Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
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But there are a few serious flaws. This is an introductory role for Katharine Houghton (Hepburn's niece) who plays Sidney Portier's fiancé--Johanna Drayton. Her inexperience is apparent, particularly in comparison to heavyweights Portier, Tracy and Hepburn and as a result, she is unconvincing in the part. Moreover, her character is not well-written or well-developed which makes it difficult to understand why Sidney Portier's character--John Prentice-would fall in love with a woman who appears to have so little to offer intellectually --given his significant professional achievements as a doctor. One also must ask why it was necessary for his character to be cast as a doctor in order to be seen as an acceptable partner for a young white woman who had not really accomplished anything accept being born into a privileged family. The answer is simple. Making Prentice a doctor-and not just any doctor-but a world renowned expert in tropical medicine, made the interracial relationship more acceptable to white audiences during the 1960s.
The other cast members are outstanding and the on-screen chemistry phenomenal. Katharine Hepburn (Christina Drayton) and Spencer Tracy (Newspaper Publisher Matt Drayton) deliver brilliant performances as Johanna's parents. John Prentice's modest working class parents are played with great dignity by Beah Richards and Roy E. Glen. Mrs. Prentice and Mrs. Drayton favor the marriage and both characters provide passionate, articulate arguments as to why their husbands should agree. But their husbands voice serious objections and the families spend the evening in intense discussions over the issue, accurately reflecting the racial fears that existed 40 years ago. Prentice's father reminds him that in many states interracial marriage is illegal and that he is "getting out of line." There are also a number of very memorable and funny lines. In the scene in which Matt Drayton wonders why "the colored kids dance better than the white kids", Portier's response is classic--"you dance the Watusi, but we are the Watusi!"(For readers under 40, the Watusi was a popular dance in the 1960s and also an African tribe). Cecil Kelloway, who plays friend of the family, Monsignor Ryan, deftly brings a sense of humor and moral guidance that is effective because it is not "preachy". He challenges Matt Drayton's liberal credentials and suggests that Drayton's misgivings about his daughter marrying a black man reveal his hypocrisy. Isabel Sanford ("Weezy from The Jeffersons TV program) plays the feisty maid of the Draytons.
It's been said that in the final scene Tracy--who was very ill at the time and who died shortly after the movie was completed--delivered one of the longest soliloquies in American film history, in only one take. Katherine Helpurn was clearly so moved by the scene that it's hard to believe that she is just acting as her eyes brim with tears.
Although the some of the sentiments are dated, this film is highly entertaining, and provides a rare opportunity to experience outstanding performances from six gifted actors who bring compassion and depth to Stanley Kramer's film. Its' angst relative to interracial marriage also reminds us of how far we have not come.
The film is dated, to be sure, by many things, from clothing to music, cars and expressions. At times the dialogue seemed a bit hokey, and others, simply brilliant. I swear, I half expected an entourage of go-go dancers to spontaneously burst through the streets of San Francisco. And if I never hear the "Story Of Love" ever again in my life, it would be too soon.
But I can't help but think that the more things change in thirty years, sometimes they remain the same. Certainly there's more examples of interracial couples today than thirty years ago, and therefore a greater degree of tolerance, but for a lot of narrow-minded individuals, it's still as controversial or "appalling" as it was thirty years ago.
Some of the lines actually had me laughing out loud, enjoying the moment as it follows into another well complimented scene. I'm speaking in particular of the scene where Katharine Hepburn fires her employee for her prejudicial views, and basically everything that follows that scene for the next five minutes.
I try my best to imagine what it would be like to be in the shoes of any character in the film, to appreciate what it might've been like for them, in that time, and while I think I can muster an inkling, I don't think my creativity is up to a challenge of that nature. And I think that ultimately, that's a good thing, and I'm grateful to those who came before.
Tracy, gruff, the way most probably remember him - sort of a ratcheted up version of the roles he played with Hepburn in earlier years. His ill health is obvious though to the careful observer: voice a little weak at times, and Tracy's step missing the "spring" of his earlier films. The fact that this his last film was so memorable, and of such quality just adds to his legend.
Potier of course turns in a great performance, impeccable as always.
Watch for Isabel Sanford, ("The Jefferson's") particularly the one memorable scene where she explains to Potier's character just what "black power" really is.
Cecil Kellaway sparkles as Monsignor Ryan, and Beah Richards and Roy Glenn, as the parents to Potier's character, mirror Hepburn and Tracy.
Indeed, there is so much real honest-to-god acting talent concentrated in this movie, it seems almost unfair, what I'm about to say: Katharine Houghton, as 'Joey' is the only character with only 2 dimensions. She's the ever-smiling, but clueless daughter and object of Dr. Prentice' affection. She's such a Pollyanna, and remains oblivious to the drama going on all around her, and everyone else conspires to keep her in the dark throughout the entire film. (No wonder her father is concerned.) I think it's fair to say that Houghton's character is the one weak spot in this otherwise excellent film.
That said, this is a wonderful film that I will always watch when it comes on. It's such a treat to watch these legendary actors at work. I highly recommend it.
By the way, there's no glass in Spencer's eyeglasses during the ending monologue, is there he's wearing only frames, right?
Of course the other problem with this film, 33 years after its production, is who in the year 2000, would be upset about their daughter marrying a Yale educated Doctor?
However, despite all this, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a great film. The film is wonderful because it was the last film made by one of Hollywood's greatest duos, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.
This film was made while Spencer Tracy was dying. Spencer had to put his entire salary in escrow in order for the film company to allow him to do the film.
So why did Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy agree to do this film, without immediate payment? Because it's a film about forbidden love, it's a film about loving someone no matter what society thinks, or what the rules are. This is something Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn knew a great deal about.
What makes this film outstanding is, by the end of the film you realize, Kate and Spencer are not even acting they are relaying their feelings about each other, through the film. Once you catch that, the drama of the final few scenes is just unparalleled and Spencer's final speech, about his love for Kate (Christina), can drive even the most twisted soul to tears.
A few things to catch in this film, watch Kate's face when Spencer recites the line, 'screw what the rest of the world thinks about your love'...those are real tears. Watch Spencer Tracey as he paces back and forth on the terrace near the end of the film. He realizes he is about to begin one of the last scenes he will ever film. He's line 'well I'll be a son of a bitch'...is more a realization he's about to make his last grandstand on the big screen, in his entire career.
Spencer Tracy is one of America's greatest actors. This is his last triumph. For that reason alone, it's a true cinematic treasure.
We are treated to first class acting from Sidney Poitier who is arguable one of the greatest and most dignified actors to grace the screen. Great performances from Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn who play shocked and concerned parents. This film also focused on the important issue of walking the talk, righteous people who preach certain ways of living but we see it put to the test when they themselves are in that situation. The parents who raised a unbiased and open minded daughter must deal with her choices.
Spencer Tracey's speech to his daughter and Sidney is one of the best in film. He passes on an important message of understanding and righteousness to not just his daughter and son in law to be but the rest of America watching. A showcase of brilliant acting and messages in a film that was ahead of its time.
The things I like about it? The sound-stage version of an outrageous San Francisco home. (A bridge to bridge view from the patio, which is not to be confused with the separate garden. Filled with expensive art. If such a place existed what would it cost today? $10 million? $15 million - but when the parents go out for ice cream they drive what would be a sort of old looking small to mid-sized car. Ah, Hollywood!) Seeing Isobel Sanford in something that doesn't involve Sherman Helmsley. Katharine Hepburn going through four slightly-oddball costumes over about 9 hours of movie time. (And what is with her and her choice of hats?!?) The bizarro, off-kilter scene with the dancing delivery boy.
The things I don't like? Well first and foremost the fact that this movie is set up so as to eliminate any sense of the REAL complexities of life. Poitier's character is not just a great guy, he is a physician. Wait, no ... not just a physician but one who has been on the faculty of some of the best medical schools...AND who has devoted his career to public health AND who is internationally well-known. Gosh, you think, is there ANY white man that Joanna might ever meet who could be as well-credentialled as him? And Joanna, we are told, has always been HAPPY!!! as a baby, as a child, as a teen, in college. Why, she's just the most perfect thing. Her parents? Unabashed liberals. Generous and kind to the help (even giving a $5000 bonus to an employee being fired.) His parents? Sober and hard-working. Sacrificing for their son. Kind and loving.
Wouldn't it be nice to see at least one of the parents being SOMEWHAT unpleasant?
Kramer just sets things up in a way where there is no real tension in the movie. We know Tracy and Hepburn's characters are too good to turn into bigots and that they are such great parents that their daughter's happiness is all that will matter. They may be friends with a Catholic monseigneur (though a point is made to say at least twice that they aren't Roman Catholics, what's that about?) but he is the most liberal happy-go-lucky priest that existed in the 1960's and raises not a single objection to interracial marriage (uncharacteristic of the Irish priests I knew of from the 60s --- but maybe it's because he's so busy drinking Scotch -- if you'll excuse THAT offensive Irish stereotype in a movie about prejudice.)
The look and feel of the movie is a little odd, because of the juxtaposition of real locations (SFO, the ice cream store) with the very "faux" stage set style used in scenes like the driveway in front of the house. For a movie that is supposed to be exploring the gritty reality of racism in America, seeing someone drive a phony delivery truck past the fake plants outside the fake house seems particularly jarring and inappropriate.
And of course, everyone is rich or well-to-do. Even the retired postal worker and his wife can afford to fly up to SF on a last minute airfare (which were even less cheap back in the 1960s than they are today) and, we are assured, can afford to fly to Geneva for the wedding? So ultimately their "problems" about love and marriage seem less important, because we don't really worry that John or Joanna's lives will be seriously crippled if they don't marry --- they are both so VERY charming, successful, self-directed and fulfilled that we know that they would find someone else if it came to that.
(For that matter, no one seems too bothered by the more substantial problem, which is that people who fall in love "in 20 minutes" and plan to marry only weeks after meeting, are quite likely to find themselves unhappily stuck with a person they knew nothing about -- regardless of their color.)
And poor Sydney Poitier, who I think was probably a good actor but seemed to have to sacrifice his talent on the cross of being the first great cross-over black movie actor --- always playing someone who is whiter than the white folks around him, usually better spoken, always smarter, always having to deliver the over-written, didactic speech about how times are changing for the black man, and never allowed to use a contraction in a sentence, lest he sound too ethnic. I find his acting to be terribly mannered most of the time, but I think that is mostly because of the straight-jacket forced on him by the types of roles he played in the 1960s.
So the movie just feels very manufactured --- structured so that every point of view or objection will be raised but rationally batted aside and that -- less than 12 hours after they show up, the couple will head off to Switzerland with a family united behind them and the audience can all leave the theater feeling that love conquers all and dealing with racism is just a matter of having a good conversation over drinks.
Joey invites John's parents Mr. Prentice (Roy E. Glenn Sr.) and Mrs. Prentice (Beah Richards) to have dinner with her family and the couple flies from Los Angeles to San Francisco without knowing that Joey is white. Christina invites also the liberal Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway), who is friend of her family. Along the day and night, the families discuss the problems of their son and daughter.
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is a witty dramatic comedy about interracial marriage in the racist USA in the 60's. The theatrical story has magnificent performances and dialogs and has not aged after all these years. This is the last movie of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, who is the aunt of Katharine Houghton, has never seen this movie because of the loss of her friend. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Adivinhe Quem Vem Para Jantar" ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner")
I felt the characters and the situation so alive and close to me, it is incredible. It remembered me when I had to make that first visit at a girlfriends house, meet the parents, be friendly to some completely unknown people, act as an adult, as a man, when there are four parents around... And there are scenes with a flip I will never forget, like Spencer Tracy eating his ice cream and changing his mind over it, Hilary being fired or the two fathers settling about the situation as 'the only reasonable people in the boat'.
The film also started me to think over how I would react as a parent in such a situation. Today, marriage between races is not that shocking, but I can easily imagine for my future daughter someone, who would shock me with his proposal. It easy to see others on screen struggling to break down their own walls and prejudices, but in real life it is so much harder. It is so true, what Mahatma Ghandi said - 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world'.
It's just a funny twist from life, that I've seen 'Kinsey' a few days ago, where Katharine Houghton also appears as Mrs. Spaulding, almost 40 years later (2005).
This movie became one of my favorites - 10/10.
Tracy was pronouncing his 'last' touching words... He was simple, fluent, logic and eloquent in his presentation... His feelings were just part of his real life... Kramer took his profile with the face of Hepburn... Katherine was projecting compassionate eyes, full of tears as to overflow
We were in a great moment of cinema, of fond tenderness and cherish love between two great super stars... Tracy's words evoked loyalty and compliment to the woman he loved all his life and who was about to leave in few days... Tracy turned to Hepburn with a long look, and Kramer sustained the shot for few seconds with a deliberate silence...
Joey Drayton comes home from a ten-day Hawaiian vacation with the man she loves, John Prentice, a forty-year-old internationally respected Negro doctor Joey is determined not only to marry him immediately, but to have both sets of parents' blessings The couple must leave that night for Geneva and the doctor's post with the World Health Organization
Matt and Christina are extremely likable, intelligent, wealthy, and hard working He owns and operates a crusading newspaper in San Francisco and she runs an avant-garde art gallery Now both are faced with a true test of their liberal beliefs Further tension is introduced when the man's parents fly up from Los Angeles for dinner at the Draytons' and find themselves as shocked and dismayed as the girl's parents
Sidney Poitier looked charming, refined, civilized, and sophisticated... Katharine Houghton was fresh, innocent, and lovely...
The film won l0 Academy Award Nominations...
The story revolves around a liberal, upper middle class white couple, Matt Drayton (a newspaper publisher) and Christina Drayton (who owns an art gallery). Their assumed anti racist attitudes are put to the test when their daughter, Joanna, brings home a widowed black doctor, John Prentice, and introduces him as her fiancé. She has met him during a 10 day trip to Hawaii, and they must jet off that very night to Geneva, as he has a post with the World Health Organization in Switzerland. Joanna seeks the blessing of both sets of parents, so John's working class parents from Los Angeles are also invited to dinner. They are no more pleased than the Draytons that their son has chosen a white fiancée, the prejudices operating both ways here. Thus, the memorable dinner party is set up...
The Drayton parents are played by those beloved stars, Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn. Personally, I feel the movie is totally over rated due to a sense of nostalgia for this pair. The film addresses the whole issue of hidden prejudices in those who pride themselves as anti racist. The Drayton couple, who have an African-American maid, are nevertheless very open minded for their day. Christina has even fired an employee because of her prejudiced views. Hepburn is cast in her typical independent, feminist, feisty role as the proudly liberal Mrs. Drayton, whom I personally found irritating with her superior airs.
Personally, I much preferred the ordinary working class Prentice parents to the affluent, fashionably liberal, and agnostic Draytons. I think 1960's audiences would have related better to a more typical white suburban couple from middle America than to this rather atypical pair. How many mothers of that era operated an avant guard art gallery? It might actually have imparted greater depth to the story if these parents had been trying to reconcile their formerly buried, but now surfacing prejudices with the tenants of their faith. A Catholic priest (family friend) does give his opinions on the nuptials, but he's a goofy rather than wise or inspiring character. By the way, is there some implication here that the agnostics of that era were a more enlightened lot than all the religious, church attending Christians?
As for myself, the movie is most notable for the on screen presence of the handsome Sidney Poitier. This is probably his most memorable role as the polite, respectable, well educated fiancé doctor, who has risen above his blue collar roots. The annoying daughter, played by Katharine Houghton, doesn't seem to have much of a role. Even though it's all mainly about the parents, her character could surely have had a little more depth. Skin color notwithstanding, I could hardly picture the perky, clueless, dewy eyed Joanna and her serious, intelligent, older (late 30's), and infinitely more mature fiancé having much in common, now that they've left their tropical Hawaiian paradise and are back in the real world.
My major problem with the film is the hokey, unrealistic drama of it all. The couple must leave for Geneva that very night for their imminent marriage. No time to get accustomed to the fiancé or make plans, all very dramatic. But especially, the whirlwind...and I do mean, whirlwind... ten day courtship. These 'intellectual' parents aren't exhibiting much intelligence in their priorities here. I cannot imagine any parents, now or even back then, more upset with the color of the fiancé's skin (supposing it was purple) than with the fact that their daughter had known him for such an incredibly short period of time...distinguished, Yale educated doctor or not. Balmy tropical nights, swaying palm trees, and tall cool drinks rather than getting acquainted with each other in daily routine life. It's unbelievable, absurd, and outrageous, removing all credibility from the film.
This movie proved dull and disappointing, the scenario totally ridiculous. However, its theme is certainly thought provoking, causing a personal examination of conscience in the viewer. Even though interracial marriage is common and quite acceptable in many (not all) circles today, this is a definitive, though woefully flawed, piece of cinema that put the title phrase in everyone's vocabulary.
John Wades parents essentially share the same views as the Draytons. However Johns parents particularly his father played by Roy E. Glenn Sr. seems more realistic when speaking to his child about the situation than does Matt Drayton. He tells his son the way it really is and most likely will be. "You'll even be illegal in some states" he reminds his son. The two couples eventually come to grips with the fact that no matter what they say they will not be able to prevent their two children from going through with their plans. Spencer Tracy throughout his film career delivered many powerful lines of dialog. The final moments of this film he delivers perhaps his greatest. Which also turned out to be his last. AFI ranked this film number ninety-nine on their list of top one hundred. Because of it's powerful story and social issue it deserved to be higher. Other films that deal with interracial marriage to see are 1956's GIANT and 1961's Bridge to the Sun.
Looking at Spencer Tracy it also is obvious he's in pretty bad shape, but he at 67 was two generations older than his co-star Jean Harlow at MGM in their salad days. And this final film of his and final screen partnership with Katharine Hepburn had a lot more of a significant message than Saratoga did. It's enobling in its own way to see how much faith Spencer Tracy had in the project.
Oh, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is certainly dated now. But back in 1967 it was daring enough. Tracy and Hepburn who for the fourth time in their nine films play a husband and wife from the start, get the news that their daughter Katharine Houghton is getting married to an older man who is a widower. Oh and by the way, she's marrying Sidney Poitier who's a doctor.
Getting a doctor for a son-in-law would be reason enough for celebration in most homes, but interracial marriage was still a daring topic. As Roy Glenn who is Poitier's father reminds him, he's still breaking the law in 1967 in about 17 states. The film is about how Tracy and Hepburn and Glenn and his wife Beah Richards deal with the news.
Hepburn won her second Oscar for this film and she's the character on screen most of the time. Her best moment comes when she fires Virginia Christine who works for her and rushes to Hepburn's side to express "concern" for her.
One of the things that made Spencer Tracy the great player he was, was that incredible ability he had to make the audience feel he was listening. My favorite scene of his in the film is when Beah Richards is alone with him on the porch and she compares him with her husband how the two of them have forgotten all about romance. As she speaks the two of them are profiled against the screen, Richards to the left and Tracy to the right. Though Richards is in the foreground your attention is completely on Tracy and is reactions even though we're only seeing half of his face. Stole the scene without speaking a word.
I know so many people who profess liberalism in all things, but never can quite walk the walk when necessary. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is about that, putting your money where your mouth is.
Watching my VHS copy of it again this evening, the scene with Glenn and Poitier brought home something else to me. Just like Poitier and Houghton were illegal back in 1967 in some parts of America, it was only until 2003 that gay people were illegal in and of themselves in several states. And even now same sex couples battle for marriage rights and equality.
Maybe Guess Who's Coming to Dinner isn't quite so dated at that. And maybe Brokeback Mountain is the closest thing that gay people have to a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner right now.
But can you see in a few years a man or a woman bringing home a partner of the same sex to Mom and Dad and announcing they're getting married in Massachusetts?
Now that would be a great film.
I had never seen this movie until last night, primarily because I never saw the point. The story seemed so obvious and cliché to me, having grown up decades after the film was released. Of course a family would react poorly when they see the racial difference of their daughter's chosen husband. But, I underestimated the whole thing.
The film is more complex, because as it turns out, the family is not actually racist -- at least not in theory. And this film allows theory to meet practice, which may be harder to overcome than they thought. Luckily, they have the advantage of the black man being a world-renowned doctor. Had he just been any old schmuck, the family might not have been as welcoming. It is a whole different story.
The two things I found most interesting about the film were: one, that the two people most opposed to interracial marriage were both black. That seemed quite the opposite of what you might expect. And two, I found it odd that the biggest problem was supposed to be the racial difference. The 14-year age gap and the fact they wanted to get married after only 10 days of knowing each other was largely ignored. I find that to be the much bigger problem -- how do you commit to a lifetime after only 10 days?
The scenery and settings are enjoyable, the soundtrack typical of the period. The acting of Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier was very good. So were his parents and Katherine Hepburn. The portrayal of the daughter was somewhat stereotypical of a liberal early-mid 1960s upper class bay area girl.
Tillie (future 'Weezie' of 'The Jeffersons') gave a great performance both as an individual, but also as a member of any group who sees one of their peers move beyond what they were told they were allowed, as well as a genuine protectiveness toward 'Joey'.
The most disturbing question of the film was briefly addressed by Spency Tracy's character - why present this as an all or nothing ultimatum that has to be settled in a day? The answer was given as 'we love each other, why wait?'. But if he really loved her, he would have given both sets of parents a little time to absorb something so important. This would be true even if they were the same race. Why force someone to accept or reject someone for life within the first hour of meeting them? I suppose it had to be done this way for the dramatic effect.
By glossing over this very important question, the rest of the film become an axe grinding message for me. If you are for them right now, you're good, if you question it, you're a 'bigot'. Real life isn't that simple. Were they planning to 'play chicken' with everyone for the rest of their lives after they got married? How would that affect their children, vs choosing the timing of their battles a little more carefully? What a terrible message to send to anyone choosing that path in 1967.
It was also disturbing to see someone who's presented as so perfect (Poitier) display such ingratitude, disrespect and rejection of his own father in such a self righteous manner, without any apparent judgment of Poitier from the filmmaker.
There's not much to say about Tracy's closing, it was easy to see coming a mile away, and a relief to get it over with.
John Prentice (Poitier) wants to marry Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) and all hell breaks loose between the parents (Tracy, Hepburn, Beah Richards, and Roy Glenn). Problem is the script tries to be politically correct while ignoring any semblance of reality or non-nerdness (to coin a word).
For example: a 2-faced employee wishes the couple well with whispering asides to Hepburn (in a WAY over the top cartoonish manner for both the well wishes and the asides). Joey says "Mom, she was well, RUDE!" actually she wasn't rude at all, she was 2-faced...big difference lost on the writer. And to get the lady out of their collective hair Hepburn gives her $5000.00. Not much of a punishment for being 2-faced.
Then we get this wacky priest who drinks, sings "We can Work it Out" in the most pretentiously hip unhip touch of the film, and thinks its funny that Mr. Liberal (Tracy) has such a problem with the marriage. As far as Poitier's speech to his father, "You think of yourself as a black man, I think of myself as a man", I have this to say: I'm sure men have thought that, but I doubt they ever said it, i.e. it came out of the writer, not out of reality. And I have no idea why they left that scene in where Tracy rams a black guy's car and the guy yells "There oughta be a law!" It didn't make sense, it didn't fit into the film, and I suppose it was just an ill-concieved joke by the writer.
And Tracy's speech at the end is supposed to be so touching, and it reduces Hepburn to tears...but really it's big on schmaltz and low on substance. This film is TV movie quality and made it into the AFI Top 100; hey AFI, ever hear of this other Poitier film from 1967...a little film called In the Heat of the Night? Such is my BIG GRIPE. How does this film make it while one of the best films of the decade doesn't? Answer: Politics. This one was about subtle middle class racism, that one was about blatant Southern racism. Well all I can say is see both films and YOU decide.
1. Katherine Hepburn looking 'dewy-eyed' scene after scene, enough!. Was here whole career success due to the ability to well-up tears in her eyes on cue?. 2. The actor playing the half-witted daughter was just awful, not only annoying, but who could believe that the Poitier character would find her interesting or that they could really be in love?. 3. Is this the worst set design ever in a movie?. 4. Tracy can act, but this is just a one-note narrow performance. Good actor wasted with a stupid script. 5. I deeply resent the male-bashing undercurrent of the movie. Women are just vessels of virtue and wisdom, while the men plod around dragging their knuckles and acting on prejudice.
1. Hollywood's out of touch depiction of the 60s culture is always great for unintentional laughs, and this movie is full of them. That delivery boy should have gotten an academy award, not Hepburn. 2. Poitier is good, but looks pained throughout the movie, like he knows he is making a bad movie. Good scene where he confronts his father, the movie needed a lot more truth like that.
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is an impossibly sugar-coated pitch for racial tolerance and inter-racial relationships. Nothing wrong with its intentions, but the script is so terribly self-congratulatory in its liberal piousness, and everything just gets tied up in such a nice, neat, totally unreal way. The film's characters all seem to live in a self-contained and sheltered environment that the real world comes nowhere near. Then, to advance their cause, the filmmakers all but put Sidney Poitier in a red cape with a big "S" on his chest! He is so incredibly handsome and noble and pure that Strom Thurmond wouldn't object to him as a son-in-law, let alone those bastions of liberality Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn! Pure malarkey...
I also have to say that Katharine Hepburn's oscar has to be one of the least deserved in the Academy's history. She is her usual self here, but its such a nothing role! All of the other actresses nominated in 1967 - Audrey Hepburn, Dame Edith Evans, Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde" and Anne Bancroft in "The Graduate" - were each far more deserving of the honor. (Don't get me wrong, I like Kate - but she was much more deserving of the honor in 1962's "Long Day's Journey into Night" and 1968's "The Lion in Winter".)
Spencer Tracy's performance was very good, especially when considering the complexities of his character (a liberal journalist who finds himself resenting the fact that his own daughter plans to marry someone of another race), and there were a few other notable performances (I especially liked Monsignor Ryan, played by Cecil Kellaway). The writing was one of the stronger aspects of the film as well, mostly because of the utter straightforwardness about a topic that would make many Americans in 1967 cringe. By showing on screen the shock that each family member received when initially aware of the marriage allowed for an equally shocking effect on the audience, and the reactions seen on screen were probably similar to those of many Americans at the time (and, unfortunately today as well).
By having the Prentice family over for dinner at the end, the families are forced to look beyond whatever prejudices they might have and interact with people that are virtually foreign to them. In this sense, the movie carries a great message with it...and this message is still very applicable to today's society.
The biggest problem with this film was the believability of the issue. Due to Katharine Houghton's (Joey's) bubbly, overacted performance, it was impossible for me to believe that these two were actually as deeply in love as they said, especially when you consider the fact that they have only known each other for 2 weeks. In addition, I thought the "forced" nature of the necessity for approval from the parents was completely unrealistic. In essence, some of the major plot points and details are flawed, keeping a movie that could have been great just so-so. Nonetheless, it is worth watching at least once, especially if historic context of the film is considered.