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-> '''Police Chief Gillespie:''' Virgil, that's a funny name for a nigger boy to come from Philadelphia. What do they call you up there?
->'''Det. Virgil Tibbs:''' '''''[[TheyCallMeMisterTibbs They call me Mister Tibbs!]]'''''

A 1965 novel by John Ball, ''In the Heat of the Night'' also spawned a film and a television series. The film version, directed by Norman Jewison and starring Creator/SidneyPoitier and Rod Steiger, was the [[UsefulNotes/AcademyAward Oscar]] winner for Best Picture of 1967.

On his way back home after visiting his mother, black Philadelphian Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) is arrested on suspicion of the murder of a prominent factory owner in Sparta, Mississippi due to the simple circumstance of being black and having money in his pocket. However, while the police are questioning him he reveals that he is in fact a police officer himself, and when he has Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Steiger) contact his department for verification he is told by his superiors that he should assist the locals in solving the case -- partnered with the same casually racist Gillespie. It's a rocky start to the partnership, but the more Tibbs displays his detective prowess, the more Gillespie comes to respect him. Working together, chasing several false leads, and fighting against the truly rabid racism of some of the local rednecks, they solve the case.

Poitier reprises his role in sequels ''They Call Me Mister Tibbs!'' (1970) and ''The Organization'' (1971), both of which are set in San Francisco and feature more of an urban flavor.

Twenty years later the film spawned a TV series [[TheOtherDarrin with different actors]], which has [[Series/InTheHeatOfTheNight its own page]].

!!This film contains examples of:

* AdaptationPersonalityChange: Tibbs is a lot more assertive in the movie than he was in the book.
* AdaptationalVillainy: Endicott, the plantation owner, is a sympathetic character in the novel with no hint of racial prejudice. In the movie he's an unabashed racist whose goons try to kill Tibbs after their confrontation.
* AngryBlackMan: Tibbs has every reason for his patience to be tested, and he later admits that his anger got him on the wrong track for a bit.
* BackAlleyDoctor: Mama Caleba, the town abortionist.
* BookEnds: Tibbs both arrives and leaves town by train.
* CharacterTics: Gillespie chews gum constantly.
* ChekhovsGunman: [[spoiler: The guy who works at the diner, who basically plays no role in the story at all and is only scene in two scenes, until the end when he's revealed to be the murderer.]]
* DeepSouth
* DontYouDarePityMe: Gillespie. Seriously, don't. He gets ''scary''.
* ExtremelyShortTimespan: 48 hours, tops.
* FalseRapeAccusation: Or statutory rape, anyway. [[JailBait Delores Purdy]] accuses Sam Wood of impregnating her to cover for Ralph Henshaw.
* FeetFirstIntroduction: Tibbs, disembarking from the train during the opening credits. We don't see his face (or see him again at all) until some ten minutes into the film.
* HeatWave: It's summer in Mississippi, after all.
* LondonEnglandSyndrome: When they first meet, Tibbs tells Gillespie he's from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ''not'' Philadelphia, Mississippi. [[JustifiedTrope Gillespie was checking which Phillie Tibbs was referring to.]]
* MommasBoy: The reason Tibbs is in Sparta in the first place is that he's changing trains on his way back from visiting his mother.
* NobleBigotWithABadge:
** Gillespie starts out as one. By the end of the movie, he can hardly even be called a bigot.
** Tibbs briefly slips into this territory for a moment as well, enraged from being slapped by the plantation owner Endicott:
---> '''Tibbs:''' I can pull that fat cat down and bring him right off this hill!\\
'''Gillespie:''' Oh, boy... Man, you're [[NotSoDifferent just like the rest of us]], ain't ya?
* OddCouple: Gillespie and Tibbs.
* ThePeepingTom: Officer Sam Wood stops on his nightly patrol route to gawk at Delores Purdy, who parades around her kitchen in the nude.
* PoliceAreUseless: It is explained that Sparta has not had a murder in ages, and the small-town tactics they employ do not cover the severity of the case. Gillespie is competent in things like chasing down suspects, but figuring out a murder requires the forensics skills that Tibbs knows by heart.
* PragmaticAdaptation: The novel's Mr. Tibbs was a polite, non-confrontational African-American; the film's Mr. Tibbs, on the other hand, is much more assertive towards the bigots around him.
* PunctuatedForEmphasis: Tibbs' best-known line qualifies.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Gillespie, of all people. Despite his racism, he is pissed to find out that his men just arrested a cop and did not even bother to search him or check his identification before bringing him into the station. In his own way he more or less begs Tibbs for his help, acknowledging that he and his fellow cops cannot solve a murder this complicated on their own.
* RedHerring: The racially charged environment had nothing to do with the murder. It was just a mugging gone wrong.
* RunForTheBorder: A suspect fleeing from the Sparta police almost makes it across the bridge to Arkansas, except for the fact that Gillespie was already parked on the Mississippi end in his car and simply drove the car up and caught him mid-span.
* SaltAndPepper: Gillespie and Tibbs.
* SceneryCensor: The opening sequence has Sgt. Wood, out on his regular nightly patrol, stopping outside the house of a gorgeous, busty, naked young Delores Purdy, who seems to know that he is outside looking. In both a long shot and a medium shot, the window sash is carefully placed to hide the woman's nipples.
* ShamelessFanserviceGirl: Delores Purdy parades around her kitchen in the nude to get her kicks.
* TeethClenchedTeamwork: Gillespie is not too thrilled to have Tibbs second-guessing him during the early part of the investigation, but when Tibbs keeps getting proved correct, Gillespie lets up on the animosity. For his part, Tibbs does not help ease tensions as he withholds key observations at times and keeps trying to lead the investigation ''his'' way.
* TheyCallMeMisterTibbs: Virgil Tibbs says this to Gillespie after the latter asks him how he is addressed up North.
* TitleThemeTune: Performed by Music/RayCharles. It became a minor hit.
* WhamLine:
-->'''Gillespie:''' Now, just what do you do there in little ol' Pennsylvania to earn that kinda money?\\
'''Tibbs:''' I'm a ''police officer!''
** Later on, when Gillespie [[spoiler:suspects his deputy Sam of the murder]], Tibbs delivers a line which shakes the former:
---> '''Tibbs:''' [[spoiler:Sam couldn't have driven two cars.]]
* WronglyAccused:
** Tibbs is but the first of several people falsely suspected of the murder, suspected simply because he is a black man in town with a large amount of money in his pockets.
** The second is Harvey Oberst, a guy who was caught with Colbert's wallet. Virgil clears him on the grounds that he is left-handed and the blows to Colbert's head were from the right hand.
** The third is [[spoiler: Sam Wood, one of Gillespie's men]], who deposited a large amount of cash around the time of the murder, and lied about the road he drove on during his beat. [[spoiler: The reason for his lie is because he didn't want reveal he was eyeing Delores Purdy, who is notorious for parading around in the nude. He also couldn't have murdered Colbert, because the person who killed Colbert drove the dead man's car. Sam couldn't have driven that car and his own patrol car.]]
** While he's never formally charged or accused, Endicott is briefly suspected by Tibbs due to his opposition to Colbert's factory and the discovery of a fern from his greenhouse being found in the dead man's car.