The Defiant Ones: Wikis


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The Defiant Ones

original film poster
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Nedrick Young (story)
Harold Jacob Smith
Starring Tony Curtis
Sidney Poitier
Theodore Bikel
Cara Williams
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Editing by Frederic Knudtson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) July 1958 at
Berlin Film Festival
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Defiant Ones (1958) is a film which tells the story of two escaped prisoners who are shackled together, one white and one black, who must co-operate in order to survive. It stars Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel, Cara Williams, Charles McGraw, and Lon Chaney, Jr.

The movie was adapted by Harold Jacob Smith from the story by Nedrick Young, originally credited as Nathan E. Douglas. It was directed by Stanley Kramer.

Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, of the Our Gang comedies, has a small role. It was his last before his death.


Plot summary

Two prisoners in the American South, African-American Noah Cullen (Poitier) and racist John "Joker" Jackson (Curtis), escape from a chain gang. Despite their mutual loathing for each other, they are forced to cooperate, as they are chained together. Gradually, they begin to respect and like each other.

Cullen and Joker flee through difficult terrain and weather, with a brief stop at a village where they attempt to break into a general store, in hopes of obtaining food and tools to break the chain that holds them together. Instead, however, they are captured by the townspeople, who form a lynch mob; they are saved only by the interference of "Big" Sam (Chaney), a man who is appalled by his neighbors' bloodthirst. Sam convinces the townspeople to lock the convicts up and turn them in in the morning, but that night, he secretly releases them, after revealing to them that he is also a former chain-gang prisoner.

Finally, they run into a young boy named Billy. They make him take them to his home and his mother (Williams), whose husband has abandoned his family. The escapees are finally able to break their chains. When they spend the night there, the lonely woman is attracted to Joker and wants to run off with him. She advises Cullen to go through the swamp to reach the railroad tracks, while she and Joker drive off in her car. The men agree to split up. However, after Cullen leaves, the woman reveals that she had lied - she sent Cullen into the dangerous swamp to die so she could have Joker to herself. Furious, Joker runs after his friend; as he leaves, Billy shoots him.

Wounded, Joker catches up to Cullen and warns him about the swamp. As the posse led by humane Sheriff Max Muller (Bikel) gets close, the escapees can hear the dogs hot on their trail. But they also hear a train whistle and run towards the sound. Cullen hops the train and tries to lift Joker on as well, but is unable to drag him aboard. Both men tumble to the ground. Too exhausted to run anymore, they realize all they can do is wait for their pursuers. The sheriff finds Cullen singing defiantly and Joker nearly passed out in his arms.





The Defiant Ones was remade several times:

  • in 1972, with gender reversal, as Black Mama, White Mama, starring Pam Grier and Margaret Markov
  • for television in 1986, as The Defiant Ones, starring Robert Urich and Carl Weathers
  • Homage is paid to the film in the 1992 Quantum Leap episode "Unchained". Protagonist Sam Beckett lands in the body of a white Mississippi road gang worker chained to a wrongly convicted black man, and the two must escape together or be murdered by the corrupt warden.
  • In 1996 action film Fled, the film stars Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin


See also


External links

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