- 5/7/2005 12:00:00 AM by oneflighthoop
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner takes place during the course of one dayas two families struggle to overcome their concerns about theinterracial marriage of their children. This film is a treat for theeyes with lovely sets and beautiful people. It also has a nice 1960'sfeel that is reinforced by sophisticated wardrobing and an "easylistening" soundtrack--featuring The Glory of Love as the signaturetune. The film relies very heavily on the use of dialog and reflectsthe elegance of a time when people were entertained by stimulatingconversation. The San Francisco backdrop also is the perfect settingfor a movie that challenged racial convention.
But there are a few serious flaws. This is an introductory role forKatharine Houghton (Hepburn's niece) who plays Sidney Portier'sfiancé--Johanna Drayton. Her inexperience is apparent, particularly incomparison to heavyweights Portier, Tracy and Hepburn and as a result,she is unconvincing in the part. Moreover, her character is notwell-written or well-developed which makes it difficult to understandwhy Sidney Portier's character--John Prentice-would fall in love with awoman who appears to have so little to offer intellectually --given hissignificant professional achievements as a doctor. One also must askwhy it was necessary for his character to be cast as a doctor in orderto be seen as an acceptable partner for a young white woman who had notreally accomplished anything accept being born into a privilegedfamily. The answer is simple. Making Prentice a doctor-and not just anydoctor-but a world renowned expert in tropical medicine, made theinterracial relationship more acceptable to white audiences during the1960s.
The other cast members are outstanding and the on-screen chemistryphenomenal. Katharine Hepburn (Christina Drayton) and Spencer Tracy(Newspaper Publisher Matt Drayton) deliver brilliant performances asJohanna's parents. John Prentice's modest working class parents areplayed with great dignity by Beah Richards and Roy E. Glen. Mrs.Prentice and Mrs. Drayton favor the marriage and both charactersprovide passionate, articulate arguments as to why their husbandsshould agree. But their husbands voice serious objections and thefamilies 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 marriageis illegal and that he is "getting out of line." There are also anumber of very memorable and funny lines. In the scene in which MattDrayton wonders why "the colored kids dance better than the whitekids", Portier's response is classic--"you dance the Watusi, but we arethe Watusi!"(For readers under 40, the Watusi was a popular dance inthe 1960s and also an African tribe). Cecil Kelloway, who plays friendof the family, Monsignor Ryan, deftly brings a sense of humor and moralguidance that is effective because it is not "preachy". He challengesMatt Drayton's liberal credentials and suggests that Drayton'smisgivings about his daughter marrying a black man reveal hishypocrisy. Isabel Sanford ("Weezy from The Jeffersons TV program) playsthe feisty maid of the Draytons.
It's been said that in the final scene Tracy--who was very ill at thetime and who died shortly after the movie was completed--delivered oneof the longest soliloquies in American film history, in only one take.Katherine Helpurn was clearly so moved by the scene that it's hard tobelieve that she is just acting as her eyes brim with tears.
Although the some of the sentiments are dated, this film is highlyentertaining, and provides a rare opportunity to experience outstandingperformances from six gifted actors who bring compassion and depth toStanley Kramer's film. Its' angst relative to interracial marriage alsoreminds us of how far we have not come.
- 5/9/1999 12:00:00 AM by Kyle Milligan ([email protected])
Seeing this film for the first time more than thirty years after it wasmade, I was struck by the theme's endurance in time. It remains relevanttoday, even if not to the same degree. And even though I'm almost thirtyyears old, I can say with mixed emotions of embarrassment and vindication,that Spencer Tracy taught me a better way to tie a tie. Who's says moviesdon't teach you anything?
The film is dated, to be sure, by many things, from clothing to music,carsand expressions. At times the dialogue seemed a bit hokey, and others,simply brilliant. I swear, I half expected an entourage of go-go dancerstospontaneously burst through the streets of San Francisco. And if I neverhear the "Story Of Love" ever again in my life, it would be toosoon.
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 ofinterracial couples today than thirty years ago, and therefore a greaterdegree of tolerance, but for a lot of narrow-minded individuals, it'sstillas controversial or "appalling" as it was thirty yearsago.
Some of the lines actually had me laughing out loud, enjoying the momentasit follows into another well complimented scene. I'm speaking inparticularof the scene where Katharine Hepburn fires her employee for herprejudicialviews, and basically everything that follows that scene for the next fiveminutes.
I try my best to imagine what it would be like to be in the shoes of anycharacter in the film, to appreciate what it might've been like for them,inthat time, and while I think I can muster an inkling, I don't think mycreativity is up to a challenge of that nature. And I think thatultimately,that's a good thing, and I'm grateful to those who camebefore.
- 11/27/2005 12:00:00 AM by Scooter0123
Here's a great way to spend an afternoon: watching some of the greatestactors of all time in a film that still has relevance today. Such acast! Hepburn is wonderful as always, very energetic, with no trace ofthe shakiness of her later years.
Tracy, gruff, the way most probably remember him - sort of a ratchetedup version of the roles he played with Hepburn in earlier years. Hisill health is obvious though to the careful observer: voice a littleweak at times, and Tracy's step missing the "spring" of his earlierfilms. The fact that this his last film was so memorable, and of suchquality 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 onememorable scene where she explains to Potier's character just what"black power" really is.
Cecil Kellaway sparkles as Monsignor Ryan, and Beah Richards and RoyGlenn, as the parents to Potier's character, mirror Hepburn and Tracy.
Indeed, there is so much real honest-to-god acting talent concentratedin this movie, it seems almost unfair, what I'm about to say: KatharineHoughton, as 'Joey' is the only character with only 2 dimensions. She'sthe ever-smiling, but clueless daughter and object of Dr. Prentice'affection. She's such a Pollyanna, and remains oblivious to the dramagoing on all around her, and everyone else conspires to keep her in thedark throughout the entire film. (No wonder her father is concerned.) Ithink it's fair to say that Houghton's character is the one weak spotin this otherwise excellent film.
That said, this is a wonderful film that I will always watch when itcomes on. It's such a treat to watch these legendary actors at work. Ihighly recommend it.
By the way, there's no glass in Spencer's eyeglasses during the endingmonologue, is there he's wearing only frames, right?
- 10/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by TooShortforThatGesture
Hmmm. I'm torn about this movie but I guess overall I find it too outof balance to work as other than as an historical piece.
The things I like about it? The sound-stage version of an outrageousSan Francisco home. (A bridge to bridge view from the patio, which isnot to be confused with the separate garden. Filled with expensive art.If such a place existed what would it cost today? $10 million? $15million - but when the parents go out for ice cream they drive whatwould be a sort of old looking small to mid-sized car. Ah, Hollywood!)Seeing Isobel Sanford in something that doesn't involve ShermanHelmsley. Katharine Hepburn going through four slightly-oddballcostumes over about 9 hours of movie time. (And what is with her andher choice of hats?!?) The bizarro, off-kilter scene with the dancingdelivery boy.
The things I don't like? Well first and foremost the fact that thismovie is set up so as to eliminate any sense of the REAL complexitiesof life. Poitier's character is not just a great guy, he is aphysician. Wait, no ... not just a physician but one who has been onthe faculty of some of the best medical schools...AND who has devotedhis career to public health AND who is internationally well-known.Gosh, you think, is there ANY white man that Joanna might ever meet whocould be as well-credentialled as him? And Joanna, we are told, hasalways 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 employeebeing fired.) His parents? Sober and hard-working. Sacrificing fortheir son. Kind and loving.
Wouldn't it be nice to see at least one of the parents being SOMEWHATunpleasant?
Kramer just sets things up in a way where there is no real tension inthe movie. We know Tracy and Hepburn's characters are too good to turninto bigots and that they are such great parents that their daughter'shappiness is all that will matter. They may be friends with a Catholicmonseigneur (though a point is made to say at least twice that theyaren't Roman Catholics, what's that about?) but he is the most liberalhappy-go-lucky priest that existed in the 1960's and raises not asingle objection to interracial marriage (uncharacteristic of the Irishpriests I knew of from the 60s --- but maybe it's because he's so busydrinking Scotch -- if you'll excuse THAT offensive Irish stereotype ina movie about prejudice.)
The look and feel of the movie is a little odd, because of thejuxtaposition of real locations (SFO, the ice cream store) with thevery "faux" stage set style used in scenes like the driveway in frontof the house. For a movie that is supposed to be exploring the grittyreality of racism in America, seeing someone drive a phony deliverytruck past the fake plants outside the fake house seems particularlyjarring and inappropriate.
And of course, everyone is rich or well-to-do. Even the retired postalworker 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? Soultimately their "problems" about love and marriage seem lessimportant, because we don't really worry that John or Joanna's liveswill be seriously crippled if they don't marry --- they are both soVERY charming, successful, self-directed and fulfilled that we knowthat they would find someone else if it came to that.
(For that matter, no one seems too bothered by the more substantialproblem, which is that people who fall in love "in 20 minutes" and planto marry only weeks after meeting, are quite likely to find themselvesunhappily stuck with a person they knew nothing about -- regardless oftheir color.)
And poor Sydney Poitier, who I think was probably a good actor butseemed to have to sacrifice his talent on the cross of being the firstgreat cross-over black movie actor --- always playing someone who iswhiter than the white folks around him, usually better spoken, alwayssmarter, always having to deliver the over-written, didactic speechabout how times are changing for the black man, and never allowed touse a contraction in a sentence, lest he sound too ethnic. I find hisacting to be terribly mannered most of the time, but I think that ismostly because of the straight-jacket forced on him by the types ofroles he played in the 1960s.
So the movie just feels very manufactured --- structured so that everypoint of view or objection will be raised but rationally batted asideand that -- less than 12 hours after they show up, the couple will headoff to Switzerland with a family united behind them and the audiencecan all leave the theater feeling that love conquers all and dealingwith racism is just a matter of having a good conversation over drinks.
- 1/17/2005 12:00:00 AM by weegeeworld
I feel sorry for John Seal, the reviewer above, for his views on thismovie, as well as his views on interracial marriage. I think this movieis excellent, I enjoyed the performances of all the actors and themessage is important. Racial prejudice was common in 1967, and the veryfirst interracial kiss on TV was still to come (it happened in 1969 onStar Trek). People needed to hear the message this movie contains, thatcolor and race are not something that should prevent two people wholove each other from marrying. I am a white American married to aJapanese female and I am proud that our children will grow up to livein a world where people have tolerance for different cultures andbeliefs. It is sad to watch Spencer Tracy in this movie, knowing hedied weeks after it was made. But it was nice that he could act withKatherine Hepburn, the love of his life, so close to his death. Thatmust have made him happy.