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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot

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Summaries

  • A couple's attitudes are challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African-American fiancé.

  • After a period of vacation in Hawaii, Joanna "Joey" Drayton returns to her parents' home in San Francisco bringing her fiancé, the high-qualified Dr. John Prentice, to introduce him to her mother Christina Drayton that owns an art gallery and her father Matt Drayton that is the publisher editor of the newspaper The Guardian. Joey was raised with a liberal education and intends to get married with Dr. John Prentice that is a black widower and needs to fly on that night to Geneva to work with the World Health Organization. Joey invites John's parents Mr. Prentice and Mrs. Prentice 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, who is friend of her family. Along the day and night, the families discuss the problems of their son and daughter.

  • When Joanna Drayton, a free-thinking white woman, and black doctor John Prentice become engaged, they travel to San Francisco to meet her parents. Matt Drayton and his wife Christina are wealthy liberals who must confront the latent racism the coming marriage arouses. Also attending the Draytons' dinner are Prentice's parents, who vehemently disapprove of the relationship.

  • Joey Drayton brings her fiancé, Dr. John Prentice, home to sunny San Francisco to meet her affluent parents. Their liberal persuasions are now put to the test, for although the young man is an ideal choice (he's highly and internationally respected in the medical field, and he's impeccably mannered, handsome, well dressed and of a respectable California family), he's black. The film, which covers one busy day in the Drayton home, is essentially a drawing-room comedy, a series of cross-conversations between the young doctor and the girl's parents, and finally between all sets of parents and offspring. A simple dinner is extended to include the doctor's parents, who fly up from Los Angeles for the evening, and the crusty but benevolent old Irish priest, a friend of the family. Thus, the title of the film . . .


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The movie concerns Joanna Drayton, a young white American woman (Houghton) and a man with whom she's had a whirlwind romance, Dr. Prentice (Poitier), an African American she met while on a holiday in Hawaii. As the movie opens, they're at the San Francisco Airport preparing to tell her parents, Matthew (Tracy) and Christine (Hepburn) Dayton their plans: to marry and live in Switzerland.

    Kramer and Rose intentionally debunked ethnic stereotypes; the young doctor was purposely created idealistically perfect so that the only possible objection to his marrying Joanna would be his race, or the fact she only met him nine days earlier. He has graduated from a top school, begun innovative medical initiatives in Africa, refused to have premarital sex with his fiancée despite her request, and leaves money on his future father-in-law's desk in payment for a long distance phone call he has made.

    The plot is centered on Joanna's return to her liberal upper class home overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Her mother, while surprised, is supportive from the beginning, but her father isn't buying the marriage. He is joined in his concerns by the family retainer Tillie (Sanford) and the young Doctor's father (Glenn), a retired postal worker who flies up to Los Angeles for dinner.

    The action builds to a stirring speech by the father (the last by Tracy on film) in which Matthew Drayton comes to grips with the differences between his daughter and his future son-in-law and makes clear that what others think of the marriage of Joanna and Prentice means nothing, all that matters is that the two young people love each other and that the real crime would be if they allowed outside criticism to deny them their mutual love.

    His words move his wife to tears, and after allowing the weight of his words to sink in, Matthew breaks the ice by demanding to know when dinner will be served.

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