(director/writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; screenwriter: Lesser Samuels; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Barbara McLean; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Richard Widmark (Ray Biddle), Linda Darnell (Edie Johnson), Stephen McNally (Dr. Dan Wharton), Sidney Poitier (Dr. Luther Brooks), Mildred Joanne Smith (Cora Brooks), Harry Bellaver (George Biddle), Dick Paxton (Johnny Biddle), Ossie Davis (John), Ruby Dee (Connie), Stanley Ridges (Dr. Sam Moreland), Amanda Randolph (Gladys); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1950)
The pic that launched the career of Sidney Poitier.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The pic that launched the career of Sidney Poitier. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”/”Cleopatra”/”Guys and Dolls”) is co-writer with Lesser Samuels, who based the narrative on his white doctor son-in-law’s experiences observing black doctors. This so-called progressive drama about racism seems more like an exploitation film that thrives on shock–an hysterical race riot– and in a contrived way promotes a loaded sociological study of racism.

Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier) is an African-American intern in a municipal hospital who is assigned to the prison ward. There he treats two white racist brothers, Ray and Johnny Biddle (Richard Widmark & Dick Paxton), wounded in a foiled gas station robbery. Under Brooks’ supervision, Johnny dies and the snarling racist Ray accuses the black doctor of killing him. Ray refuses an autopsy to clear matters. Thereby the investigation for the cause of death is halted. As a result tensions build between the races. Black racists enter the fray when they hear of a possible attack by whites on their so-called “niggertown” and attack the poor whites in Beaver Canal. When Dr. Brooks goes heroic to get an autopsy to find the truth, saying he killed his patient, any remaining drama is put under the scalpel.

The social conscious film about blind racism that caused a stir in 1950 as something not seen before in films, despite being so hokey and anti-literate at least presented racism in stark frank terms for a rare time on the Big Screen and brought black actors into starring roles where they are not stereotyped.

Other cast members include Stephen McNally as the supportive to Dr. Brooks’ chief medical resident, Linda Darnell as the conflicted divorced wife of Johnny and Ray’s current girlfriend who can’t deal with his bigotry anymore and Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee as the embattled doctor’s relatives.