“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 1967 / Parental Guidance / Director: Stanley Kramer / Actors: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway ... / DVD released 2007-10-01 at Uca / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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RELEASED: 1967, Cert. PG
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 108 mins
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Stanley Kramer
SCREENPLAY: William Rose
MUSIC: Frank De Vol
Sidney Poitier as John Prentice
Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton
Katharine Hepburn as Christina Drayton
Katharine Houghton as Joey Drayton
Beah Richards as Mrs Prentice
Roy Glenn as Mr Prentice
Cecil Kellaway Monsignor Ryan
Isabell Sanford as Tillie
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Whilst in Hawaii, Joey (Joanna) Drayton meets and falls almost instantly in love with Dr. John Prentice. John is a smart, well-educated, well-spoken older man who has been married before, but his wife and small son were killed in a car accident several years prior to him meeting Joey.
Although John loves Joey just as much as she does him, he is less idealistic and has his feet planted on firmer ground, probably due to the stability that comes with advancing years. He, with some reservations, allows Joey to drag him to San Francisco to meet her very liberal-minded parents. John isn't entirely sure that Mr & Mrs Drayton's tolerance levels would stretch to their daughter falling in love with and planning to marry a black man.
When Joey and John reach the Drayton luxury home overlooking San Francisco Bay, Joey is surprised at her parents' reaction towards John. She is baffled, because they have brought her up to believe that all races are equal, yet their reaction on first meeting with John is one of utter, undisguised shock.
That sets the basic scene....watch the film to find out what happens.
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner is one of those films from the 1960s which carried a fair degree of social importance, especially with regard to pushing forward racial issues that were undergoing some changes in the USA at the time.
The acting by all the cast members is very good, with my absolute favourite being a tie between Isabell Sanford as Tillie, the Draytons' rather stroppy black maid who has been with the family for over twenty years, and Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton, Joey's father whose liberal attitudes are severely put to the test. It is my feeling that Spencer Tracy pulled all the stops out for this part, to the point where the viewer can push fiction aside and actually believe his character, Matt Drayton, for real. Tracy was spot-on with his absolutely wonderful facial expressions, some of which are quite harrowing to watch, as you see the pain in the eyes of a man whose values are being seriously challenged and he simply doesn't know what to do about it. I am given to understand that Spencer Tracy died very shortly after the release of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, so what a wonderful swan song performance to end both his career and life with.
Sidney Poitier is as good as Dr. John Prentice as one might expect...polite, gracious and smart, yet is able to deliver a line with fortitude when required. I also loved Roy Glenn as Mr Prentice, John's father. He pulled some wonderful expressions on his face, particularly around the eyes and, he did make me laugh now and again.
I also was fascinated by Cecil Kellaway's delivery of the calm-natured, mediator Monsignor Ryan, a Catholic priest who is a good friend of the family, and he gives one of the film's best speeches...however, the very best speech is delivered by another cast member.
Katharine Hepburn is better in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner than I normally expect of her, and although her verbal delivery as regards her tone of voice is the same as all other roles I've seen her play, she too came up trumps in this film, hitting the nail sharply on the head with various of her facial expressions.
I did expect better from Katharine Houghton as happy-go-lucky, naïve Joey Drayton and Beah Richards, as John's mother. Both women I feel could have stretched themselves a bit further in their respective roles. They weren't in the slightest bit bad, but I just feel they could have gone the extra mile.
Various interesting points are raised during Guess Who's Coming To Dinner which even today, can be quite thought-provoking. I found it interesting that John's biggest worry did come to pass in that he foresaw Joey's parents perhaps not being quite so accommodating as she anticipated, yet the person who most seems to oppose this whirlwind love relationship between two people of different races, is Tillie, the stroppy maid - yet, from a different angle. Tillie, who is black (working class) herself, is quite horrified that John has, as she puts it, stepped out of his 'place' in society, almost suggesting something along the lines of how dare he become educated, important, then have the audacity to fall in love with a white girl, as that isn't what black people should be doing....kind of like racism within a single race group....black being prejudiced against black!
Many other interesting points are raised within the film which I can't really go into, because to do so would give too much away, but I can say that aside from the issue of race, the one prevailing thing is various people standing up to various other people.
Although Guess Who's Coming To Dinner deals with a very serious topic, it for the most part is a fairly light-hearted film, containing some moderately amusing passages here and there. The musical score isn't particularly anything to write home about, it being light orchestral for the most part, and a bit overdone for my liking.
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner is an enjoyable film without a single boring moment, and as said above, is thought-provoking in a way which could still hold relevance now, forty five years on. There is one thing which irritates me intensely throughout this film - it being a personal dislike - and that is the heavy presence of persistent throat-clearing from the whole cast. I appreciate this annoying action was probably intended to express nervousness in what quite frankly is a stressful situation, but it drove me nuts and went quite a long way towards ruining the viewing experience for me.
I also ought to point out that contained within the dialogue of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner are some race-oriented statements, words and expressions which nowadays are thought of as being unacceptable, yet such wasn't unusual back in 1967.....times have changed beyond all recognition since then. I add that as a little warning in case somebody watches this film and is extra-sensitive towards such things. I did see Guess Who's Coming To Dinner in I think it was 1968, and nothing struck me as offensive about the dialogue then as I was used to speech/language styles prevalent at that time, but on my recent viewing, I can't pretend that I didn't find some of the expressions used to be somewhat distasteful. The passage of time can change our own values, and this film proved that to be so for me.
All in all, and aside from the throat-clearing issue (which quite likely wouldn't for most people be the problem that it is for me), Guess Who's Coming To Dinner is a very watchable, interesting, sometimes light-hearted film which also offers something to think about. I do highly recommend it to anybody who's not seen it, and it may also be something younger people would enjoy, so long as they can accept and appreciate that it was made in another era when values and lifestyles were a million miles away from what they are now.
At the time of writing, Guess Who's coming To Dinner can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.85 to £39.99
Used: from £3.44 to £5.97
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
My film tastes are pretty varied, and I rarely find a film entirely terrible. In fact, I quite often can find good things in some of the worst films I've ever seen. I'm just easy to please that way. However, I found the remake of this film 'Guess Who' utterly terrible. All the more so since witnessing this original version, which I had opted to give a miss because of said remake. I'm glad I got round to watching it though.
Joanna (Joey to her parents) turns up by surprise at her parents house with her new fella Dr Prentice. Prentice happens to be black, which begins some lengthy soul searching by Joey's folks. They have always considered themselves liberal, but as Joey's mother Chris explains "we never said to her not to fall in love with one". Seeing how happy she is, Chris quickly accepts her daughter's decision to marry Prentice, but her father has disquieting reservations. Egged on by the local priest and by Chris, Joey's father has to decide whether he will approve the marriage or not.
To add tension to the plot, Prentice has revealed to all but Joey that he will not marry her if her parent's don't give him their full approval. Meanwhile, a touch more mayhem is added to the plot with the arrival of Prentice's parents, his father also disapproving of a white girl. Their reactions are even more highlighted than that of the key characters who are introduced at the beginning.
Unlike the silly remake, which called upon daft mayhem and endless slapstick to make its point, this is a subtle and timeless look at racial relations. Whilst things have moved on slightly since the 60's, this film is surprisingly accurate in many of its perceptions. Showing that subtlety is the key, the film makes more of a statement in one dialogue than the remake made in an entire messy film. One of its main achievements is highlighting that the word racism does not mean "dislike of coloured people" but in fact means "dislike of a different race", something that people seem to forget when racism is geared towards white people.
Performances, whilst never calling for anything remotely near their capabilities, are well rounded and engaging. Katherine Hepburn, middle aged by the time she made this picture gets the most emotional material, and can do it in her sleep. I was never sure though (having seen her in other films) whether her tear ducts just don't function or whether it was genuine crying that I was witnessing. Spencer Tracey is also excellent, his being the most verbose of the characters, and his final summation of the entire plot is well worth the wait. The rest of the cast are reasonably good, but don't come anywhere near the two leads.
This is a classic well worth the wait, and not hindered by the Ashton Kutcher nonsense from a few years back. Beautifully filmed with a birds eye view of the city below, it looks good and presents a well rounded argument for and against racial relationships during the 60s without ramming it down your throat in a preachy way. Whilst it is labelled a comedy of sorts, the comedy is in the reaction of the characters to the situation - which they refer to on a good many occasions. It wouldn't stand up in today's world of slapstick and battered-over-the-head filth, but the script itself would win hands down by a mile.