No Way Out (1950) Sidney Poitier In Spinal Tap Of Prejudice

No Way Out (1950) poster dvd bluray cover paul rand design sidney poitier

With enough N-Bombs to make Quentin Tarantino blush, No Way Out is one helluva tough watch that’s for sure. However it processes an important social message about racial prejudices and bigoted hatred.  This is the story of a young black man and his encounter with narrow-minded, blind, racial intolerance.

No Way Out (1950) doctors in charge Stephen McNally sidney poitier

The young man in question is Dr. Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier) a recently qualified doctor at the county hospital. Under the guide of his friend and mentor Dr. Daniel Wharton (Stephen McNally) Luther has excelled through his training. A truly gifted and dedicated medical practitioner but his first days are about to be tested to the utmost limit. Smashing through the hospital swing doors comes the arrival of “human garbage with a sick mind”. The Biddle brothers, Johnny (Dick Paxton) and his older brother Ray (Richard Widmark) who’s definitely contender for most racist man ever!

No Way Out (1950) Ray (Richard Widmark) racist bigotNo Way Out (1950) doctors in charge sidney poitier police prison convicts

The two convicts are dragged into the hospital with gunshot wounds picked up from a bodged robbery on a petrol station. Handcuffed to their beds, Luther, the doctor in charge, begins to treat the twosome. What he finds is the sneering and spiteful wrath of Ray Biddle. Luther is strong willed, he’s met people like this before, he’s got a job to do, he’s professional no matter what hatred is thrown at him. Luther discovers something is seriously wrong with Johnny, he’s half paralyzed, breathing badly and unresponsive. He needs to step up, recalling his training he works through the symptoms to rule out smaller problems.

No Way Out (1950) doctors in charge sidney poitier spinal tap

With a constant barrage of obscenities screaming from foul mouth Ray in his ear, Luther begins with a spinal tap of Johnny’s back to release pressure. To Luther’s shocked disbelief, Johnny suddenly dies to the screams and abuse from Ray that Luther has killed him. Stunned, Luther knows from his training that it wasn’t the spinal tap but more than likely a brain hemorrhage. There was only one way to find out for sure, an autopsy. It was a 50/50 gamble but he knows it’s worth it and so does his friend. There’s one snag? They need permission to do the autopsy from a family member! And Ray is the only living relative. There’s no way he will let his brother be cut up into little pieces to redeem this black doctor. What will doctors Luther Brooks and Daniel Wharton be able to do?

Dr Daniel Wharton – “I’m not pro negro, I’m pro doctor”

No Way Out (1950) Sidney Poitier thinking leaving liftNo Way Out (1950) Sidney Poitier and Mildred Joanne Smith

In the mix of the film, it exposes racial tension ripe in the city from both a white and black view point. All the time building to a melting pot of tension bubbling like a pressure cooker to fuel a race riot. The narration speeds through the story like a Cassius Clay sized fist smashing through a brick wall. Add in some sign language and a beautiful feisty divorcee called Edie Johnson (Linda Darnell) and you will find yourself an thrilling well made drama.

No Way Out (1950) Linda Darnell sexy sidney poitier

A few observations.

  • Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz with a story penned by himself and Lesser Samuels getting a Best Story and Screenplay nomination at the 23rd Academy Awards. Losing in fact to Sunset Boulevard, so hopefully they didn’t feel too bad!
  • American graphic designer Paul Rand designed the fantastic poster which has incredible style to it.
  • Nice to see Ossie Davis in his debut film and also alongside his true love Ruby Dee who they would spend the rest of their lives together.
No Way Out (1950) Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee
  • This is the Sidney Poitier show and you can really tell the star power this young actor had. This being his debut film and you can feel his charisma and talent shining through.
  • Richard Widmark plays his part with fury. There’s much venom in his snarling anger. I read he was friends with Sidney, so I can only imagine that the part must of been troubling to play. He did have a knack to playing twisted characters even though with what I’ve heard he was a bit of a pacifist.
  • After seeing Stephen McNally in quite a few baddy roles it was a pleasure to watch him playing a kind, sweet and honest man.
  • The radio rescue scene was a great smile moment to cut through the tension.

I’m sure you’ve seen this one but if not it’s another well acted piece of drama from the 1950’s and the cast should sell it alone. Let me know your thoughts on it if you wish. As always keep searching for those wonderful films. All the best.. Mikey

PS This Italian poster is great. Going by the title Uomo bianco tu vivrai which google translates to White man you will live!

No Way Out (1950) Italian art poster uomo bianco tu vivrai sidney poitier

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7 thoughts on “No Way Out (1950) Sidney Poitier In Spinal Tap Of Prejudice

  1. Another great write up Mikey. I love the high drama dialogue of classic films–even stellar ones like this, i.e, “human garbage with a sick mind.” Yes indeed. Those two things tend to go hand in hand. Ha! I love the way you describe the Richard Widmark character as “definitely a contender for the most racist man ever!” True, that.
    I haven’t seen this one in a long time. In fact I was kid when I saw it and I was quite taken in by the injustice of it all. Sidney Poitier was always a bit too good to be true, but that wasn’t his fault. He had to be for so many Americans to get past the fact that, “Pssst, he’s really smart,,,And nice looking…And well spoken…And he’s BLACK!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the last line Pam, yep all so true. He’s so unique and I love his work so much. I’m happily working my through all the stuff I missed of his and it’s such a joy watching him do his thing. Yeah you so right, it the high drama dialogue that transfixes us to these incredible tense and brilliantly acted movies. …. “My name is Mikey Wolfman and I am an addict!!”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read where Widmark had a really hard time with this one due to his scenes being so mean spirited with Poitier. They would have a long career together which is nice. 3 movies and even later on in 1982 Sidney would direct Widmark in comedy Hanky Panky. This is probably the first movie I ever saw with Poitier as a kid and it’s never been forgotten. Forgot about Ossie Davis in there with Ruby. Big fans here of the totally weird Bubba Ho Tep where Ossie starred as JFK and Bruce Campbell as Elvis. Seen it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never knew one of the best comedy films ever was actually directed by Sidney Poitier and I’d watched it 20 odd times, Stir Crazy. I never knew!
      Haha Hanky Panky, You know what dude, i’d completely forgotten about that film but remember loving it as a kid. Might have to track it down for a laugh.
      Bubba Ho Tep you say? Was one of my early post in the 2nd month of my blog. I also gave it 10/10. I’ve seen it at least 6 times. Tickles my fancy every single time.
      https://wolfmanscultfilmclub.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/bubba-ho-tep-2002/

      Liked by 1 person

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