to promote an "understanding between the races." However, a screening at a theater in Montgomery, AL, was canceled when the White Citizen's Committee Council protested that the film would give "moral support and financial gain to subversive propagandists."

Kramer's frequent composer Ernest Gold scored THE DEFIANT ONES, but no music has ever been released, probably because all music in the film is diegetic. The $1 million production was a box office success, grossing $7.9 million domestically.

 Posted:   Nov 22, 2023 - 5:39 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

While traveling with her mother “Mrs. Lomax” (Isabel Dean) on a cruise, the young “Tina” (Virginia Maskell) meets the treasure hunter and aspiring writer “Evan” (John Cassavetes) and they immediately fall in love with each other. Evan buys a small VIRGIN ISLAND and they get married and move to the place. Evan's friend “Marcus” (Sidney Poitier) and his girlfriend “Ruth” (Ruby Dee) help the couple to build their house on the island until the day that they are completely broke. They receive an ice box from Mrs. Lomax, but they do not have money to pay for the transportation; however, “Captain Jason” (Edric Connor) says that it will not be a problem provided they light a lamp every night to give directions to his boat. But for what purpose? Soon, Tina finds a box of champagne on the beach and they conclude that it might be from the captain.

Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier in VIRGIN ISLAND

The light comedy-drama was directed and co-written (with Ring Lardner Jr.) by Pat Jackson. Cinematographer Freddie Francis recalled that it was producer Leon Clore that wanted him on the film, not necessarily director Jackson:

“I don't think Pat Jackson particularly wanted me to do it. But Leon wanted me to do it. Not that there was any bad feeling between dear old Pat and myself, but once again Pat was the wrong guy I think for the picture because the two stars were John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier. And let's face it, those two guys with dear old Pat, who/s such a nice bloke and basically a documentary director, he was way off. … I remember one night I was having dinner in the yacht club in one of the Virgin Islands, and Sidney Poitier and Cassavetes came over and said would I take the picture over. I said, ‘Listen, I can't do that, you better go and speak to Leon.’ So anyway, they went to Leon and obviously Leon said ‘No, you can't do that.’ So, it was a very unhappy picture from that point of view.”

Nine minutes of Clifton Parker’s score was re-recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Rumon Gamba, for a 2005 Chandos compilation CD of Parker’s music. The 1958 British film got a brief U.S. release in 1960, where is grossed a respectable $2.3 million.

 Posted:   Nov 23, 2023 - 5:58 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Sidney Poitier worked with Diahann Carroll for the first time in her second big screen appearance on 1959’s PORGY AND BESS. The film starred Poitier as “Porgy,” Dorothy Dandridge as “Bess,” Sammy Davis, Jr. as “Sportin’ Life,” and Pearl Bailey as “Maria.” Diahann Carroll co-starred as “Clara,” a new mother who worries about her husband “Jake” (Leslie Scott).

The musical of PORGY AND BESS was based on the play Porgy by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, originally produced for the stage by The Theatre Guild in 1927. Producer Samuel Goldwyn, who had been negotiating to acquire the rights for a decade, was chosen by the estates of Heywood and George Gershwin because of his reputation. Other interested parties proposed unacceptable changes, including one producer who wanted to make the film with a white cast starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. Ira Gershwin stated that over ninety producers had approached him to acquire the screen rights, and that Al Jolson wanted to play the role of "Porgy" in blackface, with an otherwise all-black cast. Gershwin noted that the Heyward estate presented legal technicalities making it difficult for the film rights to be acquired, but that Goldwyn persisted through seven months of negotiations. The deal was formalized on 8 October 1957, and Goldwyn planned at that time to handle the initial distribution through his own company, to be followed by a subsequent release handled by an established distributor.

Goldwyn experienced a "quiet boycott" among leading African-American actors and entertainers, who refused to appear in the film. Harry Belafonte, who turned down the leading role, was quoted in an interview as saying, "in this period of our social development, I doubt that it is healthy to expose certain images of the Negro. In a period of calm, perhaps this picture could be viewed historically. But skins are still too thin and emotions still too sensitive for a lot of Uncle Toms in PORGY AND BESS to be shown now." Goldwyn characterized the "boycott" as "an underground movement by radicals." Previous complaints by some African-Americans about the play and musical had also worried other potential filmmakers before Goldwyn was selected to make the film. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP commented on black reaction to the show: "Among Negro Americans there is a divergence of opinion as to the value of this play. Officially, the NAACP has taken no position on PORGY AND BESS."

On 4 November 1957, Goldwyn announced that Sidney Poitier had been signed for the lead. On 11 November, however, Variety reported that Poitier had "vacated" the spot over the weekend. Goldwyn explained Poitier's refusal to play the role by stating that he had demanded script approval, a condition Goldwyn had never given before. On 11 December, in a press conference, Poitier's subsequent acceptance of the role was announced. The following story of the turnabout was circulated in the press at the time: Poitier explained that his agents had committed him to the role prematurely. After he examined recordings the company sent him about the play, which he had neither read nor seen, he did not have "sufficient creative enthusiasm for the part" and also feared that "if improperly handled PORGY AND BESS could conceivably be to my mind injurious to Negroes."

It was reported that Poitier, who had been working in the British Virgin Islands at the time of the deal, had phoned Goldwyn about his lack of interest. Poitier later felt, according to the Hollywood Reporter, that he was being unfair in assuming that Goldwyn "might mistreat the property" and that Goldwyn deserved a more thorough explanation about Poitier's "feelings as a Negro," so he came to California to discuss the situation. After meeting with Goldwyn, Poitier's reservations were "washed away." At the press conference, when African-American reporters asked Goldwyn what guarantees he could make that the film would not portray blacks in a bad light, Goldwyn stated, "I stand on my record," and predicted that the film "will be the greatest propaganda the Negro can have." Goldwyn then invited African-American author Langston Hughes to go over the script with him in order to change any offensive elements.

In his autobiography, Poitier gave a different account of the reasons he accepted the role. He stated that the press release about his decision to do the picture "was all to Goldwyn's advantage. I got screwed again and there were reverberations in the black community." Poitier related that an unnamed female agent associated with Martin Baum, his own agent, told Goldwyn that she would get Poitier for the role, not knowing that Poitier "had a considerable aversion to PORGY AND BESS because of its inherent racial attitudes." When Poitier learned of the offer, he called Baum and said he was not interested. Upon Poitier's return from the Virgin Islands, and after his refusal of the role was reported in the press, Baum convinced him to go to California because of the misrepresentation to Goldwyn. Poitier met with Goldwyn, who failed to convince him to accept, but nonetheless persuaded him to give the matter more thought. Wishing to give priority to THE DEFIANT ONES, Poitier communicated to Goldwyn that he was not interested in PORGY AND BESS, but Goldwyn announced that he would hold Poitier to the original promise made by the female agent. Warned by his agents that Goldwyn could "blackball" him, Poitier realized he was going to "get burned a little," and agreed to do PORGY AND BESS if Goldwyn would not let him out of the deal.

Dorothy Dandridge and Pearl Bailey were also reluctant to be in the film, until they heard that Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis, Jr. were going to be in it. Sammy Davis, Jr. was the only one of the four leads who was actually eager to play his role in the movie. Reputedly, Frank Sinatra put considerable pressure on Samuel Goldwyn and director Otto Preminger to cast Davis.

Pearl Bailey, Sidney Poitier, Ruth Attaway, Dorothy Dandridge, Leslie Scott, and Diahann Carroll in PORGY AND BESS

In April 1958, Goldwyn announced that after six months of tests of wide-screen and new sound recording processes, he had decided to use Todd-AO, which had six-track stereophonic sound. Sound Stage 6 at the Goldwyn studios was converted into a recording studio, and a 105-piece orchestra performed the score on Sound Stage 7 next door. Pre-recording of the soundtrack was planned to take two-and-a-half months. Ira Gershwin and Paul Whiteman were guests for the first session.

Songs performed by four of the characters were dubbed by singers other than the onscreen actors. In a Life magazine article, singer Robert McFerrin detailed the working process he and Poitier went through to create their role. McFerrin stated, "We had to get to know Porgy as a man. It could not be Poitier the actor or McFerrin the singer. It had to be Porgy, a blend of both." First Poitier read the lines, then acted them for McFerrin. Poitier then listened to recordings of McFerrin singing the songs and sang to the recordings while studying his appearance in a mirror.

Although she was a well-known singer, Dorothy Dandridge's singing voice was dubbed because her soprano voice did not match McFerrin's baritone, in the opinion of the filmmakers, and her songs were sung by Adele Addison. Inez Matthews dubbed Ruth Attaway’s singing voice.

Although Goldwyn originally wanted all of the off-screen singers to be black, Diahann Carroll's voice was thought not to be right for the film. After scouts failed to find an available African-American whose voice was judged to be satisfactory, Loulie Jean Norman, a French-English white singer, was selected to perform “Clara’s” song "Summertime." The film’s version of that song placed at #52 in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Best Movie Songs of All Time.

Sidney Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe award as Best Actor - Musical or Comedy. Although the film won the Golden Globe for Best Picture-Musical, Poitier lost the acting award to Jack Lemmon for SOME LIKE IT HOT.

Andre Previn and Ken Darby won an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. The film’s soundtrack was released on a Columbia Records LP, which won a Grammy for best film soundtrack of the year. The LP has been released on CD several times, but notably never in the United States. The film itself has not appeared on any home video format. The $7 million production of PORGY AND BESS grossed just $8.3 million at the U.S. box office. Goldwyn had estimated that he would need fifteen or sixteen million dollars to break even.

PORGY AND BESS premiered on network television in April 1967 on ABC. It was later shown on independent stations until the early 1980s, when it was withdrawn from circulation. A restored print was shown in New York City shortly before the Ziegfeld Theatre was closed as a movie house.

In a 19 January 1993 Los Angeles Times article, Michael Strunsky, who was the sole trustee and executor of Ira Gershwin's estate, and the nephew of Gershwin's wife Leonore, stated that his uncle and aunt were critical of the film: "My aunt didn't want it distributed. She and my uncle felt it was a Hollywoodization of the piece. We [the estate] now acquire any prints we find and destroy them. We are often approached for permission to show the film, which we consistently deny." A subsequent letter published on 27 November 1994 in the Los Angeles Times stated that "the safety negative was secure in the Goldwyn vaults."

As of 2020, the only existent prints of PORGY AND BESS run 116 minutes, with twelve minutes of the original running time missing, nearly all of it dialogue. The musical numbers remain, with the exception of "My Man's Gone Now."

On the set of the film in 1959, Diahann Carroll began a tumultuous affair with co-star Sidney Poitier, who was also married. This led to his divorce, but when he insisted that they live together before marrying, Carroll balked, and the pair broke up.

 Posted:   Nov 24, 2023 - 5:16 AM   
 By:   Doug Raynes   (Member)

I saw Porgy and Bess when it was first released. Sad to think that the film may never be seen again.

 Posted:   Nov 24, 2023 - 2:31 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Writer-producer-director Hall Bartlett wrote ALL THE YOUNG MEN as a vehicle for Sidney Poitier, and Columbia Pictures agreed to finance it if Bartlett rewrote the script for a white co-star. Bartlett found that the only major star prepared to take the role was Alan Ladd, who, to his great credit, accepted and also executive produced.

In October 1950, shortly after U.S. forces invade Korea, an advance Marine unit is sent to find and hold a farmhouse that is situated in a strategic mountain pass. As the Marines make their way down a snow-covered mountainside, they are attacked by waiting Chinese troops. Just before he dies, “Lt. Earl D. Toland” (Charles Quinlivan) orders “Sgt. Eddie Towler” (Sidney Poitier), the unit's only black man, to take charge of the few surviving Marines, even though Towler suggests that “Sgt. Kincaid” (Alan Ladd), a veteran who has been with the outfit for eleven years, is better prepared to direct the unit. Towler guides the men across the slippery, heavily mined slopes, and during the trek, Kincaid rescues one of the men when he slips and lands among the mines. Once inside the farmhouse, the men begin to worry that the numerous Chinese troops in the area will kill them all before the advancing Marine battalion can reach them, but Towler orders the men to hold their position at all costs. “Bracken” (Paul Richards), a Southern bigot, claims that black men are unsuited to be leaders. Kincaid, who thinks the men should be moved even though it would mean losing the pass to the enemy and thereby endangering their entire battalion, suggests that Towler wants to remain in the farmhouse merely to prove himself.

Sidney Poitier and Alan Ladd in ALL THE YOUNG MEN

The start date of the production was determined by Sidney Poitier's schedule in the Broadway play A Raisin in the Sun; Poitier left the role to be in the film, then returned to the play following shooting. The Production Code Authority advised Bartlett and Columbia officials to drop the word "nigger" from the script; however, in the final film, the character "Bracken" uses the word in a verbal attack on "Towler." Many reviews commented that the picture presented a non-stereotypical portrayal of a black man.

George Duning’s score for the film has not had a release. Columbia Pictures planned two separate advertising campaigns for the movie, to white and black audiences. The film had average grosses of $4.1 million domestically.

 Posted:   Nov 25, 2023 - 2:23 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

The title of Lorraine Hansberry’s play, and subsequent screenplay, was derived from the following lines of the Langston Hughes poem Harlem: “What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like A RAISIN IN THE SUN?” Its 11 March 1959 debut marked the first time a play written by an African-American woman was produced on Broadway. The show opened to critical acclaim, and less than a month later, it was optioned by Columbia Pictures, who paid $300,000 for film rights, and an additional $50,000 to Hansberry to adapt the screenplay. The play won the New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best American Play of the season.

The story was partly based on Lorraine Hansberry’s real-life experience as a child growing up in Chicago. Like the fictional “Younger” family, the Hansberrys purchased a home in the predominantly white neighborhood of Woodlawn, where residents invoked a racially restrictive covenant in an attempt to force them out. With the aid of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Hansberry’s father sued, and the case of Hansberry v. Lee was ultimately decided in his favor by the U.S. Supreme Court. Hansberry wrote A RAISIN IN THE SUN roughly twenty years later, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, at the age of twenty-six. She was quoted as saying, “I wrote it… one night, after seeing a play I won’t mention, I suddenly became disgusted with a whole body of material about Negroes. Cardboard characters. Cute dialect. Or hip-swinging musicals from exotic scores.”

Although the 6 March 1960 New York Times (NYT) claimed that Hansberry had recently completed a screen treatment, producer David Susskind stated in an interview in the 17 July 1960 NYT: “We’ve violated every tenet of screen production. We took no screen tests, wrote no film treatment, and we didn’t consider Sammy Davis Jr. and Earth Kitt for the leads.” Susskind collaborated on the project with first-time film producer Philip Rose, who had produced the Broadway show with funding from an estimated 147 independent investors.

The original stage cast, most of whom reprised their roles in the film, took part in a protest rally against racial segregation outside Woolworth’s at Times Square on 8 June 1960. The only four actors who did not reprise their roles were: Lonne Elder, III, who was replaced by Joel Fluellen; Glynn Turman, who was replaced by Stephen Perry; Ed Hall; and Douglas Turner.

Sidney Poitier, who played “Walter Lee Younger” in both the original play and film, had reportedly renounced pictures “that utilize conflict between races as themes,” as quoted in the 29 November 1959 Los Angeles Times. Henceforth, Poitier wanted to celebrate racial unity, and argued that Hollywood’s exploitation of racial conflict was “immoral but also unprofitable.” Later, in an interview published in the 26 March 1961 NYT, Poitier stated that opportunities for black actors were improving, partly due to “the Negro writer.” He described Hansberry’s accomplishment with A RAISIN IN THE SUN as “extraordinary.” In an earlier 1960 interview he had declared that “No other playwright has come within a thousand miles of depicting Negroes so accurately.”

Presumably, Poitier did not consider A RAISIN IN THE SUN representative of films that focused on the conflict between races. Susskind argued against such an assumption in the 17 July 1960 NYT, stating, “The point of [Hansberry’s] play is not the race angle. It’s about the disparity of needs and ambitions which bring a middle-class family to disaster. The fact that the Negroes move into a white neighborhood has nothing to do with it.”

Stephen Perry and Sidney Poitier in A RAISIN IN THE SUN

There was a tense and antagonistic relationship between Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil—who played his mother “Lena”—during the making of this film. The tension had first developed when they played these parts in the play on Broadway. McNeil felt that the film should adopt her character's point-of-view, a stance supported by playwright Lorraine Hansberry, while Poitier believed his character's struggles should be the focal point of the film. The actor and actress' distaste for one another never quite diminished, and Poitier wrote many years later that he believed that McNeil hated him.

Fifteen percent of the picture was to be filmed in Chicago, with the remainder to be staged at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles. Exterior shooting at a West Side Chicago home prompted backlash from white neighbors, who contacted the homeowner, fearing they were planning to sell the house to “Negroes.” The ordeal mimicked not only the screenplay but Hansberry’s real-life experience in the late 1930s, and resulted in cast and crew being forced out of the neighborhood. Bigotry also affected filmmakers when a national fraternity refused to allow a character to be depicted as a member, and the University of Chicago stipulated that production could only take place on its grounds if the institution’s name was not used.

Following the company’s move to Los Angeles, black cast members faced difficulty finding housing near Columbia Studios at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street in Hollywood. Sidney Poitier and his family were unable to find a home to sublet, at a budget of $1,500 per month, while other actors were offered rooms at only “the cheapest sort of motel,” outside of black neighborhoods which were too far from the studio to be convenient. Poitier indicated racism was behind the purported housing shortage. He and his wife and three daughters ultimately stayed in three apartments at the Chateau Marmont, while the rest of the out-of-town cast members were able to get rooms at the Montecito Hotel on Franklin Avenue.

Paul Weatherwax was the initial film editor, but he died of a heart attack on 13 September 1960, before the picture was completed. Director Daniel Petrie subsequently flew from New York City to Los Angeles to begin working on the edit. He oversaw the cutting of fifteen minutes, to achieve a 128-minute running time. William A. Lyon was credited as film editor, in addition to Weatherwax. The recording of Laurence Rosenthal’s score began at Columbia Studios in late November 1960. Intrada released the score in 2010.

Columbia financed the $1.5 million budget, despite considering the material risky. The studio expected they would have to “write off most of the Southern market because of the Negro theme.” Publicity was handled by the independent firm of Kaiser, Sedlow & Temple, evidencing the recent phenomenon of studios outsourcing advertising campaigns. The film had a domestic gross of $3.4 million.

The picture opened on 29 March 1961 at the Forum Theatre and Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theatre in New York City. It later screened on 13 May 1961 as one of the U.S. entries to the Cannes Film Festival. It received largely positive reviews and was lauded by Hansberry, who deemed the film “more effective than the play” in a note of congratulations to Columbia chief Sam Briskin. In 2005, the film was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. The following year, it was ranked #65 on AFI’s “100 Years… 100 Cheers” list of the most inspiring films of all time.

Sidney Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe award as Best Actor-Drama and for a BAFTA award as Best Foreign Actor. He lost the Golden Globe to Maximilian Schell for JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG and the BAFTA to Paul Newman for THE HUSTLER. A RAISIN IN THE SUN marked Lorraine Hansberry’s only screenwriting credit before her untimely death of cancer in 1965 at age 34.

 Posted:   Nov 26, 2023 - 5:27 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In 1961’s PARIS BLUES, “Ram Bowen” (Paul Newman) and “Eddie Cook” (Sidney Poitier) are two expatriate American jazzmen working in a Left Bank nightclub in Paris. One day Ram and Eddie meet two American tourists, “Lillian Corning” (Joanne Woodward) and “Connie Lampson” (Diahann Carroll), who are on a 2-week vacation in Paris.

While the first draft of the screenplay was primarily about interracial romance, United Artists demanded that aspect be changed, not believing the American public was ready for such a thing. The finished film briefly teases at the idea before abandoning it. Years after the release, Sidney Poitier stated "Cold feet maneuvered to have it twisted around - lining up the colored guy with the colored girl." and that United Artists had "chickened out" and "took the spark out of it."

Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll in PARIS BLUES

This was Diahann Carroll’s second film with Sidney Poitier, after PORGY AND BESS. Martin Ritt directed the film, which grossed only $3.1 million at the box office.

Paul Newman was coached in playing the trombone by Billy Byers, while the playing for Newman on the soundtrack was done by Murray McEachern. Sidney Poitier's tenor sax playing was done by Paul Gonsalves.

Duke Ellington provided the film’s score, using a combination of his pre-existing tunes and new compositions. The soundtrack was released on a United Artists LP, and was re-issued on CD by Rykodisc in 1997. Although Ellington received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Scoring a Musical Picture, the film is not a musical, but rather a romantic drama in a jazz-music setting. Ellington lost the Oscar to the scoring team for WEST SIDE STORY.

 Posted:   Nov 27, 2023 - 11:33 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In PRESSURE POINT, a young psychiatrist (Peter Falk) is unable to make progress with a black patient who hates whites, and he asks his superior (Sidney Poitier) to remove him from the case. The superior, however, tells the younger man of a similar assignment he dealt with years before. While serving on the staff of a Federal prison during World War II, the psychiatrist is asked to treat a young Nazi (Bobby Darin) imprisoned for subversion.

Poitier’s and Darin’s characters were known as “doctor” and “patient,” respectively, rather than having proper names. Bobby Darin was loaned to the project by Paramount Pictures as the final film under his contract. Both he and co-star Sidney Poitier were guaranteed a percentage of the profits.

Bobby Darin and Sidney Poitier in PRESSURE POINT

Director Hubert Cornfield admitted that he initially opposed the casting of Darin, but changed his mind after witnessing the actor’s performance. Cornfield explained that the picture would be shot in an innovative style combining “stage technique and highly intricate cinematic art.” Daily Variety credited Darin with improvising the line, “Going stir crazy,” when Poitier’s character finds him “ladling a cauldron of soup.”

The film’s budget was estimated at $1 million. Following the completion of principal photography, Darin and Poitier resumed filming for two days on 12 March 1962. Peter Falk joined the cast for the opening and closing scenes only, which were reportedly directed by producer Stanley Kramer.

Daily Variety reported that composer Ernest Gold was supposedly writing “the first electronic film score” for the picture. Even if the score had used electronics, that statement wouldn’t have been true. But all of Gold’s electronic-like sounds were created with traditional instruments. Gold began recording with a forty-piece orchestra on 1 May 1962. Laura Weston provided lyrics for of one of Gold’s themes, “Tic-Tac-Toe,” to be published by Chappell Music, but the cue appears solely as an instrumental in the film.

PRESSURE POINT opened 19 September 1962 in Los Angeles, and 10 October 1962 in New York City. Reviews were mixed, with the New York Times complaining that the picture’s “ugly truths” were “blunted with too many theatrical contrivances.” The Los Angeles Times noted that Hubert Cornfield’s cinematic and narrative styles were influenced by television. Examples included “‘staggering’ of players one behind the other” to fit a narrow frame, and segmenting the story into “a series of dialogues between its two principals.”

Poitier commended producer Stanley Kramer before a session of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, particularly for Kramer’s decision to have the source material’s Jewish Caucasian doctor rewritten as an African American. In Poitier’s opinion, the gesture not only demonstrated Kramer’s sensitivity to race relations, but also enhanced the film’s dramatic aspects. Conversely, columnist Jack O’Brian, of the New York Journal-American, considered Poitier’s casting to be merely a cynical marketing ploy.

The film had below average grosses of $2.3 million domestically, which Variety attributed to the fact that United Artists chose mass marketing over developing an audience for the film in art theaters. In his autobiography, Poitier noted "obviously a picture about a black psychiatrist treating white patients was not the kind of sure-fire package that would send audiences rushing into theatres across the country. But Kramer had other gods to serve, and he was faithful to them.”

 Posted:   Nov 28, 2023 - 8:09 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

The designer was obviously channeling The Defiant Ones, but I'm amazed that somebody approved an image that resembled Harry Belafonte more than Sidney Poitier.

 Posted:   Nov 28, 2023 - 10:23 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

The 14 September 1962 Los Angeles Times announced producer-director Ralph Nelson’s plans for a film version of William E. Barrett’s 1962 novel LILIES OF THE FIELD, for United Artists (UA). Sidney Poitier was already cast as the male lead, and a “top female star” was anticipated for the role of “Mother Maria.” Poitier was willing to accept a quarter of his standard salary, most of which was deferred. In the film, Poitier played “Homer Smith, a travelling handyman who becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert.

Nelson stated that a “Hollywood producer” advised him to change the title, believing “Lilies of the Field” had no commercial appeal. He also advised Nelson to contrive a romantic plotline by replacing Poitier with Steve McQueen, and the elderly mother superior with a young novice. When Nelson refused to have the screenplay rewritten, film industry veterans recommended that he cast a major actress opposite the lesser-known Poitier. He instead chose Austrian theater veteran Lilia Skala, who worked in a New York factory between acting jobs. Upon receiving Nelson’s offer, Skala declined a role in the touring company of a hit Broadway show, even though the filmmaker could only pay her union scale. Haunted by the Hollywood producer’s advice, Nelson considered other titles, such as “Piety in the Sky,” “Amen,” “The Amen Man,” “The Odyssey of Homer Smith,” “The Mischief Maker,” and “Mother of Mine, I’ve Run Out of Bricks,” the literal English translation of the Italian title. Nelson briefly considered “Hallelujah,” until he was reminded of King Vidor’s 1929 film of the same name.

Sidney Poitier and Lilia Skala in LILIES OF THE FIELD

Principal photography began 27 November 1962 in Tucson, AZ. Nelson said that the entire picture would be shot on location, with “no art director, no synthetic sets.” Rather than renting office space at UA, Nelson used his “rumpus room” as headquarters. Sidney Poitier fell through a farmhouse roof while filming a scene. He avoided injury by hanging onto a wooden beam, and apologized for delaying production.

The film was completed in fifteen days on a budget of approximately $250,000. LILIES OF THE FIELD was reportedly one of the few pictures made for UA in the last five years that came in on schedule and under budget.

Nelson contained costs by casting himself as “Mr. Ashton,” and his secretary as one of the nuns. Columnist Hedda Hopper identified the secretary as Lisa Mann. The other three nuns were played by Pamela Branch, daughter of the production manager, and “Tucson housewives” Isa Crino and Francesca Jarvis.

The picture had its world premiere at the 1963 Berlin Film Festival that June. Poitier received the festival’s Golden Bear award for best actor. The U.S. State Department endorsed LILIES OF THE FIELD prior to its entry in the 1963 Edinburgh Film Festival.

For the trailer, Nelson requested a sequence from the recently completed UA production, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, in which actor Max von Sydow utters the phrase, “See the lilies of the field.” Studio executives refused.

The picture made its U.S. debut on 3 October 1963 at the Murray Hill Theatre in New York City. The Los Angeles Sentinel reported that Sidney Poitier arrived in New York “to complete his three-week, five-city” promotional tour. On 21 September 1963, the actor had hosted a preview screening at the Astor Theatre for teachers and clergy. The “capacity audience” included approximately 600 nuns, and 250 Catholic priests and monks. The picture had already opened in Europe, where it was enjoying financial success. Reviews were generally enthusiastic. In all, the film grossed $8.1 million in the U.S. alone, making it Poitier’s biggest financial success to date.

LILIES OF THE FIELD garnered five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Actress in a Supporting Role (Lilia Skala), Writing—Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (James Poe), Cinematography—Black & White (Ernest Haller), and Actor in a Leading Role. Sidney Poitier won in the latter category, distinguishing him as the first African American to receive such an honor. Ralph Nelson noted that the publicity generated by the nominations enabled the film to recover its costs over the previous several months.

The picture also received Golden Globe awards for best actor in a drama (Poitier) and best film “Promoting International Understanding.” Poitier was also nominated for a BAFTA award as Best Foreign Actor, losing to Marcello Mastroianni for YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.

Jerry Goldsmith's score was released on an Epic Records LP (Columbia, outside the U.S.). It was re-issued on CD by Pendulum in 1997 and Perseverance in 2012. An isolated score track appeared on the 2016 Twilight Time Blu-ray release of the film.

 Posted:   Nov 29, 2023 - 11:33 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In the Irving Allen production THE LONG SHIPS , a vagabond Viking adventurer named “Rolfe” (Richard Widmark) and the Moor “Aly Mansuh” (Sidney Poitier) both compete to find "The Mother of All Voices," a legendary golden bell near the Pillars of Hercules. Russ Tamblyn played Rolfe’s brother, “Orm.”

Ernest Borgnine turned down the part of Aly Mansuh. Richard Widmark also turned the film down four times before finally agreeing to do it on the condition that good friend Sidney Poitier play the part of the villain, a piece of casting that producers initially objected to. It’s thought that THE LONG SHIPS was the first major-studio film to have a Black man cast as a villain.

Poitier had a miserable experience filming in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. It was April 1963, and allegedly, the mood was gloomy, the locals seemed hostile, and the weather was freezing. Poitier said: 'I have been spending hours on the set, dreaming about tropical climates and little shacks on pink beaches.' Agreed Widmark, "It wasn't a happy time.”

Sidney Poitier and Russ Tamblyn in THE LONG SHIPS

Director Jack Cardiff wanted Ursula Andress as his leading lady, but ultimately Rosanna Schiaffino played the part of “Aminah.” Dusan Radic’s wretchedly-recorded score was released on a Colpix LP, and was re-issued on CD by Film Score Monthly in 2005.

The $3 million production performed very well in the United Kingdom, grossing $840,000. It was among the ten most popular films of the year at the British box office in 1964. In the U.S., it was also popular, with a $5.1 million gross.

 Posted:   Nov 30, 2023 - 3:07 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Sidney Poitier had a supporting role in the 1965 epic on the life of Christ THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. As one of the earliest actors cast for the film, Poitier played Simon of Cyrene, who was the man compelled by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus was taken to his crucifixion. Principal photography on the film had taken place between November 1962 and July 1963, but the film was in post-production for so long, that it didn’t premiere until 15 February 1965.


George Stevens directed the mammoth production, which had an intended release date scheduled for early 1964. But that was pushed back an entire year while editing took place, and Stevens and United Artists decided whether to convert the Ultra Panavision negative for presentation on Cinerama’s new single-lens widescreen process or use the traditional three-strip format, which had become more expensive. Stevens preferred the latter, but the film was ultimately projected with a single lens.

Once that was decided, Stevens began the editing process in March 1964 with 800,000 feet of footage, which needed to be cut down to 25,000 feet, or a maximum duration of three hours. Later that year, an October working cut still exceeded three and a half hours. Various contemporary sources reported on the picture’s constantly changing running time. While the New York Times’ review of the film’s premiere listed a running time of 221 minutes, a 10 March 1965 Daily Variety article noted a 225-minute version (not including a ten-minute intermission) was screened for theatergoers in Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami Beach, FL. That night’s Washington, D.C. engagement at the Uptown Theatre was expected to play 32 minutes shorter (193 minutes), although the modified sequences in question were merely tightened, not removed. Future openings in Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh. and Boston, on 11 March 1965 were also expected to reflect this change. According to the 14 April 1965 Daily Variety, the modified cut then replaced the original version in New York City theaters, which a 28 April 1965 Variety brief calculated at 193 minutes and thirty-two seconds. Two years later, an even shorter, 141-minute reissue version opened in general release in New York City beginning 31 May 1967. Video releases of the film run 199 minutes.

The film was eventually brought in for a $20 million price tag. Although it was the #11 grosser at the U.S. box office for 1965, it still managed to pull in only $18.8 million.

Alfred Newman re-recorded excerpts of his score for a United Artists LP, which was re-issued on CD by EMI in 1990. In 1998, Rykodisc released the complete original score, which was re-issued by Varese Sarabande in 2004.

 Posted:   Dec 1, 2023 - 1:26 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

On 7 July 1963, The New York Times reported that producer James B. Harris had optioned film rights to Mark Rascovich’s newest novel, THE BEDFORD INCIDENT. Harris paid $100,000 of his own money for the property, which would mark his first foray into directing after a series of successful collaborations with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Upon making the deal, Harris learned that actor Richard Widmark was also interested in the novel, and agreed to sign him as both star and co-producer through his company, Heath Productions. Widmark played U. S. Navy “Capt. Eric Finlander,” the tough, efficient commander of the Bedford, an ultra-modern submarine-chasing destroyer.

Harris and Widmark reached out to Sidney Poitier to play the role of the ship’s medical officer, “Lieut. Comdr. Chester Potter.” Although the role had been written with Poitier in mind, he instead requested to play reporter “Ben Munceford,” and with that settled, Harris negotiated a distribution deal with Columbia Pictures executive Mike Frankovich. Martin Balsam played Chester Potter. The film found Captain Finlander determined to confront a Soviet submarine caught violating territorial waters—perhaps too determined. Although by this point Sidney Poitier had been making films for 15 years, this was the first film he made in which his race was neither mentioned nor relevant.

Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in THE BEDFORD INCIDENT

The Pentagon refused to cooperate with the production due to tightened “acceptability standards” following the unfavorable depictions of the U.S. military in 1964’s DR. STRANGELOVE and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. The Pentagon offered to loan out a missile frigate only on condition that the filmmakers remove the critical final plot point, in which “Ensign Ralston” accidentally destroys a Russian submarine. Harris declined and kept the scene, promising the studio to complete the necessary effects using miniatures or by leasing another vessel. Harris and screenwriter James Poe were able to conduct research onboard a U.S. destroyer stationed off the coast of Norfolk, VA.

Principal photography began on 2 November 1964 at Shepperton Studios in London. The unit was expected to remain in London for two months. Ocean sequences were shot in the North Sea, with the full participation of the British Royal Navy. The crew had access to British destroyers, helicopters, and other ships. The film qualified for the U.K.'s Eady Plan, since Poitier was a citizen of both the U.S. and the Bahamas, which was then a British Crown colony.

By 4 March 1965, Poitier had completed his work on the picture, while filming continued at the Malta Film Facilities. By 12 May, Harris and the crew had returned to Shepperton following eight weeks at the Malta facility’s newly constructed water tank.

Harris and Poitier presented the film at ten U.S. universities prior to its release. The premiere took place at London’s Garde Theatre on 11 October 1965, with simultaneous domestic engagements in New London, CT; San Diego, CA; Corpus Christi, TX; and Norfolk, VA—all cities home to important U.S. naval bases.

THE BEDFORD INCIDENT grossed a below-average $2.6 million in the U.S. Eight minutes of Gerard Schurmann’s score was released on a Schurmann compilation CD from Cloud Nine Records in 1993.

 Posted:   Dec 1, 2023 - 11:22 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In January 1965, Paramount Pictures acquired “Voice in the Wind,” Stirling Silliphant’s screenplay based on “Decision to Die,” a 29 May 1964 Life magazine article about a real-life Seattle, WA, woman who attempted to commit suicide. Silliphant reportedly developed the story as a 100-page treatment for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but the studio turned down the project amid creative differences. Paramount production president Howard W. Koch then purchased the treatment and signed Sidney Poitier to star.

Poitier co-starred with Anne Bancroft in the tense drama, retitled THE SLENDER THREAD. In the film, psychology student "Alan Newell" (Poitier), a volunteer worker at Seattle's Crisis Clinic, receives a phone call from "Inga Dyson" (Bancroft), a housewife and mother who has taken an overdose of sleeping pills but will not reveal where she can be reached. Steven Hill plays "Mark Dyson," Inga's husband, a fishing captain, who has discovered that their son is the product of a premarital affair.

Sidney Poitier in THE SLENDER THREAD

Elizabeth Ashley was originally cast as “Inga Dyson” in January 1965, but was later informed by a third party that she had been replaced by Anne Bancroft, without any written notice. Due to her commitment to the project, Ashley had allegedly turned down another opportunity worth $100,000, and consequently sued the studio for that amount (plus a single dollar in damages). In November 1965, the suit was settled out of court.

Sydney Pollack directed the feature, his first after four years of television directing. Filming took place at the Paramount studios in Hollywood, and on locations in Seattle. Poitier’s scenes were filmed on a sound stage while Bancroft read her lines offstage or through a receiver in her dressing room, which was wired with a live telephone connection. The real woman who inspired Bancroft’s character reportedly visited the Seattle set with her family.

The 1965 film received Academy Award nominations for Art Direction (Black-and-White) and Costume Design (Black-and-White). Quincy Jones' easy jazz score (featuring Dave Grusin on piano) was released on a Mercury LP. Its only CD release came in the 2016 Decca (France) box set “The Cinema of Quincy Jones.” The film had average domestic grosses of $3.4 million.

 Posted:   Dec 2, 2023 - 3:58 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Producer Pandro S. Berman began pre-production on A PATCH OF BLUE in December 1964, with Sidney Poitier set to star. The film was based on Elizabeth Kata’s 1961 novel, Be Ready With Bells and Drums. Newcomer Elizabeth Hartman was cast to play opposite Poitier in the independent picture, to be released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M). In the film, Hartman played “Selina D'Arcey,” a blind, uneducated white girl who is befriended by “Gordon Ralfe” (Poitier), a black man who becomes determined to help her escape her impoverished and abusive home life by introducing her to the outside world.

Elizabeth Hartman was granted a ten-week leave from the Broadway play, “Everybody Out, the Castle is Sinking,” in order to film A PATCH IS BLUE at M-G-M Studios in Culver City, CA, in March 1965. For her role as a blind girl, Hartman wore specially designed contact lenses to obstruct her vision.

Elizabeth Hartman and Sidney Poitier in A PATCH OF BLUE

Guy Green adapted the screenplay, as well as directed the picture. It was Green’s decision to film in black and white although M-G-M offered to support shooting in color. The budget was kept low on the $1.2 million picture due to advance planning and limited location shooting. On the M-G-M lot, only two interior sets and a park were utilized, with additional minor location work.

Filming ended on 29 April 1965, five days ahead of schedule, and $65,000 under budget, totaling thirty-three days of shooting, and $1,135,000 in costs. Berman and Green credited the Hollywood production crews for the achievement, and gave special mention to assistant director Hank Moonjean’s “excellent planning.”

Composer Jerry Goldsmith conducted an orchestra of fifty-two musicians during two days of recording the score, as stated in the 30 June 1965 Daily Variety. Tommy Morgan was credited for his harmonica playing. Goldsmith’s score was released on a Mainstream LP. Mainstream also re-issued the original LP tracks on CD in 1991, even after Citadel had issued an expanded version of the score on LP in 1978. Intrada released the expanded version on CD in 1997.

M-G-M was undecided on a release date for the picture, but indicated that A PATCH OF BLUE would require “special handling.” (Scenes of Poitier and Hartman kissing were cut from the film when it was shown in film theaters in the southern United States.) A screening was held in Washington, D.C., on 28 October 1965, hosted by the Motion Picture Association of America in honor of George Stevens, Jr. Producer Berman was pressing M-G-M to seek Academy Award consideration for the film, and following that impressive screening, M-G-M agreed to meet qualification deadlines by releasing A PATCH OF BLUE before the end of 1965.

The opening was moved up to 10 December 1965 following an “invitation-only” screening at the Crest Westwood Theatre on 1 December 1965, with appearances by Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman. Daily Variety reported a record-breaking three-day opening at the 760-seat Crest Theatre, with $11,400 in box-office receipts. By 15 December 1965, the exclusive engagement had brought in $18,000.

A PATCH OF BLUE went on to be a big hit, ranking as the #12 film of the year at the domestic box office, with a gross of $17 million. The film proved to be the most successful in Poitier's career up to that point, which proved a lucrative development considering he agreed to a salary cut in exchange for 10% of the film's gross earnings. In addition, the film made Poitier a major national film star with excellent business in even southern cities like Houston, Atlanta, and Charlotte.

A PATCH OF BLUE was nominated for five Academy Awards, with Shelley Winters winning in the Actress in a Supporting Role category. Additional nominations included: Art Direction (Black-and-White); Actress (Elizabeth Hartman); Music (Jerry Goldsmith); and Cinematography (Black-and-White) for Robert Burks. Jerry Goldsmith lost the music Oscar to Maurice Jarre for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Sidney Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor – Drama, and a BAFTA Award as Best Foreign Actor. He lost the Golden Globe to Omar Sharif for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and the BAFTA to Rod Steiger for THE PAWNBROKER.

A sequel to the film was under consideration, with Poitier and Hartman reprising their roles, and Guy Green was reportedly already underway on the treatment. However, no sequel ever came to fruition.

 Posted:   Dec 2, 2023 - 10:56 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

For the 1966 western DUEL AT DIABLO, star James Garner recommended actress Shirley MacLaine for the female lead. Although Anne Bancroft was being considered because of her contractual obligation to United Artists, the producers chose Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, marking her U.S. film debut. The western is set in Apache territory. As an Army supply column heads for the next fort, ex-scout “Jess Remsberg” (James Garner) searches for the killer of his Indian wife, and housewife “Ellen Grange” (Andersson) abandons her husband “Willard” (Dennis Weaver) in order to rejoin her Apache lover's tribe. Sidney Poitier played “Toller,” a Black ex-cavalryman who now makes his living breaking in horses for the cavalry.

The film, based on the 1957 novel Apache Rising by Marvin H. Albert, was James Garner's first western since leaving the television series "Maverick." Although Poitier’s character was Caucasian in the novel, producer-director Ralph Nelson said that he was inspired to cast the actor after reading The Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham, published in 1965. The film was both Sidney Poitier's and Ralph Nelson’s first theatrical western.

Sidney Poitier and Bill Travers in DUEL AT DIABLO

Nelson and Poitier had previously worked together in 1963’s LILIES OF THE FIELD. In 1964 it was announced that the two would be re-teaming for "The Seventh File", an FBI thriller. That project never came to pass, and DUEL AT DIABLO was their next pairing.

Plans to film on location in Durango, Mexico, were abandoned after vandals destroyed sets constructed for THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER (1965), which Nelson intended to use in his film. Location shooting was moved to Kanab, Utah. When theater students from nearby Orderville High School visited the set, Sidney Poitier lamented that the outing had no educational value, as that day’s shoot involved the destruction of an ammunition truck. Photography was completed by 6 January 1966. One month later, Poitier was rerecording portions of his dialogue.

Neal Hefti's fan-favorite score was re-recorded for a United Artists LP, and saw its only legitimate CD re-issue as part of Film Score Monthly's 2008 MGM Soundtrack Treasury box set. DUEL AT DIABLO grossed $3.8 million at the domestic box office.

 Posted:   Dec 3, 2023 - 12:20 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

TO SIR, WITH LOVE followed idealistic engineer-trainee “Mark Thackeray” (Sidney Poitier) and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London's East End.

The film was based on the semi-autobiographical novel by E.R. Braithwaite and his experiences teaching in a tough secondary school in a poor area of 1950s East London. However, the film's portrayal of Braithwaite's character may not have been entirely accurate. After the film was released, several former pupils of Braithwaite's claimed that the real man was a stern and tough disciplinarian who often used corporal punishment in class and was far from the sympathetic and likeable character portrayed by Sidney Poitier.

Sidney Poitier in TO SIR, WITH LOVE

James Clavell wrote, produced, and directed the film. Shot in May 1966, the completed picture sat on the shelf for about six months while Columbia Pictures decided what to do with it, not having confidence that a film about British schoolkids would have any appeal to American audiences. After it was released in the U.S. in June 1967, the film became a smash hit, eventually grossing nearly $48 million in the U.S. alone, as the #7 picture at the domestic box office.

Nonplussed, Columbia conducted market research to find out why so many people had gone to the film. Their answer: Sidney Poitier. Fortunately for the actor, Poitier's deal for the picture was a flat fee of $30,000 plus 10% of the box office gross.

The film’s success was helped in no small part by its title song, sung by pop singer Lulu, who also made her on-screen feature film debut in the picture. Written by Don Black and Mark London, the song finished the year at #1 on the Billboard Top 100 list. At the time, it made Lulu only the second British female artist to top the U.S. charts during the listing's Rock Era, after Petula Clark's "Downtown" in 1965.

Director James Clavell and Lulu's manager Marion Massey were angered and disappointed when the title song was not included in the nominations for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 40th Academy Awards in 1968. Clavell and Massey raised a formal objection to the exclusion, but to no avail. The winning song that year was “Talk to the Animals” from DOCTOR DOLITTLE, which never even broke into the Billboard Top 100 list.

“To Sir, With Love” also appeared on the Fontana Records soundtrack LP, along with a few other songs and Ron Grainer’s score. The LP was re-issued on CD by Great Britain’s Retroactive label in 1999. An isolated score track appeared on the 2015 Twilight Time Blu-ray release of the film.

 Posted:   Dec 4, 2023 - 3:39 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

On 16 June 1965, it was announced that The Mirisch Corporation was set to produce a motion picture adaptation of John Ball’s first mystery novel, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Founder Walter Mirisch felt that the crime story made a strong statement about contemporary race relations, and scheduled the project as one of the company’s nineteen upcoming films.

Three days later, a New York Times article noted the involvement of actor Sidney Poitier and writer-producer Robert Alan Arthur, who previously worked with Poitier on a televised Philco Playhouse production of “A Man is Ten Feet Tall.” Arthur did not remain with the project, and his writing duties were assumed by Stirling Silliphant, who had adapted Poitier’s latest film, THE SLENDER THREAD (1965). The screenplay was completed by February 1966, at which point it was offered to director Norman Jewison. In August 1966, Rod Steiger was hired to play Police Chief “Bill Gillespie.” Steiger and Poitier were old friends who had long sought an opportunity to work together.

Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT

With a director and principal cast in place, crewmembers began a three-month location scout of roughly 150—200 townships throughout the Southern and Midwestern U.S. before deciding on Sparta, IL. The novel’s fictional setting of “Wells,” MS, was changed to Sparta for the film, allowing the art department to use existing signage and storefronts.

Sidney Poitier insisted that the movie be filmed in the North because of an incident in which he and Harry Belafonte were almost killed by Ku Klux Klansmen during a visit to Mississippi. Production headquarters were located in Chicago. Nevertheless, additional shooting was completed in the cotton-growing community of Dyersberg, TN, because there was no similar cotton plantation in Illinois that could be used. There, filmmakers constructed a greenhouse containing a $15,000 orchid collection from growers in Signal Mountain, TN.

Poitier slept with a gun under his pillow during production in Tennessee. He did receive threats from local racist thugs, so the crew left Tennessee a day and a half early to finish production on a studio lot in Los Angeles. Jewison claimed the crew lacked the cooperation from the local community and felt “insecure” at the location, hinting at racial tensions in the region; Poitier reportedly did not leave his motel room “except when necessary.”

This was the first major Hollywood film in color that was lit with proper consideration for an actor with dark skin. Haskell Wexler recognized that standard lighting used in filming produced too much glare on most black actors and others of dark complexion. He toned down the lighting to feature Sidney Poitier with better results.

Scott Wilson, who played accused murderer “Harvey Oberst,” so impressed Sidney Poitier that Poitier contacted director Richard Brooks and suggested Wilson for a leading role in IN COLD BLOOD (1967). Poitier never mentioned this to Wilson at the time, who only found out about this recommendation after he had been cast.

The film opened on 2 August 1967 in New York. United Artists hesitated to release the movie in the southern states because of the potential for trouble and violence due to its theme of racial conflict. Producer Walter Mirisch convinced the studio that the film would make a profit even if it did not play in the South at all. As it turned out, there were no reports of violence occurring at any venues in which the film played.

Well-received by critics, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT won five Academy Awards: Actor (Rod Steiger), Film Editing, Sound, Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium), and Best Picture, and earned additional nominations for Directing and Sound Effects. Due to the assassination of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, the presentation of the Oscars was postponed for two days from Monday April 8th to Wednesday April 10, 1968.

The film was also nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, of which it won three: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Rod Steiger), Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Sterling Silliphant), and Best Motion Picture – Drama. Poitier had also been nominated for the Golden Globe (and a BAFTA award), losing both to Steiger.

The final cost of the film was less than $2 million. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT was the #10 film at the domestic box office for 1967, grossing $24 million. Quincy Jones’ score, with its main title vocal by Ray Charles, was released on a United Artists LP. Rykodisc re-issued the LP on CD in 1997, along with three dialogue snippets and Jones’ score from the film’s sequel, THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!

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