Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No. 99: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier

Director: Stanley Kramer

Awards/Honors: Two Oscars, including Best Actress for Hepburn

Groundbreaking: what comes to mind? Revolutionary ideas, new technology, zombies bursting out of the ground? Well, maybe not the last one, that’s just for you horror movie buffs. Back on topic. Being the movie freak I proudly am, when I think groundbreaking, I think movies.

When Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner came out in 1967, its controversial plot made it the epitome of groundbreaking. The story centers around an interracial couple, John and Joanna (Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton) who meet, spend ten days together, and fall madly in love. They go back to Joanna’s home in San Francisco to get her parents’ (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) consent to marry. After some hesitation, her mother agrees. Her father? Not so much. John’s parents learn of their plans and also disagree with the marriage. Guess who’s coming to dinner? Everyone!

The families meet, and prejudice comes out from both sides. The final question: will bigotry triumph and prevent the marriage, or can everyone look past their differences and see what really matters? Watch it and find out.

I was a little hesitant about this movie. I had never seen the whole thing, and had heard many different reviews. However, after watching it there’s only one possible conclusion: this movie is really good. And very sad. But really good!

One reason it’s sad is the inside story. Tracy and Hepburn had worked together for years, and had been living together for a long time. During the filming, it was clear that Tracy was very ill, and this might be their last film together.

There’s a scene they do together in the movie that literally brought tears to my eyes: John’s mother is trying to convince Spencer Tracy’s character to consent to John and Joanna’s marriage. He’s opposed, but she eventually persuades him by saying he doesn’t get it, because he’s not in love anymore, and he doesn’t understand how the young couple feels. He responds by giving an impassioned speech about how he may not know much, but he is still deeply in love with his wife, and he understands how the couple feels. (He also gives them his consent.) While he’s speaking, tears pour down Hepburn’s cheeks, and you can tell she’s crying for real. It made me start sobbing too.

In short, if you like:

*Controversial plots
*Tear-jerking background stories
*Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s screen team
*Awesome 60’s décor and fashion
*Meaningful issues

…then you’ll like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Watch it!

Movie no. 98, coming up soon. Unforgiven (1992) directed by Clint Eastwood. Oh no! Not sure I’m prepared for that much blood and violence. If I haven’t fainted, come back and read about it.


  1. That last scene with Tracy's big speech is indeed a pass-the-Kleenex, four-hankie tearjerker. It was fun to watch you sobbing.

    Good review!

  2. Good review! I've never seen all of Unforgiven, because it's too grim (but of course, it's my husband's favorite movie!). Let me know when you get to Psycho. Can't watch that one either. And isn't Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on the list? OMG, that one gave me nightmares from the time I was 14 til I was about 28.

  3. Yay, Josie! I love the concept of this blog, and am loving your follow-through. And how could I resist commenting on your review of a Katharine Hepburn movie? You're so insightful about the real-life Hepburn and Tracy in that climactic scene—it's a heart-breaker. Can't wait to read the rest of your reviews (especially "The African Queen"!).

  4. Hepburn is such a strong personality that when she (or her character) cracks, you really feel it. According to Sidney Lumet (in his book "Making Movies"), he actually slapped her during the filming of Long Day's Journey Into Night, because he felt that the only way to get her to really show that level of vulnerability was to knock her out of her comfort zone.

  5. Wuddup Josie! I think I'm going to start enforcing an AFI Top 100 policy at my house this summer. Patrick should be down for it. Now if I can convince him that things other than salt can also be good on popcorn, we're in for an awesome summer. That's irrelevant. What is relevant is that this is a great blog. Did you catch "Bringing Up Baby" last night at the downtown movie showing? Freaking adorable. Hepburn is the best. Can't wait to hear what you think!

  6. What a good and thoughtful review! I agree, this is an emotional movie on several levels. The discomfort of the cultural politics (some of it outdated, some not) actually adds to the tension-- even when we know how it will turn out.

    What a fantastic idea for a blog! Looking forward to more :)

  7. I think I'd much rather read your reviews than to actually watch the movies. (Kidding...sort of).

    You are so articulate and it's fun to read your words.

  8. An exceptional review! I adore all of the Hepburn and Tracy comedies, too. This is an amazing movie in its own right, but knowing the back story does indeed add another layer to the poignancy.

    Do you like Bette Davis, too? One of my very favorite movies is 'Now, Voyager' {which unfortunately encouraged the idea that smoking is romantic} and I also love 'Dark Victory' ~ I'll have to check if either is on the AFI list.

    I'm so happy that you took up this challenge from your parents. I'll bring popcorn for the next review.