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Monday, February 11, 2013

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Hello, everyone! Are you ready to kick off another week?

I know, I know...some of you already have the Monday doldrums. I know what you're saying. Some of you hate Mondays so much that you actually make Garfield the cat look pleasant.

To be truthful, I don't mind Mondays all that much. Although my schedule at the job that I actually make money with can be kind of unpredictable at times, I can always count on the fact that I have almost every single Monday off (unless I have Sunday off, in which case I usually have to come such the case today. But, I'm rambling, never mind).

And, besides...Mondays are lots of fun in this blog because we get to examine a movie in greater detail.

Now, because we're smack dab in the middle of “Black History Month”, today's movie is going to be linked with the theme of the month. And, although the movie that I have chosen has a predominantly Caucasian cast, it does feature a storyline that was deemed extremely controversial for its time.

These days, when one mentions the words “interracial relationship”, I would think that most of us would not think that it is a big deal. I am one of those people who does not select a mate based on skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, or clothing colour. When it comes to dating, I would date anybody who was interested in me regardless of what their background is. But five decades earlier, would you believe that interracial dating was so frowned upon that in 1967, it was still considered an illegal act in seventeen states? Well, at least until Loving vs. Virginia invalidated those laws in June 1967.

You know, being born in the early 1980s, I sometimes have no idea just how much racism existed back in the childhoods of my parents and grandparents. In many ways, I would have loved to have gone back in time to experience things for the first time...and then there are times in which I don't want to revisit the past because for some people, it was a living hell because of the skin colour they were born with.

But sometimes it's good to look back on the bad and the ugly within our history books so that we can appreciate the good moments even more.

And, today's film takes a look at what happens when a woman gets involved in a relationship with someone of a different racial background, as well as the frustrations that can come from having family members who vehemently oppose the union.

Today's film study is the 1967 film “Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?”. The film starred Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, and in his final film appearance before his death, Spencer Tracy.

Directed by Stanley Kramer and written by William Rose, the film debuted on December 12, 1967...six months after Tracy passed away of a heart attack in June 1967 at the age of 67. This movie was not the first time that Tracy and Hepburn had worked together...this was actually their ninth and final movie together. It was a film that Katharine Hepburn was never able to see after it was completed due to the painful memories that were associated with the making of the movie. When Hepburn herself passed away in 2003 at the age of 96, at last report, she still had not seen it. And, I'll get into why that was the case further down in the blog entry.

I'll just go into the basic plot of the movie very quickly, mainly because I don't want to give too much away. The story begins as we are introduced to a woman by the name of Joanna “Joey” Drayton (who was played by the niece of Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton). Joey is young, beautiful, smart, and very Caucasian. And, while she was on a vacation in Hawaii, she gets involved in a whirlwind romance with Dr. John Prentice (Poitier), who is intelligent, skilled, idealistic, financially stable, and very African-American.

But Joey seems to believe that this won't matter to her parents. She was raised in a very liberal household by her parents Matt and Christina (Tracy and Hepburn). Matt is a newspaper publisher, and Christina runs a small art gallery in San Francisco, California, and Joey grew up in an upper class environment. Why, surely the colour of Dr. Prentice's skin wouldn't make a difference. He was young, successful, and a doctor! What parent wouldn't like that in a prospective son-in-law?

Well, apparently Matt and Christina don't.

Despite Joey's best intentions, and despite her arguments that John is the perfect man for her, Matt and Christina don't seem convinced. And, this is quite surprising when we discover that Joey was raised in an environment where she was encouraged to treat black people and people of other races as equals.

It basically comes across as this. They're fine with being kind and nice to people of a different race, but when the possibility of one of them getting engaged to their only daughter arises, they are suddenly opposed to it. Seems a slight bit hypocritical, doesn't it?

And, lest you think that Joey's parents are the only set of parents uncomfortable with the arrangement, there is another surprise. John's parents (Roy E. Glenn and Bea Richards) are also invited to dinner at the Drayton household, and they were going to San Francisco without any knowledge that Joey is white...and once they find out, they act no better than the Draytons! Only a friend of Matt's, Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway) acts as the voice of reason between the two feuding families.

So, will Johnny and Joey march down the aisle and become husband and wife or not? Well, that's not for me to answer. As I do with every Monday Matinee entry, I encourage all of you to watch the film for yourselves. It really is a fantastic film to watch. Very insightful and a perfect film to showcase this month for sure.

Now, here's the bits that happened behind the scenes that you didn't know.

01 – The screenplay for the film was written in just five weeks.

02 – When it came time to cast the actors for the film, it was reported that several of the actors committed to the project before seeing the script because they believed so strongly in the message that the film set out to give.

03 – Spencer Tracy was in very poor health while he was filming “Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?” fact, his health was so poor that insurance companies refused to cover him. The problem was solved by having both Tracy and Hepburn put their salaries into escrow. If Tracy passed away during filming, it could be completed with a different actor.

04 – Because of Tracy's health, he was unable to put in a full day of work. He only worked for two or three hours at a time before noon in order to give him time to rest in between work days. In some cases, stand-ins were brought in to substitute for Tracy when other characters had close-ups with him in the scene.

05 – Spencer Tracy completed his last scene on May 26, 1967. He passed away June 10, 1967. The film was released December 1967. Now you have a bit of understanding as to why Hepburn had a difficult time watching the whole movie in full.

06 – Sidney Poitier was so star-struck by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn that he had difficulty saying his lines. The problem was solved in a rather ingenious way. Poitier recited his lines in front of a couple of empty chairs, with producers reading out the lines spoken by Tracy and Hepburn to Poitier off-camera. The scenes were then spliced together in editing.

07 – In the scene where Sidney Poitier is on the telephone, a bust of Spencer Tracy sculpted by Katharine Hepburn is substituting for Tracy himself!

08 – It took twenty years for the film to be released on home video, finally coming out on VHS December 12, 1987.

09 – Does the maid in the movie look familiar? She should. She was played by Isabel Sanford...otherwise known as Weezie Jefferson from “The Jeffersons”.

10 – Stanley Kramer directed the made-for-television remake of this movie in 1975.

11 – The verdict for “Loving vs. Virginia” was made on June 12, 1967...two days after Spencer Tracy passed away. This decision also made a film line spoken by Roy Glenn to Sidney Poitier erroneous (the line about breaking the law in sixteen or seventeen states).

12 – Look closely at the glasses that Spencer Tracy wore in the movie. Notice that they have no glare? That's because the glasses did not have lenses.

13 – There was originally a reference to Martin Luther King Jr. included in the film when it was first released. After his 1968 assassination, cinemas all over the United States edited the line out of the film. It has since been restored in home video releases.

14 – Katharine Hepburn won an Academy Award for her performance in “Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?”, and Spencer Tracy received a posthumous nomination.

15 – When Spencer Tracy gives his memorable soliloquy in the film, look closely at Katharine Hepburn. Those tears she was crying were real.

16 – Though Katharine Houghton made her film debut in this movie, other people that were considered for the role of Joey were Mariette Hartley and Samantha Eggar.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I justed rewatched GWCTD last night and wanted to google to see why there weren't any lens in Tracy's eyeglasses since they made such a big deal of his character's wearing them, and because by then they were using lens in glasses in the movies and stumbled onto your post. I am a movie fanatic --TCM is my 'default' station -- going to the movie festival is on my bucket list -- so I knew most of what you've written here, but it was great to meet a fellow movie lover......enjoy the movies.......