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THE DEFIANT ONES (1958)

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Friendship creates bonds that transcend social restrictions in this breakthrough film from pioneering director-producer Stanley Kramer. Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis co-star as convicts who escape while chained to each other. Neither is happy to be stuck with a member of a different race, but as they struggle to survive, their differences dissolve. At Curtis’ insistence, this became the first major Hollywood film to bill a black actor above the title. Kramer pioneered in another way, too. He hired blacklisted writer Nedrick Young to co-write the script (with Harold Jacob Smith) under the pseudonym Nathan E. Douglas. To credit Young properly, he cast him and Smith as the drivers of the prison truck and ran the writing credit over their images. Under Academy rules, blacklisted writers could not be nominated for Oscars, but after the film won the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, the Academy later changed its rules. Smith and Young—under the pseudonym ‘Nathan E. Douglas’—won the Best Screenplay Oscar (Young’s credit was not restored until 1993) and Poitier became the first black American nominated for Best Actor. The film also won for Sam Leavitt’s cinematography. Its $1 million profit helped break racial barriers in Hollywood and eventually end the blacklist. (d. Stanley Kramer, 96m, 35mm)

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