No Way Out of Stardom for Poitier
Although entry #13 in the "Fox Film Noir" line, 1950's No Way Out more aptly belongs to the series of socially-conscientious dramas the studio turned out regularly during the period (1947's Gentlemen's Agreement and 1949's Pinky come to mind). Director/co-writer (with Lesser Samuels) Joseph L. Mankiewicz's take on race relations centers on the challenges facing a young intern, Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier), as he attempts to establish himself as a medic. The film is engrossing throughout, and surprisingly pulls no punches in depicting the prejudices that were prevalent at the time.
Poitier is remarkably self-assured in his feature film debut, already displaying the intelligence, calm intensity, and class that marked his signature roles. As Ray Biddle, the incredibly racist patient who gives Brooks a very hard time throughout the film, Richard Widwark shows his flair for playing irredeemable creeps (his Biddle could be a cousin to Widmark's star-making Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death). Widmark's vivid nastiness, along with Poitier's phenomenal screen presence, assures Out never becomes a "polite" social drama (ala Agreement), while Mankiewicz and Samuels keep the plot moving, throwing in a race riot and several assaults to enliven the drama. Costarring a somewhat deglamorized Linda Darnell, fine as the downtrodden heroine trying to improve her lot in life; Ruby Dee can also be glimpsed in a small part as Brook's sister-in-law.
The DVD features a fine b/w print and commentary by Eddie Muller, and is definitely recommended viewing for fans of classic dramas.