Stanley Kramer’s masterpiece, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, is about interracial marriage which was very taboo when the film was released in 1967. Even today, despite (or, possibly, more so as a result of) the election of President Obama “there’s perhaps 100 million people right here in this country who would be shocked & offended & appalled if a black man in his late 30’s was engaged to be married to a white woman in her early 20’s. We could try to ignore those people or feel sorry for them & for their prejudice & their bigotry & their blind hatred & stupid fears. But if that couple truly loves each other, there would be only one thing worse: If they didn’t say, ‘Screw all those people!’, and decided not to get married.”
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a groundbreaking film. Sydney Portier plays Dr. John Prentice, a highly successful African-American MD saving lives in Third World African countries. Joey (Katharine Houghton) is the daughter of self-described San Francisco liberals, Matt & Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn). When John meets Joanna (the only way he’ll refer to her) while each is on vacation in Hawaii, they fall immediately in love. Joey naively thinks her parents will welcome their impending nuptials with open arms. Though it’s widely regarded as the first motion picture with an on-screen interracial kiss on the mouth, that actually occurred 12 year’s earlier between Frank Silvera & Irene Kane in the great Stanley Kubrick’s second feature film, Killer’s Kiss. John’s parents are played wonderfully by Beah Richards & Roy E. Glenn Sr. And Isabel Sanford, best known as Weezy Jefferson, is excellent as the Drayton’s maid, Tillie.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was nominated for 10 Oscars in 1968 at the 40th Academy Awards, winning 2: Hepburn for Best Actress; and William Rose for Best Original Screenplay. Spencer Tracy’s performance is amazing, particularly considering that he was so sick at the time that he died 17 days into post-production. He was nominated for Best Actor posthumously. Neither he nor Hepburn, who were coupled for decades & living together for the last few years of his life, ever saw the film. She felt it would be too painful to watch. It ends with Matt Drayton’s heart-wrenching soliloquy about the nature of true love. During it, Christina Drayton breaks down – you may as well. Hepburn’s tears were real, knowing that the end was so near for the love of her life. A soliloquy (from the Latin soliloquium, ‘to speak alone’) is a dramatic or literary technique where an actor’s private thoughts are vocalized to the audience. In the movies, the soliloquy has evolved to include any longer discourse by an actor/actress to other cast members. Such is the case with Tracy’s soliloquy. The most famous soliloquy ever is Shakespeare’s To Be or Not To Be from & by Hamlet as he considers committing suicide. Sir Laurence Olivier gives a fantastic cinematic example of that prototypical soliloquy. Some other memorable movie soliloquies: George C. Scott as Patton’s opening monologue; Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” speech from A Few Good Men; DeNiro’s “You talkin’ to me?” from Taxi Driver; and Vivien Leigh’s “I’ll never be hungry again” from Gone With the Wind. And speaking of being hungry, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Silly lily key; racial big-a-tree; Spencer Tra-see! Who cares?’ “When the hell are you gonna make me some dinner?” How ‘bout you watch the trailer below then come to The Marino Foundation’s ‘Fun’ Raiser #3 on 11/2/13 and have some with us? 4 Stars!!