Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER"

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967)

Director: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: William Rose



Well, this movie is simple enough, a nice, attractive, headstrong, young girl while in Hawaii for college meets an, intelligent, successful, and very handsome man and they quickly, very quickly, fall in love, and decide to get married, partly because his schedule, as a doctor who specializes in tropical medicines who does work with the W.H.O., makes it necessary for him to travel, and also because they are madly in love. So they decide to go to L.A., her home and show her upper-class liberal parents the man she wants to marry, and feels they should be with him for a night to get to know him, as well as his parents, so that they all can get acquainted. Well, that’s pretty much it, am I missing anything? Love, parents, coinciding travel plans… I think that about covers… Well, there’s one thing… (And if you don’t know what it is before I tell you, or you’re unable to figure it out by double-checking the list of actors playing the four main leads on IMDB.com, than you’ve really got to sit down and take an immediate crash course on both film history 101 and Film 305, Shaping U.S. Cultural Landscapes through Film.) You see, the man that young Joey is bringing to dinner is Sidney Poitier, who is Black, which may not be eye-opening today, but in 1967, this caused a brief firestorm. Although this movie does make every attempt to certainly lessen the impact of this pairing, the two young lovers only kiss once, and it’s in the back of a cab at the beginning of the film, and of course, the great Sidney Poitier, being somewhat as the African-American community has even criticized him for as being the “good negro,” has requested that Joey’s parents (Oscar-winning Hepburn, and Oscar-nominated Tracy, in his final performance, he died about a month after shooting.) have absolutely no reservations with the two of them getting married, or else, he’ll cancel it. Joey’s parents are actually quite liberal; she is a owner of an art gallery specializing in modern art, and he is a long-establish liberal editor of the biggest newspaper in L.A., but the shock of there daughter bringing home an African-American does catch them heavily offguard, Tracy moreso than Hepburn. The plot device of a trip for a prearranged appointment in Geneva leads Tracy to have one day to ponder the question, as he carefully observes and considers opinions from everybody, and consider other events that have clouded the day.

I’ve occasionally gotten into arguments which people over the film “Crash” and one argument that keeps coming up is how some claim that the movie was the same scene about racism over and over again. A. no it isn’t, and B. even if it was, that’s part of the point. Well, I actually do kind of think that way sometimes about “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” especially as it begins to drag on late as the evening’s dinner approaches. I love the movie, but like many Kramer films, he is making his point and driving them home. But he drives them home so well, we blatantly ignore many of the film’s flaw, included the annoying title song. And the summation by Tracy at the end is one of the greatest speeches in film history, and made more poignant by his sudden passing afterwards, we feel he is actually speaking from the heart, (another thing one should’ve known, Spencer and Tracy shared an onscreen & offscreen relationship for decades, despite Tracy’s marriage, they were Hollywood’s golden couple.) and his declaration is only that much more tearful. Maybe we should just let our cold hearts break a little for this film, despite how safe it actually plays now. 
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