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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)


Plot Summary: After having met and fallen in love in Hawaii, Dr. John Prentice (Sydney Poiter) and Joanne Drayton (Katherine Houghton) return and seek the approval of their marriage by Joanne’s progressive parents, Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) and Christina Drayton (Katherine Hepburn). As the shock matriculates through the Drayton household, the question remains whether acceptance or rejection will follow?


Cast:

  • Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer

  • Original screenplay by William Rose

  • Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton

  • Sidney Poitier as Dr. John Wade Prentice

  • Katharine Hepburn as Christina Drayton

  • Katharine Houghton as Joanna "Joey" Drayton

  • Cecil Kellaway as Monsignor Mike Ryan

  • Beah Richards as Mrs. Mary Prentice

  • Roy E. Glenn Sr. as Mr. John Prentice Sr.

  • Isabel Sanford as Tillie

*Recognition:

  • The film was nominated for Best Picture, Director (Kramer), Actor (Tracy), Supporting Actress (Beah Richards), Supporting Actor (Kellaway), Film Editing, Art Direction, and Original Score; and it won for Best Actress (Hepburn) and Best Original Screenplay (William Rose).

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #99

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #58

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:

    • "You think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man." – Nominated

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – #35

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated

  • In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Did You Know:

  • The film was one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light, as interracial marriage historically had been illegal in many states of the United States. It was still illegal in 17 states, until June 12, 1967, six months before the film was released. Roughly two weeks after Tracy filmed his final scene (and two days after his death), anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.

  • The film was the ninth and final on-screen pairing of Tracy and Hepburn. Tracy was very ill during filming but insisted on continuing. Filming of his role was completed just 17 days before Tracy's death in June 1967. Hepburn never saw the completed film, saying that the memories it would evoke for her of Tracy were too emotional. The film was released in December 1967, six months after his death.

  • The filming schedule was altered to accommodate Tracy's failing health. All of Tracy's scenes and shots were filmed between 9:00 am and noon of each day to give him adequate time to rest for the remainder of the day. For example, most of Tracy's dialogue scenes were filmed in such a way that during close-ups on other characters, a stand-in was substituted for him. Tracy's failing health was more serious than most people working on the set were aware of. According to Poitier: "The illness of Spencer dominated everything. I knew his health was very poor and many of the people who knew what the situation was didn't believe we'd finish the film, that is, that Tracy would be able to finish the film. Those of us who were close knew it was worse than they thought. Kate brought him to and from the set. She worked with him on his lines. She made sure with [Stanley] Kramer that his hours were right for what he could do, and what he couldn't do was different each day. There were days when he couldn't do anything. But also there were days when he was great, and I got the chance to know what it was like working with Tracy."

  • Hepburn significantly helped cast her niece, Katharine Houghton, for the role of Joey Drayton. Concerning this, Hepburn stated: "There was a lovely part for Kathy [Houghton], my niece [...] She would play Spencer's and my daughter. I loved that. She's beautiful and she definitely had a family resemblance. It was my idea."

  • The original version of the film that played in theaters in 1968 contained a moment in which Tillie responds to the question "Guess who's coming to dinner now?" with the sarcastic one-liner: "The Reverend Martin Luther King?" After King's assassination on April 4, 1968, this line was removed from the film, so by August 1968, almost all theaters' showings of this film had this line omitted. As early as 1969, the line was restored to many but not all prints, and the line was preserved in the VHS and DVD versions of the film, as well.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Two star-crossed lovers despite the complications of their union, seek approval from their parents to be together.


Best Performance: Spencer Tracy (Matt)

Best Secondary Performance: Stanley Kramer (Director)/Katherine Houghton (Joey)/Sidney Poitier (John)

Most Charismatic Award: Katherine Houghton (Joey)/Cecil Kellaway (Monsignor)/Sidney Poitier (John)

Best Scene:

  • The Draytons meet Dr. Prentice

  • Oregon Boisonberry

  • Christina Fires Hillary

  • Tillie Has Her Say

  • Monsignor Challenges Matt to Wrestling

  • The Prentices Arrive

  • What Happens to Old Men?

  • I Don't Owe You...

  • I've Got Something to Say

Favorite Scene: Monsignor Challenges Matt to Wrestling/Christina Fires Hillary/I Don't Owe You...

Most Indelible Moment: I've Got Something to Say/I Don't Owe You...


In Memorium:

  • Douglas Trumbull, 79 - American special effects supervisor (2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner) and film director (Silent Running). Douglas Trumbull's early work was at Graphic Films in Los Angeles. The small animation and graphic arts studio produced a film called To the Moon and Beyond about spaceflight for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Trumbull, the son of a mechanical engineer and an artist, worked at Graphic Films as an illustrator and airbrush artist. The spaceflight film caught the attention of director Stanley Kubrick, who was beginning work on the project that would become 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick hired director Con Pederson from Graphic Films and the company was to work on visual effects for the film. When Kubrick decided to move all production to England, he cancelled the contract with Graphic Films. Trumbull wanted to keep working on the film as he had already done considerable pre-production work, so he cold-called Kubrick after obtaining the director's home phone number from Pederson. Kubrick hired Trumbull and flew him to London for the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull's first task was to create the dozens of animations seen in the data display screens in the Aries moon shuttle and the Discovery. They looked like computer graphics, but they were created by photographing and animating reproductions of charts and graphs from technical publications.

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Matt Drayton: Well I'll be a son of a bitch...


Dr. John Prentice: You've said what you had to say. You listen to me. You say you don't want to tell me how to live my life? So what do you think you've been doing? You tell me what rights I've got or haven't got, and what I owe to you for what you've done for me. Let me tell you something. I owe you nothing! If you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you were supposed to do because you brought me into this world, and from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me, like I will owe my son if I ever have another. But you don't own me! You can't tell me when or where I'm out of line, or try to get me to live my life according to your rules. You don't even know what I am, Dad. You don't know who I am. You don't know how I feel, what I think. And if I tried to explain it the rest of your life, you will never understand. You are 30 years older than I am. You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it's got to be. And not until your whole generation has lain down and died will the deadweight of you be off our backs! You understand? You've got to get off my back! Dad. Dad. You're my father. I'm your son. I love you. I always have and I always will. But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man. Hmm? Now, I've got a decision to make, hmm? And I've got to make it alone. And I gotta make it in a hurry. So, would you go out there and see after my mother?


Matt Drayton: As for you two and the problems you're going to have, they seem almost unimaginable. But you'll have no problem with me. And I think that uh, when Christina and I and your mother have some time to work on him, you'll have no problem with your father, John. But you do know – I'm sure you know – what you're up against. There'll be a hundred million people right here in this country who'll be shocked and offended and appalled at the two of you. And the two of you will just have to ride that out. Maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You can try to ignore those people or you can feel sorry for them and for their prejudices and their bigotry and their blind hatreds and stupid fears. But where necessary, you'll just have to cling tight to each other and say screw all those people! Anybody could make a case, and a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you're two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happen to have a pigmentation problem. And I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse. [Matthew's voice softening] And that would be if – knowing what you two are, knowing what you two have, and knowing what you two feel – you didn't get married.


Mary Prentice: What happens to men when they grow old? Why do they forget everything? I believe those two young people need each other, like they need the air to breathe in. Anybody can see that by just looking at them. But you and my husband are … you might as well be blind men. You can only see that they have a problem. But do you really know what's happened to them? How they feel about each other? I believe ... that men grow old. And when the … when sexual things no longer matter to them, they forget it all. Forget what true passion is. If you ever felt what my son feels for your daughter, you've forgotten everything about it. My husband too. You knew once ... but that was a long time ago. Now the two of you don't know. And the strange thing ... for your wife and me ... is that you don't even remember. If you did, how could you do what you are doing?


Matt: You're a pontificating old poop!


Matt Drayton: Joanna, this may be the last opportunity I have to tell you to do anything, so I'm telling you, shut up!


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 7

Impact/Significance: 8.67

Novelty: 9

Classic-ness: 8.17

Rewatchability: 7

Audience Score: 8.75 (88% Google, 85% RT)

Total: 48.59


Remaining Questions:

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