This crime mystery is one of my all time favorite films. The murder of a prominent businessman plays a central role in the narrative, but the homicide is not what the film is about.
Officer Sam Wood (Warren Oates, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA) finds the dead body of Philip Colbert in an alley. The small town of Sparta, Mississippi doesn't see crimes like this one, so gruff police chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger, ON THE WATERFRONT) sends out his officers to pick up any and all possible suspects. Sam finds black man Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier, A PATCH OF BLUE) at the train depot and arrests him without question. When the chief interrogates Virgil about where he got the large sum of money in his wallet, Virgil says he earned it — as a police officer in Philadelphia.