In this Film Noir the first young black doctor in Chicago's city hospital, Dr. Luther Brooks (a difficult and historic screen debut exceptionally well played by Sidney Poitier) is assigned to the prison ward. Brooks must treat two white trash brothers, brought there after being shot during their failed holdup. One brother dies suddenly but not from his gunshot wound. The rabidly racist, surviving brother Ray Biddle (brilliantly played by Richard Widmark) accuses Brooks of murdering his brother motivated by race hatred. To a large extent, the film is class biased. For example, the "good" (i.e., race tolerant) whites are from the upper classes such as Dr. Dan Wharton (played a bit flatly by Stephen McNally), Brooks' supervisor. The working stiff cops are uniformly portrayed as race neutral ... "just doin' my job."
Both Brooks and Biddle are from the same wrong side of town which sets up the core racial tensions. The long struggling, doctor's wife Cora Brooks (played believably by Mildred Joanne Smith) stands by her man in the worst of times. As the movie progresses the whole society is put on trial. Biddle schemes to start a race war from his prison hospital bed, by using his deaf mute brother George and former sister-in-law and paramour Edie Johnson (convincingly portrayed by Linda Darnell) to carry it out.
The movie is still good today because its underlying honesty, highly competent cast and writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz crafted an excellent artwork. It was a brave film because to examine these difficult issues in 1950 with a racially mixed cast in which blacks had major acting roles was in itself a pioneering effort. For all of these reason, the film earned my highest rating!