Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

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Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 1Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Directed by Stanley Kramer

Written by William Rose

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton

Joey Drayton (Houghton) and John Prentice (Poitier) are in love, and planning to be married after a short engagement. Before they can get married they’re going to San Francisco to meet Joey’s parents, Matt (Tracy) and Christina (Hepburn). Despite her father’s progressive views, the interracial pairing comes as a shock to the family. When John’s family flies in to join the couple, they’re equally surprised by the match. As this small group tries to adjust to the unique union, they’ll need to evaluate the way they look at one another and the change in the world around them.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 2This movie was released in 1967, shortly after the United States did away with the last laws banning interracial marriage. Director Stanley Kramer (High Noon) and screenwriter William Rose (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) designed the film to see past the stereotypes associated with race, and focus on the bigger picture. Kramer was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director and Rose won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his work on the film. The film was also nominated for Best Picture. The cast was chosen carefully, and the main stars all agreed to the film before the script had been completed. The cast included Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field) and Katharine Houghton (Kinsey) as the young couple. Katharine Hepburn (The African Queen) brought her legendary talent to the film opposite Spencer Tracy (Boys Town). Her performance earned Hepburn her second Oscar for Best Leading Actress. This would be Tracy’s last film, completed only weeks before his death, and it earned him his last Oscar nomination. Supporting actors Cecil Kellaway (Harvey) and Beah Richards (Beloved) were both nominated for Academy Awards for their supporting roles in the movie. In addition to the previously mentioned awards, the film was nominated for another three Oscars for Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Music.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 5The story for this one is incredible. William Rose and Stanley Kramer had to create a perfect couple to ensure that the relationship was judged on the value of race instead of any other flaws. The parents and other characters all had to be perfectly designed as well, allowing for diversity without the inability to understand one another. In the end this screenplay became a perfect blend of all of the necessary elements. Instead of being a movie designed to make a statement at the cost of a story, it became a great story written to make a statement while entertaining.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 3The acting took this story and ran with it. Despite Tracy’s failing health he was able to complete his parts of the movie with great skill. He was helped along by his longtime companion, Katharine Hepburn. Despite her attention to Tracy, she was equally wonderful in this film. The chemistry between the two is evident throughout the movie and a great sendoff for the talented Tracy. Sidney Poitier seems like the only choice for a film like this. His role is youthful and intense, allowing him to rise above any of the racial stereotypes that might have been used otherwise. Finally, Katharine Houghton was an interesting choice for a movie stacked with stars. This was her first major film role and despite being the weakest of the actors, she managed to hold her own on a very large stage. The addition of Cecil Kellaway and Beah Richards rounded out the cast and make this a nice movie to watch.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 7Overall, this is a wonderful movie. Despite the racial prejudices alive in the United States in 1967, this movie succeeded across the country. If you’re a fan of powerful dramas this is one you should see. Mixed in throughout the film is enough comedy to keep things light without hurting the message. I would recommend this one to fans of any of the stars. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: Unrated

Running Time: 108 Minutes

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4 comments

  1. Pretty dated when looking at it through today’s eyes, but still worth the watch because of the class-A performances given by, well, class-A actors and actresses. Good review.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I think the visuals certainly date the film. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t seem so old. I think that’s also a sign of the power of any great film made about social issues.

      Like

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