The Sidney-Poitier-as-Social-Barometer Film Theory

“No Way Out”—as socially relevant today as it was then. Sidney Poitier–always powerful as an actor!

Silver Screenings

Sidney Poitier (standing) confronts Richard Widmark. Image: Dr MacroSidney Poitier (standing) confronts Richard Widmark. Image: Dr Macro

We’re working on a Sidney Poitier film theory.

We started developing this theory while watching the 1950 thriller No Way Out, in which Poitier portrays a young doctor at a busy city hospital.

As the film opens, Poitier is asked to fill a shift in the hospital prison ward, where he examines two white prisoners. The two are brothers, and are sporting gunshot wounds they received while robbing a gas station.

Although neither man has life-threatening wounds, one of them is barely conscious and has laboured breathing. Poitier decides to perform a spinal tap to diagnose his condition, which horrifies the brother (Richard Widmark).

Now, Widmark’s character hates African Americans, and he continually chides and belittles Poitier. It’s a wonder Poitier’s character can concentrate on his job with Widmark’s racial pummeling.

But. The ailing prisoner dies while Poitier is doing the procedure, and this sends Widmark into hysterics. He accuses Poitier of…

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