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Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

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After a vacation in Hawaii, Joanna “Joey” Drayton returns to her parents’ home in San Francisco bringing her fiancé, the highly-qualified Dr. John Prentice, to introduce him to her parents. Her mother, Christina Drayton, owns an art gallery and her father, Matt Drayton, is the publisher-editor of the newspaper, The Guardian. Joey was raised with a liberal education and intends to marry Dr. John Prentice, a Black widower who needs to fly to Geneva that evening to work with the World Health Organization. Joey invites John’s parents to have dinner with her family and the couple flies from Los Angeles to San Francisco without knowing that Joey is white. Christina also invites the liberal Monsignor Ryan, who is a friend of her family. Throughout the day and evening, the families discuss the problems of their son and daughter.

What’s Groundbreaking Back Then Might Seem Very Dated Today—But it’s Still a Fine, Fine Film.

A 23 year-old lady (Katharine Houghton) brings home a surprise house guest–her black fiancé (Sidney Poitier)! While today such a thing isn’t all that unusual, her liberal-minded parents are thrown by their decision. Not surprisingly, his parents are equally stunned. Can these two manage to get their parents’ consent and live happily ever after.

I think that much of what “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is as a picture is lost on younger audiences. Today, the idea of interracial marriages isn’t what it was back in 1967. Back then, it was so novel and so controversial that I doubt younger viewers could comprehend it. After all, just before this movie was released, it was against the law in many US states for such a marriage! Crazy, but true. So, while the reactions of everyone to this marriage might seem quaint today–back then it was truly an explosive issue. But even if this makes the film seem a tad dated, it is a marvelous film from start to finish because it features some of the best acting I can recall having seen in a movie. While Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (who won the Oscar for this film) are the people we think of today in the film, Beah Richards and Roy Glenn (as Sidney Poitier’s parents) were simply dynamite. Together, this cast represents one of the higher points of the 1960s–not just for its social message but for its amazing acting. And, of course, the great dialog and direction made this a possibility. Simply terrific…just make sure to keep some Kleenexes handy for this one.

By the way, as a father of two daughters who are old enough to marry, what stunned me today about this couple was NOT the interracial angle but that they had only known each other for 10 days!! Now THAT was the crazy part to me!

A Patch Of Blue

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