U.S., 1950, 106 min, DCP, Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Not Rated, English, 20th Century Fox

No Way Out

Friday, 2/11 & Saturday, 2/12

“Sidney Poitier was undeniably a force for good in the world of movies—and it all started with him seizing the unlikely opportunity of being cast as the 22-year-old lead of No Way Out.”– Colin Wessman, Collider

“One of the most confrontational and incisive films about racism in America…” – Cine Outsider

This film is part of Strong Black Leads, a celebration of talented filmmakers and performers who, despite the odds, have made remarkable contributions to cinema through their respective crafts.

When a white patient in a hospital dies under the care of a black doctor (Sidney Poitier), the victim’s racist brother (Richard Widmark) seeks to destroy the young doctor’s career. Although the hospital’s idealistic chief resident (Stephen McNally) tries to defuse the escalating tension, the victim’s ex-wife (Linda Darnell) goes along with the brother’s plan—until she realizes she’s on the wrong side. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, No Way Out introduced Sidney Poitier to the world, thus launching his storied career. Poitier gives a powerful performance in this unflinching look at racism.

Seeking black actors for the film, Mankiewicz visited the American Negro Theater in Harlem, where Poitier worked as a janitor in exchange for acting classes. Harry Belafonte and Poitier took classes together. For some time, Belafonte got the stage roles that Poitier wanted. Poitier’s luck changed when he had to stand in for Belafonte on a day he was out and a talent scout saw him perform. According to Ben Mankiewicz, the director’s grandnephew, “the most important actor of the 20th century paved a road that hundreds of actors of color can now travel, a road that didn’t exist for Poitier when he got to Hollywood in 1949.”

“Conservative groups like the Catholic Legion of Decency pressured cities to ban the film,” wrote Peter Dreier of Forward. “The studio executives knew that No Way Out would not be shown in Southern theaters. But they were angered that it was also banned in Chicago because, according to a police official, it ‘might cause more racial unrest than we have now,’ ignoring the blatant violence depicted in the popular crime movies and Westerns at the time.” No Way Out was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1950.

This film contains racial slurs and violence against Black people.

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