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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" tells of the interracial relationship between an African American, Dr. Prentice, and the bubbly Caucasian, Joanna Drayton. As the two head to San Francisco where Dr. Prentice will request Joanna's hand in marriage upon the approval of her father, the anxious couple stands by; the guest list for dinner growing as everyone is anxious to learn the outcome of Matt Drayton's decision, including the surprise guests, Mr. and Mrs. Prentice.
GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER was nominated for the Best Picture award.
Written by: William Rose. Directed by: Stanley Kramer.
Genre: Drama, Comedy.
Tagline: There's nothing like an interracial marriage to put the 'fighting liberal facade' to the test.
The film commences with a handsome couple exiting an airplane and heading to the nearest taxi cab to the tune of "That's The Story of Love". Quickly one understands that the two are dating, or somehow intimately involved, and just as quickly as the audience observes their status so too do they understand the plot of the film: will an interracial couple be acceptable for society, and their own parents. As the happy go lucky, exuberant, and overly optimistic Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton) assures her fiancée to be, Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), that all will be well. Nevertheless, the older, one might even say wiser Dr. is not so easy about her optimism and insists that the ice should be broken gently.
As Joanna whisks her way from hotel to museum looking for her mother, it isn't long before her mother's surprise visit home gives Joanna the perfect opportunity to 'break the ice gently' by springing it upon her at first opportunity. With a much expected look of surprise Christina Drayton (Katharine Hepburn) takes in the shocking news by taking a seat. And just as soon as she digests the news, coming to understand and even condone her daughter's happiness, Joanna's father catches wind of the news. But Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) seems to take the news with a bit less enthusiasm than his partner.
As Matt Drayton attempts to come to terms with the his daughter's compulsive, albeit controversial actions, his wife Christina steps up to the plate and rightly observes that their daughter has grown up to be jus as they raised; a woman without prejudice. Just as soon as Matt starts to second guess his pessimism, Joanna takes it upon herself to invite John's parents over for dinner, much to the dismay of her house maid, Tillie (Isabel Sanford). Of course Matt's personal friend Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway) enters the house with happy condolences and supportive enthusiasm for the loving couple, which Joanna and Christina reward with an extended invitation to dinner. Yet again Tillie is pressured to come up big for the dinner as the list keeps growing. Disgruntled, she takes it upon herself to confront what she believes to be a devious man, fully warning him of the consequences of any ill intentions.
As the Drayton's prepare to host the Prentice's, the latter attempt to grapple with the shock of a white woman standing by their son's side instead of the presumed Negro woman. Picking up his parents at the airport, as expected, Mr. () and Mrs. Prentice () are just as shocked as the Draytons. Also like the Draytons, the mother's seem to be more supportive of the relationship that their headstrong husbands. As Monsignor tackles Matt's obstinate rejection of the idea, Joanna and John try to melt the ice in the car.
But it seems there might till be some frozen cubes left to thaw out when all four disbelieving parents unite under the Drayton roof for the final countdown before Matt Drayton's decision. As Christina Drayton and Mrs. Prentice try to amend the situation by working on their two children, so the begrudging men set about trying to 'talk some sense into their kids'. And though sometimes, just sometimes, true love can prevail, even over the most severe of obstacles, does Dr. Prentice have the experience and Joanna the hope, and together, do the two have enough love to make the world change, at last, change their opinion?
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is a poignant film that tackles controversial cultural stereotypes in a generation in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Done tastefully, tactfully, and honestly, the film tackles the emotional stresses of lovers, mother, and father, and objective/subjective audiences alike with a dialogue that resonates both honestly and palatably. Though the majority of the film is rather melancholic and serious in tone, so too is the film, at times, comedic, bubbly, and hopeful. Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier are perfectly cast for their roles of the bubbly optimist and the courtly gentleman. With much class, tact, and grace Sidney rises to the occasion and exudes confidence, steadfastness, and honesty with a poise and grace one would like to think is only a result of his natural character. So too does Katharine Houghton's youth and exuberance flit gracefully into her role as the bubbly Joanna. Of course Spencer Tracy is solid in his portrayal as the transforming Matt Drayton and Katharine Hepburn is marvelous to observe in her gracefully poised and solid performance as Christina Drayton. By far some of the best scenes in the film are the memorable monologue Tracy gives at the end of the film, Hepburn's pat termination of her employee for her biased viewpoint, and of course, Poitier's father-son rebuttal which tackles quite a few taboos rather gracefully, and ironically, as respectfully as possible.
Though the film may seem dated, it is in fact, successfully a brilliant film whose storyline transcends time and is still as applicable today as it was imperatively important when it first came out in the 1960's. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was the recipient of 2 Oscars; Best Actress in a Leading Role (Katharine Hepburn), and Best Writing (William Rose), as well as 8 other Oscar nominations, another 5 wins, and 12 other critic film award nominations.
Spencer Tracy plays Matt Drayton, Joanna's concerned father.
Sidney Poitier plays John Prentice, the accomplished Negro Doctor suddenly taken by Joanna's zeal for life.
Katharine Hepburn plays Christina Drayton, Joanna's happy mother.
Katharine Houghton plays Joanna Drayton, the zealous, overly ambitious, excited fiancée of Dr. Prentice.
Cecil Kellaway plays Monsignor Ryan, the beloved, unprejudiced, accepting man of the cloak.