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Posts Tagged ‘Spencer Tracy’

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner- A Movie Review

In Movies on October 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm


Watch the trailer at TCM

Columbia Pictures. 1967. Colour.

” We told her it was wrong to believe that white people were somehow essentially superior to the black people, or the brown or the red or the yellow ones for that matter. People who thought that way were wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always wrong, that’s what we said, and when we said it we did not add; “But don’t ever fall in love with a coloured man.”

Joanna (Joey) Drayton has fallen in love and plans to marry a man she has known for just 10 days. Her fiance, John Prentice (Sydney Poitier) is a fine man, a doctor and philantropist- and a ‘coloured’ man, while Joey is a privileged ‘white’ girl. The news comes as a shock to Joey’s and John’s parents and they meet for dinner at the Drayton household to discuss the impending marriage, which has become an even more pressing issue due to the fact that Dr Prentice has a plane to catch that evening and Joey intends to go with him. The only person in attendance for dinner that night who is not shocked at the idea of marriage between a white woman and a black man, is long time family friend Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway) who makes a most profound remark,
“Shocked? Why should I be shocked? I’ve known a good many cases of marriage between races in my time, strangely enough, they usually work out quite well. I don’t know why, maybe because it requires some special quality of effort, more consideration and compassion than most marriages seem to generate these days…could that be it.”

Joey is played by Katherine Houghton who is the niece of Katherine Hepburn who stars as her mother, Christina Drayton. Hepburn secured the part for Houghton, who Hepburn felt that as an unknown would have a greater chance of evoking sympathy from the audience.

Spencer Tracy plays Joey’s father Matt Drayton with his usual depth and strength despite the fact that he was gravely ill during filming. He was so ill that Hepburn and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner director and producer Stanley Kramer placed their salaries in escrow to ensure the film was made because insurance would not cover Tracy if he could not complete the film. Filming had to be adapted to Tracy’s ill health with scenes being shot around him or with a double, as he only filmed in the mornings to conserve his strength.

When Tracy’s character said, “The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel, for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt- that’s everything…”, Hepburn cried real tears knowing his time was near and their time together as a couple was about to end. They had filmed 9 movies together and had been romantically involved for 26 years in a secret relationship. Spencer Tracy died just 17 days after filming ended and the film was released 6 months later. Spencer Tracy received a posthumous Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Katherine Hepburn never watched the completed film as she found the memories of Tracy to painful.

Even though Sydney Poitier was an Academy Award winner for Best Actor for Lillies of the Field 1963, he was greatly intimidated at the thought of acting alongside ‘giants’ such as Tracy and Hepburn. He said, “When I went to play a scene with Tracy and Hepburn, I couldn’t remember a word. Finally Stanley Kramer said to me, ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘Stanley, send those two people home. I will play the scene against two empty chairs. I don’t want them here because I can’t handle that kind of company.’ He sent them home. I played the scene in close-up against two empty chairs as the dialogue coach read Mr Tracy’s and Miss Hepburn’s lines from off camera.”

Poitier played in 3 films that year where his character faced a racial issue. It was a time of great civil rights unrest and the film addressed not only the issue of interacial marriage, which was illegal in 17 U.S. states at the time, but also the prejudice as to social standing within the African American community as well. In August of 1968 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was showing in theatres, civil rights activist Martin Luther King was assassinated and a reference made to him also ‘coming to dinner’ was removed from the film. The modern versions of the film have reinstated this line.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is available on DVD, try the following links.
Amazon USA
Fishpond Australia

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is also showing on TCM USA on October 29th 2012 at 1:30am and November 10th 2012 at 2am.

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