GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER: DVD
Bubbly 23-year-old Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) surprises her upper middle-class white folks when she returns home from Hawaii armed with a black man - object: matrimony. Christina Drayton (Katharine Hepburn) is soon resigned to the ways of love but husband Matt (Spencer Tracy) is more cautious. On checking the credentials of their unexpected guest John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), the Draytons discover that he is a highly-distinguished research scientist but that Prentice himself has no intention of marrying their daughter ...unless the Draytons approve of their union without reservation. Romance between black and white has been such a mad whirl that Prentice hasn't had time to prepare his mother and father for the shock ...but guess who's coming to dinner?
Review by Keith Lofthouse:
The times, they were a'changin' in 1967 and it's fair to say that Stanley Kramer's light-hearted meditation on the matter of interracial marriage was ahead of that change. Martin Luther King stirred a nation with his "I have a dream" speech, but four years had passed and King was still campaigning for Civil Rights while mixed marriages remained illegal in over a dozen disunited States. It had only been seven years since a couple in Virginia were jailed for flouting the law and when the film was released there were demonstrations against it in the South. It seems incredible now that this expertly acted but liberally bland little melodrama ever created such a fuss and incomprehensible today that the father of the white bride, faced with his darling daughter's intended marriage to a black man, should declare "there are 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked, offended and appalled at the two of you."
These days the film seems more important as cinematic rather than social history...the ninth time that Hepburn and Tracy (the not so secret lovers) were teamed in Hollywood; the last time that Tracy ever faced the cameras. Tracy, who always made acting seem so effortless, was so ill that he could only work half days and was dead within a fortnight of completing his final scenes. It was meant to be more sophisticated wit than sentimental wallow but the knowledge of the actor's failing health wrought some poignant moments on the set and are reflected on screen.
When he tells Poitier "you have to get married if you love her (his daughter) as much as I love her (his wife)" he gazes directly at Hepburn whose tears were unintended. It is the most heartfelt and least artificial moment in the entire show, given that Rose stacks the deck by painting John Prentice as a picture of black perfection who is eminently eligible for marriage.
The issue is dissected and debated between the two families, as if there is ever any doubt as to how it will all be resolved. But it's painfully clear that the handsome, articulate 37-year-old Prentice, a brilliant research scientist and likely Nobel Prize nominee and Joey, the impulsive 23-year-old chipmunk played by Katharine Houghton (Hepburn's real-life niece) are a mismatched pair. As the characters lurch in earnest discussion from lounge, study, patio and dining room it feels like a stage play but it began life as a screenplay lumbered with long-winded and improbable speeches, including Hepburn's 154 word dismissal of a bigoted art gallery worker and Tracy's 135 word monologue restating his love for Hepburn.
The writer won an Oscar somehow, and there were nominations for Kramer's smooth and unfussy direction, for Beah Richards as the understanding mother of the groom, for Hepburn (who also won) and for Tracy. The film was nominated for Best Picture, but lost ironically to In The Heat Of The Night, another Poitier film with racial tension at its heart. Four days before the Oscars ceremony Martin Luther King was assassinated at a Memphis Hotel.
Published July 28, 2005
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GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER: DVD (PG)
CAST: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kramer
SCRIPT: William Rose
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen (1.85:1 / 16:9 Enhanced). English (3.0).[BREAK]French, German, Italian, Spanish all mono. Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Hebrew
SPECIAL FEATURES: Original trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
DVD RELEASE: July 13, 2005