When a wealthy industrialist is found murdered in a small Mississippi town and an African-American man is picked up at the train station with a wallet full of cash, local Police Chief Bill Gillespie immediately assumes he has caught his culprit. He's soon embarrassed to learn that the man he has arrested is Detective Virgil Tibbs, an experienced police officer from Philadelphia who is passing through town and is keen to leave the prejudiced community as soon as possible.
But when Tibbs' superior officer orders him to assist on the case and the victim's widow demands that he lead the investigation, the unlikely pair are forced to work together to unravel the mystery, leading them on a line of inquiry that will challenge both of their preconceptions.
Image courtesy of Park Circus/MGM Studios
Did You Know?
- Rod Steiger was asked by director Norman Jewison to chew gum when playing the part. He resisted at first, but then grew to love the idea, and eventually went through 263 packs of gum during shooting.
- The scene that took place at the Sheriff's house featured dialogue that came out of improvisations between Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.
- Set in a hot Mississippi summer, but filmed during autumn in Illinois, many of the actors had to keep ice chips in their mouths (and spit them out before takes) to prevent their breath from appearing on camera during the night scenes.
- The movie's line "They call me Mister Tibbs!" was voted as the #16 movie quote by the American Film Institute.