No Way Out (1950)

Richard Widmark plays a man whose powerful social resentment manifests as explosive displays of racist hate and borderline psychosis. This film is a classic piece of Old Liberal Hollywood – a story composed of simplistic philosophy class dilemmas, stirred together with high-octane melodrama. There’s the usual godawful passages of do-you-get-the-point rhetoric, but the film is notably brave for the time in its raw language and Widmark’s willingness to push the envelope – at that time, actors like him and Kirk Douglas made a virtual religion out playing absolute assholes, and became stars doing it, which not so many mollycoddlers these days could claim. Sidney Poitier in his film debut is his usual spiffily upright self, shown up in the five lines of dialogue delivered by Ossie Davis with a peerless sense of realism (Davis and Ruby Dee are also making their debuts). Linda Darnell gets down and dirty and gives probably the best performance of her career. Director Joe Mankiewicz puts down all accusations that he wasn’t a good visual director with a brilliantly shot riot in a junkyard.

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