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With a cast like this, you expect the movie to be a treat but this movie did strike some deep chords over 45 years ago, as it does today. At one point, Spencer Tracey, as liberal publisher Matt Drayton said, in 50 years this might not even cause a ripple of controversy. Well, in less than 50 years, his character was absolutely correct because the "problem" of inter-racial marriage no longer causes much of a stir. In fact, most Americans would be delighted to have a 23-year old daughter marry a 37 year-old black medical doctor with a resumé that could knock the socks off a million other marriage prospects. By the same token, few parents of African-American descent would object to the marriage of their son to the well-mannered, intelligent and sensible young woman we see here. The social attitudes have come so far that the old barriers of race, or religion no longer exist. Barriers are more likely to be social rank or education. The movie also uses terms like "colored" and "Negro" that have long since slipped into obscurity. Nonetheless, the viewer can still appreciate the acting of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as Matt Drayton and his wife Christina. Sidney Pottier is also outstanding as Dr. Prentice, the love of their daughter Joey, played by Hepburn's niece Katharine Houghton. She is young, and blissfully in love. Joey seems like the perfect daughter, all too ready to embrace this marriage. This is how Matt and Christina raised her. Still, she was spunky enough to call for a quick decision, which meant her parents had to support her or reject the love of her life just because he is black. Her major ally was a family friend Msgr. Ryan, performed by Cecil Kellaway. A stereotype of the Irish Catholic priest, he was Matt's golf buddy and liberal alter ego...and the perfect one to point out Matt's flaws. Kellaway is a competent actor no doubt but someone less jocular such as Pat O'Brien, would have been more credible. Also, the actors in the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Prentice seemed lightweight for such a formidable son. I think actors such as Morgan Freeman in the role of the father and Diahan Carroll as the mother would be a better choice. But these choices would have been impossible, given their ages at the time. No matter, Tracy and Hepburn shine as the parents torn between liberal ideals and parental realism. Despite the changing times, the viewer can appreciate how these parents struggle with their sense of responsibility and their own liberal convictions. Following some discussions, Tracy's final summation makes all the right points and allows life to resume, albeit with some adjustment. We have come a long way since 1967 and despite its flaws, this movie is great entertainment, particularly with the two major stars.
The film was controversial for the time period in the heat of the civil rights movement. A love story about an educated white girl, Joanna "Joey" Drayton (played by Katharine Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton) from a liberal San Francisco family falls in love with an African American doctor Dr. John Wade Prentice (played beautifully by Sidney Poitier). Despite Katharine Houghton's lack of acting experience, she was a natural in the role with a likeness to Katharine Hepburn, her maternal aunt. Spencer Tracy played a liberal editor and publisher of a newspaper and Katharine Hepburn played an art gallery owner. Tracy's Matt Drayton is heartbreaking because it's his last performance with his beloved Katharine Hepburn, In reality, Hepburn and Tracy had a longtime love affair despite Tracy's marriage and belief. Stanley Kramer's direction is perfection. Beah Richards and Isabell Sanford gave magnificent performances as Mrs. Prentice and Tillie respectively. Every role in the film was cast perfectly The writing was smart and intelligent. This film still stands still as great film-making and acting.
Stanley Kramer will probably never be recognized as one of the best
American directors of all times - or even of the 60's. But watching
films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Inherit the Wind and The
Definat Ones it's clear that, although Kramer's directorial work was
very safe and by-the-book, few directors had his chemistry with actors.
And while having wonderful actors like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn
and Sidney Poitier on board certainly doesn't harm, Stanley Kramer drew
incredible amounts of passion and feeling out of them, and helped them
create complex and realistic characters in a film that could have
easily been a dull tirade against racism.
The great thing about this film is that it isn't really about racism. Unlike more modern films like Jungle Fever and Far From Heaven that tried to make a global point about racism and race relations, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - which, amazingly, was released much earlier than those films, when interracial marriage was still very much a taboo - tackles the subject on a much more subtle and more human level, and it's not about the struggling interracial couple, but about their parents - not parents who are Archie Bunker-like close-minded bigots, but modern liberals whose liberalism is put to the test when the issues they've been fighting for are brought to their own front door. Tracy and Hepburn (and also Roy Glenn and Beah Richards in a much smaller but remarkable performance) play the parents as intelligent, liberal, fallible human beings with a lot of complexity that give you a feeling that there's a lot going on beneath the surface. Tracy, in the last performance of his lifetime, delivers some of the finest acting in his distinguished career.
And though a lot had been said about the allegedly poor acting of Katharine Houghton as the young bride to be, and the flatness of the characters played by her and Poitier, they fit right in - had Houghton been replaced with a stronger, more grounded woman, she might have been the focus of the film instead of her parents; but her sunny and naive optimism is a wonderful statement about the ridiculousness of the racial barrier; while it's clear to us as viewers that her outlook is far too simplistic and that she's blissfully ignorant of reality, we can't help but admire - even envy her for not even seeing that the barrier is there. She's as close to a child as we have in this film.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a gorgeous film about society's growth, about dealing with change and facing up to our own fears and prejudices. It's also a dialog driven character piece, a lovely reminder of the days when a mainstream hit could have consistent of almost nothing but smart dialog and spectacular acting. A classic well deserving of a spot on any film-lover's shelf.
It has been said that Spencer Tracy treated Katherine Hepburn harshly. If that was the case, it certainly doesn't show. The pair are perfect together in their last film, their acting is so good and convincing as is everybody else's(especially Sidney Poitier as John Prentice) that the whole film is well worth watching for the acting alone. The ending may hold no surprises as such, but overall, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a smart, intelligent and touching film. It has a well-constructed story about a married rich couple whose liberal principles are tested by the proposed marriage of their daughter to a black doctor, and the writing is intelligent and smart. Some touching moments don't go amiss either, while the cinematography is crisp, the score is nicely done and the direction from Stanley Krammer is efficient. Overall, if you love Tracy and Hepburn, I think you'll be in for a treat! 9/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Stanley Kramer did love message pictures. We have seen that before with
ON THE BEACH in 1959 and JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG in 1961. Now he takes on
interracial romance, in a film with a lighter touch than his previous
work but a message that still comes through loud and clear.
Spencer Tracy, in his final film, and Katharine Hepburn (who won an Oscar) are Matt and Christina Drayton, an upper-middle-class couple, lifelong "liberals" who are about to have their ideals challenged.
Enter their twenty-three-year-old daughter Joanna (Joey) Drayton (Katharine Houghton, Hepburn's real-life niece), returning from a vacation in Hawaii with a new suitor in tow; they met, fell almost immediately in love, and are planning to marry as soon as possible. But here's the thing: Joey's fiancé, a highly respected doctor with the World Health Organization, is an African-American (Sidney Poitier, more handsome and dignified than he has ever been), a fact that, to say the least, leaves the Draytons fumbling for words.
I don't need to go into the minutiae of the plot here; suffice it to say that by the end of the film the dinner guests have all finally arrived: Poitier's parents (Roy Glenn and a brilliant, Oscar-nominated Beah Richards), and Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway), a family friend who has finagled an invitation (translation: invited himself).
This movie has to be seen and experienced. Remember that this was 1967. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states. In fact, a contemporary reading of this film draws many parallels to today's battle for same-sex marriage.
Much criticism has been leveled at the Poitier character for being "too perfect." A brilliant, successful doctor, after all, is a man any girl would consider a good catch. But again, this was 1967, and Stanley Kramer knew how to get his message across.
Most of the cast is pitch-perfect, including Isabel Sanford in a hilarious performance as the family maid who deeply disapproves of Poitier and makes sure that the whole household knows it. Houghton, unfortunately, is the film's weak link; she does not have anywhere near the talent of her aunt, but she is young and lovely and very appealing, and the work of the actors around her brings her performance up several notches.
Then there are Tracy and Hepburn. Tracy died a mere two weeks after filming wrapped; both he and Hepburn knew this was his last film, and it brings their scenes together a deep poignancy that warms the heart and brings tears to the eyes.
Altogether a classy finale for Tracy, and while the film has dated a bit, the message is still valid.
Here we go again, people commenting on situations which may not be
their true opinions. This movie certainly can cause that. Look at it
from another prospective: What reaction would a young, white woman get
today from American parents if she introduced them to an
Islamic-Muslim-Arabic man that she was going to dash-off with, in a few
hours, to their repressive countries? "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner",
at its original release, showed us a very real treatise on inter-racial
marriages - no matter what they were. Admit that even some
white-on-white, black-on-black or any other race would cause a stir,
more so if it is the daughter who has made the choice, between the
different "classes" of any given race? "WHAT? They are not like us!"
Those people who are in denial of this basic characteristic apparently
have never heard of Islamic daughters being murdered by their own
family-members, on the mere suspicion they had had sexual relations
pre-marriage - even within their own culture. If today's society cannot
understand that Americans are disliked all over the world, then they
are doomed to many misconceptions.
I went to Hawai'i in 1967 and found that black-and-white relationships, especially by traditional Hawai'ians, was frowned upon - regardless of how long African-American soldiers, sailors and all other branches of the military had been stationed there. I lived in Honolulu, not the same city as Waikiki, and saw very few African-American people there. In fact, some of the darker Polynesian races are called "popolo", which means black.
I agree that Poitier was overly "cleaned-up" for this role. Just what IF he had been less credentialed, as some other posters have asked? I would like to read/see/hear how members of HIS race felt about this role: I KNOW how they feel about actual inter-marrying. I'm from the deep South, but have found the cliché on marriage to be pretty-much the same in every place I've been in in this country. To me, Poitier was the one to take the biggest risk on appearing in this movie - I've never seen/heard any comment by him WHY he did......did he "take the money and run"? Even in Hollywood - I live there - you just may be stretching it by inter-racial affairs. Someone wrote-in to one of the gossip-mongers here, asking why certain Black celebs always seemed to date white ladies. The reply was, "Because they can," most likely because of their fame and handsomeness, and - yes - their wealth....not even considering their rightful choice. Even "Crash" has an African-American actor telling his mother he could not talk to her right then, because he was having sex with a white woman. Did anyone faint over that? Poitier HAS made some definitive Black films: "Blackboard Jungle" and "Raisin in the Sun", to name a couple.
I, for one, am very happy that we've become, to a smaller degree, to judge people less on their skin-color than their suitability. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" WAS a trifle contrived, in-that the white family was wealthy and thereby could somewhat separate themselves from the general population. The African-American parents were rightfully concerned. The mixed-race couple, in the movie, could also insulate themselves to some degree because of the doc's work.....their kids? whoa!!
I wouldn't be surprised if the home the film was shot in is actual - it's not unusual, and wouldn't have been in 1967, for wealthy people who live in the hills above San Francisco to have a view like that. Beverly Hills has almost as many Islamic residents in LARGER estates, today, than the "stars" do. Why? "Because they can." Isn't that what this country is supposed to be about?
All of the actors in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" were superb. I don't think the action dragged at any point, nor do I feel the dialog was cryptic. That it was fairly well-known this would be the final picture with Hepburn and Tracey, the emotion in Hepburn's face undoubtedly was a true one. As mentioned by several posters, their romance was a great controversy here.....Tracey was married. The entire production of the film was tasteful, indeed money being invested in established stars to insure the returns would be profitable. A film with the same theme, but without being designated to that social strata, would be very interesting, indeed - even today.
Therefore, let's accept it as a wonderful statement toward being more tolerant, allowing those who truly love chose their own loves. How much better-off we'd be! Compassion is a fabulous characteristic.
....try being a white, gay female impersonator....Bravo for this film ! I'm going to have them ALL over for dinner, because I am going to watch it again FOR dinner....
I remember seeing GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER? when I was a kid and being very impressed by what I was told was a groundbreaking film about race relations. But as the years have passed, the strength of this film is not as solid as I once thought. This movie brings up a lot of interesting questions but instead of thoughtfully exploring these questions, the movie looks for quick fixes and easy answers that you would normally find in 22 minutes of situation comedy. For instance, Matt and Christina Drayton (Tracy and Hepburn)are forced to come to immediate conclusions about their daughter marrying a black man because they are planning to leave the country. I wonder if their feelings would have been the same without the time constraint. I think screenwriter William Rose also made the story easy by making Sidney Poitier's character a wealthy, widowed doctor with a million degrees doing groundbreaking research to help the underprivileged. I wondered what this movie would have been like if Katharine Houghton had brought home a drug dealing pimp instead of an important doctor. But the film is still worth seeing if for no other reason to watch the screen's most divine screen team, in their final film together. Tracy commands the screen whenever he is on it, but Hepburn has her moments too. My favorite Hepburn moment is when her assistant from the gallery, played by Virginia Christine ("Mrs. Olsen" from the Folgers commercials)makes veiled racial remarks about John and Joey and Christina calmly and very politely tells her to go back to the gallery, write herself a check for $5000, take everything out of the gallery that would ever remind Christina that she was ever there and to go. It's classic Hepburn and that scene is worth the price of admission alone. GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER? is definitely showing its age, but the still stylish and intelligent presence of Tracy and Hepburn still makes it worth watching.
a truly amazing film! A must watch movie...with great actors! I hope
there is no sequel because it could only do injustice.
A film which makes you think, feel, mentally and emotionally interact and really get into.
One of the great classics. Sidney Poiter is one of the greatest actors of all time and his performances never let you down!
I highly recommend this film! I would vote this film a ten out of ten!!!!!!!
I would watch this movie over and over and wouldn't get bored with it! I am sure others viewers who have seen this movie would agree with me!
I watched this movie 10 years ago and it really moved me then. i wondered if i would like it as much now and decided to watch it again last night. and did i like it? man, i was so engrossed in the movie that before i realized the movie was over and i had tears in my eyes. that's what i call a wholesome movie. what is a book or a movie that doesn't entertain you and doesn't give you a new perspective about life? this will entertain you as well as will make you question yourself. it remains one of my all time favorites and it is in one word 'wonderful'.
I am a huge fan of Tracy and Hepburn and so this film being their last together has much nostalgic value there. I had seen Poitier in several films before this and he did not disappoint me in any way. He was and is a most charismatic actor, who personal dignity touches our hearts. Inter-racial marriage is still a touchy subject and this film approaches it with sensitivity and insight. I saw myself in that film as things might have been instead of how they really were, but I still enjoy the films hard look at how we feel about this sensitive subject. We have far to go in the world with how we treat each other and this film helps remind us to think about our own feelings.
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