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Widmark, Poitier star in intense racial drama

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 2:26 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON – The first Widmark Wednesday movie of 2014 is an intense, edgy story of race relations in the mid-20th century.

The film begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Princeton Public Library. Admission is free.

In the 1950 film noir drama, Richard Widmark portrays a rabid racist hoodlum, wounded in a gas station robbery, who wants no part of being treated by a black doctor, played by Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier in his first Hollywood movie.

When the hoodlum's brother, also shot during the robbery, dies, Widmark's character vows revenge against the doctor, even though the cause of death is in doubt.

The movie, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, includes strong racial epithets and a race riot where blacks turn the tables on white instigators.

Decades later, when the American Film Institute honored Poitier's career, Widmark recalled the movie.

"I played a horrible, racist bigot, and I had to say and do just vicious things to Sidney, so practically after every take, I'd run up to him and I'd apologize and I'd try to assure him, 'Sid, it's just the character talking, not me.' Well, he was very understanding; we became good friends," Widmark said.

Additional Widmark films will be shown through June on the second Wednesday of the month.

A 1932 graduate of Princeton High School, Widmark acted in more than 70 movies from 1947 until 1991. He would have turned 100 years old this year.

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