The Defiant Ones | Chicago Reader

The Defiant Ones

Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis play two southern escaped convicts who are chained together as they flee from the police. This 1958 tale about racism won an Oscar for its screenplay (by Harold Jacob Smith and Nathan E. Douglas) and additional kudos for its director, Stanley Kramer. As James Baldwin pointed out, it's a fable informed by a certain amount of white liberal wish fulfillment. Kramer was never much of a director, but there's still power in some of the performances, especially Poitier's. (Sammy Davis Jr. once revealed that he and Elvis Presley wanted to play the two leads; if they had, the results would undoubtedly have been a good deal more interesting.) With Cara Williams, Theodore Bikel, Charles McGraw, and Lon Chaney Jr. 97 min.


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