Fans of detective films will be eager to hear about In the Heat of the Night cast as the movie is one of the most lesser-known detective classics of all time.
The 1960s and 1970s were the time of neo-noir films in the American film industry. While films like Mulholland Drive reach our recommended list faster, In the Heat of the Night is another such narrative-based film that will send chills down your spine.
Made in 1967, the film is adapted from John Balls’ book of the same name. The film has also bagged five Oscars and got nominations for seven.
Among the five, two were for Best Picture and Best Actor. So, you can very well imagine how far-fetched its influence was. So much so that it was featured in the Top 100 films list of the American Films Institute.
Now that we have understood the film’s popularity, can we briefly look at its plot before knowing about In the Heat of the Night Cast?
In the Heat of the Night storyline
Like many other detective novels, we have a person from a small American town who gets murdered in this film.
Police Officer Sam Wood and homicide detective Virgil Tibbs then, after an initial tiff, agree to investigate the murder together.
Concerning many seemingly natural yet criminal characters, you will be bound to follow several red herrings until the time the actual murderer is revealed.
That is the fun of watching a crime thriller. The film will keep you hooked to your seats if it is well-made, even if you know the spoiler.
But don’t worry, we will not give you a spoiler for this film. But do save it in your next watchlist.
In the Heat of the Night Cast
Let’s now turn our attention to the In the Heat of the Night cast that brought one of its members the Best Actor Award at the Oscars:
Rod Steiger won the Best Actor Award at the Oscars for this film. So, what led to this enormous moment in the actor’s life?
He played the role of Police Chief Bill Gillespie from Sparta, Mississippi, where the victim’s body was first found. Even though he arrests some wrong suspects initially, later, he served as one of the critical minds behind the captivity of the murderer.
If you are a fan of 1960s Hollywood, you have probably encountered Rod Steiger’s performance in some of the mind-blowing films of the time, such as on the Waterfront (1954) and The Pawnbroker (1964).
Steiger stirred many glasses of water while parallelly continuing his acting career. He is known for his method acting skills that received considerable honing ground in the many TV serials where he acted.
He even shared the screen with Marlon Brando in the initial days of his career. Also, he co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in the latter’s final film, The Harder They Fall.
Even though he reached the pinnacle of his acting career in the 60s and 70s, he continued to feature in films until he died. Poolhall Junkies was his final film released in the year he died, 2002. His mortal body might have passed away two decades ago, but his work lives on!
The film In the Heat of the Night is not only a crime thriller featuring a white American male but also a commentary on the racial bias of the then-American police service. Thus, Sydney Poiter’s character as famous homicide detective Virgil Tibbs remains chilling and poignant throughout the movie.
When Sam Wood found the victim’s body, he saw Virgil Tibbs with a wallet in the nearby railway station. A “black man” with a wallet that was too near the murder scene was a qualifier as a murder that required no further confirmation from the point of view of a white male police officer.
So, he arrested him immediately. However, later police chief Gillespie understands his top-notch rank as a homicide investigator and urges him to stay and investigate the case.
Sidney Poiter as an actor, broke the much-cemented color barrier in the Hollywood film industry. He is the first African-American actor who wins Oscar for the Best Actor Award. His loaded Bahamian accent didn’t gain much ground before the producers. Thus, he took considerable time to hone his speech.
1946 marks the year when Poiter first appeared on Broadway. The Defiant Ones is the first film that earned him an Academy Award nomination for the first time. His career is neck-deep in racially provocative movies.
We all know the southern states of America to be the hub of all racial oppression. Famous films like Help and Green Card are testimonies to that.
Thus, investigating a murder in Mississippi was a breakthrough statement in those days of American filmography.
In the same year, when he played a role in the In the Heat of the Night cast, he appeared in another film. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, he plays the role of a black fiancé to a white female!
He was even a renowned writer. His book Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter was released in 2008. The actor passed away in 2022.
We have been hearing about someone named Sam Woods from the very beginning. The film somewhat begins with Sam Wood, a police inspector, finding the body of the American industrialist Phillip Colbert in Mississippi.
Even though he finds the victim, in the course of the film, Gillespie, the police chief, arrests him wrongfully. When asked to follow a patrol car, Wood stops by the window of a 16-year-old girl to watch her undress.
Also, his bank account revealed that he had deposited a lump amount before the night of the murder. So, all of these led to suspicion. However, Tibbs said that he couldn’t be the murderer as the murder took place at the planned factory site. It was not feasible for Wood to go back! Thus, he was released from the charges.
Thus, the character Oates plays can be slightly misleading at the beginning and middle! But, this is the story of a cast In the Heat of the Night. What about the real-life Sam Woods? Is his character as misleading as it is in the film?
Oates’ first initiation into acting was when he was a student at the University of Louisville. He then moved to New York in 1954, and as happens with every soul in a new city, he needed money to sustain himself.
However, mostly he kept his associations with the TV industry. Oates even worked as a stunt tester in Beat the Clock- an audience-participation TV series. He moved to Hollywood in 1957. Before that, he worked in several New York live TV dramas.
He received his breakthrough role in Ride the High Country in Hollywood in 1962. Major Dundee followed in 1965 and received his best accolades in The Wild Bunch, 1969.
However, he lived the best of his film career when Monte Hellman featured Oates in Cockfighter (1974) and China 9 Liberty 37 (1982). He succumbed to a massive heart attack in 2008.
Thus, even if, unlike the Hollywood dream of many would-be actors wasn’t hopeless for Oates, the hope of stardom was misleading for him.
According to many film theorists, American films, and for that matter, many films of the late 20th century, do not feature influential women characters.
They are either represented as someone’s wife, daughter or lover. There were exceptions, but they do not count as a case in point in a discussion about norms.
Lee Grant, in this film, features Mrs. Colbert, the deceased’s wife. Interestingly, her first Oscar nomination came from a movie made from her debut Broadway appearance in Detective Story, 1949.
Lee Grant is primarily famous for her incredible stage career. It took her considerable time to get a proper role in any TV drama or movie.
Lee Grant is also an Emmy winner for playing the role of Stella Chernak. After receiving another Oscar nomination for The Landlord, she finally took home the award for the film Shampoo (1975).
However, her film career remained elusive. Even in In the Heat of the Night cast 1967, she played the role of the wife of the murder victim.
Other films in which she featured include The Big Town, Teachers, Bare Essence, Little Miss Marker, and Damien: Omen II. She also appeared in Citizen Cohn and Defending Your Life.
We began the article with Mulholland Drive and Lee Grant played one of the roles there! But, mostly cameo characters adorned her acting career.
She passed away in 2021.
Every crime thriller has a tragic character. Purdy’s character fills in that gap In the Heat of the Night cast. He plays the role of the brother to Dolores Purdy, one of the lead characters of the film. We cannot disclose how Purdy meets his ill fate because that will give away the film spoiler.
But to keep the readers on the right track, Wood saw Dolores undress when he stopped by her window. Her brother also accused the latter of making her pregnant.
She has a boyfriend named Ralph. The story will come this far and no further in this article. The rest is for you to reveal. James Patterson plays the role of Purdy in this film.
This brings us to the much-cited character of Dolores Purdy. Quentin Dean plays her role. Some of the other notable films of the actor include Stay Away, Joe (1968), The Young runaways (1968), Will Penny (1968), and obviously, In the Heat of The Night (1967).
Ralph is essential in the In The Heat of the Night cast. He appears a little later on the screen. He is their boyfriend of Dolores and is a local cook.
Anthony James played the role of Ralph in this movie. While he had featured as a cameo and guest in many films, his first breakthrough was in In the Heat of the Night.
Along with Sydney Poiter, he played a character in Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner. Apart from these movies, he was featured in Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, tick…tick…tick, and PJ. He also featured in a horror film titled Burnt Offerings.
Most of the characters he played in his filmography had a shady overtone. You must watch the film to know whether In the Heat of the Night was an exception!
The film In the Heat of the Night has many wrongful suspect arrests until the investigators capture the right murderer. One such suspect red herring was the character of Endicott. He was a racist plantation owner.
Tibbs initially considered him the murderer owing to his public opposition to the factory that Phillip Colbert planned to build. However, resistance and a racist personality don’t always make a murderer.
Tibbs and Endicott also got into a brief conflict, and Gillespie advised Tibbs to leave town. However, the latter was convinced to stay back and solve the case.
Larry Gates played the role of Endicott in the film. He was one of the senior-most among the In the Heat of the Night cast members. One of his other great films was The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). He also featured in the 1979 miniseries Backstairs at the White House.
He passed away in 1996.
Others cast members
Among other characters, Beah Richards played the role of Mama Caleba, the abortionist. Jack Teter played the role of Phillip Colbert.
If someone asks about In the Heat of the Night cast now, one would be bound to pause as most of the actors have passed away.
However, the cast of In the Heat of the Night might not be bodily present anymore. But their immortality lies in their work that continues to live on.
With this, we wrap the In the Heat of the Night cast list. Even though the director announced the final pack-up years ago, it is now our time to wrap up their discussion. However, if the article has intrigued you about the murderer, watch the film! You won’t want to miss this 1960s classic from your watchlist if you are a cinephile!