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No Way Out

(1950 b 106')

En: 6 Ed: 7

A Negro doctor treats two wounded robbers in the prison ward. When one dies, his racist brother accuses him of killing him but will not ask for an autopsy.

         Young Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier) has just become a doctor and asks to stay another year with Dr. Dan Wharton (Stephen McNally) to learn more. In the prison ward Luther treats racist Ray Biddle (Richard Widmark) and Johnny Biddle. Ray objects to Luther’s skin color and hits him. Luther ties his wrist to the bed and does a spinal tap on Johnny, who dies. Ray shouts that he killed his brother. Luther discusses the case with Dan and asks for an autopsy; but Ray refuses his permission.

         Administrator Dr. Sam Moreland (Stanley Ridges) asks Dan why the cause of death was not reported and denies an autopsy to avoid publicity. Luther removes the bullet from Ray’s leg. Ray takes a scalpel and puts it in Luther’s pocket. Luther accuses him of stealing and then finds it.

         Dan and Luther go to visit Johnny’s widow Edie Johnson (Linda Darnell), who says she is divorced. They ask her to talk to Ray about the autopsy. At home Luther is comforted by his wife Cora (Mildred Joanne Smith) and falls asleep. Edie persuades a guard to let her visit her “husband” Ray. He grabs her, and they argue about the autopsy.

         Edie and white men talk about cutting up the body. They and deaf George Biddle (Harry Bellaver) make a plan, but Edie says she has to work. Luther learns that Beaver Canal is planning to attack “niggertown” because of Johnny’s death. Negroes gather with clubs and attack the poor whites in Beaver Canal. Edie calls on Dan at home and says she is sick. He leaves her with his black housekeeper Gladys and goes to the hospital, where they are busy. A woman spits on Luther, and he walks out.

         At breakfast Gladys and Edie talk. Dan comes home tired. Cora arrives and says Luther turned himself in for murder to force an autopsy. Luther, Cora, George, Ray, and Edie wait for the results, which show that Luther was right; Johnny had a brain tumor. Ray doubts it, and Dan defends Luther. After the others leave, George knocks out the guard and helps Ray escape.

         Edie is moving and finds Ray and George in her apartment. George grabs her. Ray orders her to call Luther to meet her at Dan’s. After Ray leaves, Edie turns on the radio loud. Neighbors come to the door, and she escapes from George. She calls the police. In Dan’s house Ray has a gun and lets Luther in. Ray knocks him down, and Edie comes in the back door. Ray hits Luther, and Edie says she came to stop him. She turns off the light, and Ray shoots. Luther is wounded but gets the gun and treats Ray’s leg; he gets Edie to help him. Ray cries, and Luther says he will live.

         This drama confronts virulent racism that reacts to a person of African heritage in a prestigious profession. Some in the lower class especially resent this social change. The hatred lashes out but inevitably rebounds on its perpetrator.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

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