Watching In the Heat of the Night in Abidjan


This is going to be a short post since I should be focusing on my Motifs of Cinema post for Andrew at Encore Entertainment’s now annual blogathon. (Because why I would I start that earlier than the day it’s supposed to be posted.)

I just got back from visiting my sister in Côte d’Ivoire. During the 9 days I was there, I accompanied her to a few programs she runs for English students throughout the country. Because it is Black History Month, these programs all centered around the Civil Rights Movement and highlighting this period in American history with students. That’s how I ended up at a special screening of In The Heat of The Night and discussing the film with English students afterwards.

Running a screening in Cote d’Ivoire for English students is (unsurprisingly) completely different than the weekly classic film screening I run in New Jersey. Because I am a know-it-all film snob, I often forget that not everyone watches movies the way that I do. This is especially true of people for who English isn’t their first language who are watching a non-dubbed American film and aren’t aware of American history. So most of the Q&A was spent explaining the plot and which white guy did it.

But I took away something else from watching In the Heat of the Night in Abidjan. Sidney Poitier is universally loved. Every instructor talked about how much they loved Poitier and his film. And Poitier gained some new fans in Côte d’Ivoire especially thanks to the scene when Tibbs slaps Endicott across the face. At another program in Yamaoussoukro, a question was asked: “Does anyone know any famous black actors?” The only answers were Wesley Snipes and Sidney Poitier. Take that, Will Smith.

“42” at the American Corner Yamoussoukro. This movie is also shown to highlight the Civil Rights Movement to Ivorian students.

What I Learned From Now, Voyager (1942)

Now, Voyager is one of the great melodramas from the 1940s. It is an emotional roller coaster with Bette Davis delivering one of her best performances as Charlott Vale, a repressed, dowdy spinster who is controlled by her dominating mother (Gladys Cooper). A psychiatrist (Claude Rains) intervenes just as Charlotte is about to have a nervous breakdown and helps her transform into a more self-assured woman. Rather than return to her evil mother’s lair, Charlotte embarks on a cruise where she meets a married man, Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance (Paul Henreid) and the two begin a complicated romance. When Charlotte returns home, she must stand up to her mother while dealing with the lingering affects of her romance.

Here are some very important lessons we can learn from Now, Voyager.

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What I Learned From Casablanca

I saw Casablanca for the umpteenth time last night. It’s a wonderful movie and the more times I see Casablanca, the more I enjoy it. There are individual elements of the film you can easily criticize, but overall it is fantastic.

Here are the most important things I took away from Casablanca this time around.

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5 Days of Christmas Movies: A Christmas Carol (1951)

2. The Classic Of Christmas Classics

There are countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A different version shows up almost every decade and attempts to rehash the timeless story without making it dull. Some, like the 2009 adaptation that used performance capture, show off new technologies. Several versions are animated. Others play up the fantasy elements or place an immensely popular actor in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. One of these versions is bound to have your favorite.

And despite all of these versions, no adaptation comes close to the 1951 version, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

I love a good curmudgeon.

This version of A Christmas Carol (known as Scrooge in the UK) stays faithful to the source material, strays from making the film too family friendly, and feels wonderfully vivid because of Alastair Sim’s performance as Scrooge.

The cast of this film consists entirely of character actors. Sim made his mark on the stage and in bit parts in several films. A Christmas Carol is arguably his most well known film performance today.

Sim’s Scrooge is a real crank. He is angry, resentful, and just an all around unpleasant man. He doesn’t give his one employee Bob Cratchit a bonus or want to visit his nephew to celebrate the holiday.Yet after the visits from the ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future, Scrooge instantly changes. Scrooge becomes giddy with joy and excitement, causing his housemaid to think he’s gone mad. (Sim’s laugh in this scene is infectious.) He makes amends with his family and Cratchit.

No matter how many more adaptations of A Christmas Carol there will be (you know a 3D live-action version is somewhere in the works), it is unlikely that any actor could top Alastair Sim as the best Scrooge.

Friday Night Classic: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

I’m still on my John Huston kick. I am watching as many of his films that I can easily get my hands on. The good, the bad, and the meh. Nothing is off limits. After revisiting The Asphalt Jungle last week, I switch gears to something a little less gritty and a little more… dull.

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