The Real-Life Rage That Fueled Lee Grant in In the Heat of the Night

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Feb 1, 2019


It’s hard to look away from the stunning lead performances by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night. But no one who watches the seething procedural will soon forget Lee Grant as the distraught widow of the industrialist Philip Colbert, whose murder the two main characters are charged with solving. As Grant describes in the above clip, taken from a new interview on our packed new edition of the Oscar-winning film, the indignation she radiates in the role—the sense of helpless outrage at being ill-served by the authorities in her own community—had its roots in real life. Blacklisted in 1951 for making critical statements about the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, Grant didn’t return to the big screen until 1967, when, at the age of thirty-six, she was cast in In the Heat of the Night. As she says in the above excerpt from the interview, the film allowed her to express “the rage that I didn’t even know I was sitting on,” after having spent many years working in theater, where the blacklist wasn’t in effect.