Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a 1967 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, and written by William Rose. It stars Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, and features Hepburn's niece Katharine Houghton.
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 most states of the United States, and still was illegal in 17 states—mostly Southern states—until 12 June 1967, six months before the film was released, roughly two weeks after Tracy filmed his final scene (and two days after his death), when anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia. The film's Oscar-nominated score was composed by Frank De Vol.
The film is notable for being the ninth and final on-screen pairing of Tracy and Hepburn, with filming ending just 17 days before Tracy's death. Hepburn never saw the completed film, saying the memories of Tracy were too painful. The film was released in December 1967, six months after his death. In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
|Guess Who's Coming to Dinner|
Original release poster
|Directed by||Stanley Kramer|
|Produced by||Stanley Kramer|
|Written by||William Rose|
|Music by||Frank De Vol|
|Edited by||Robert C. Jones|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$56.7 million|
Twenty-three year old Joanna Drayton's unannounced early return from her Hawaiian vacation causes a stir when she brings her new fiancé to her upper-class family home in San Francisco. He is John Prentice: a 37-year-old black (the 1967 dialogue uses the term Negro throughout) physician and medical professor, whom she met just 10 days prior, whose first wife and young son were killed in a train accident eight years earlier.
Joanna's parents – newspaper publisher Matt Drayton and his wife, art gallery owner Christina – are avowed liberals who have always instilled in her the idea of racial equality. Although they try to hide it, Joanna's parents and in particular her father are initially upset that she is planning to marry a Negro man. The Draytons' black maid for 22 years, Tillie, is even more horrified, telling Joanna that John is trying to "get above himself" by marrying a white woman, but Joanna asks why it is okay that she loves Tillie but she shouldn’t love John, who is “just as black”.
The Draytons are unsettled by her engagement with John, since they never thought that her choice would be a Negro man, and further unsettled by John's decision that if Joanna's parents do not accept the engagement that day, then he will end it.
Adding to the situation is that Joanna, at first intending to join John in a few weeks in Geneva for their planned marriage ceremony, has now decided that she will join him when he leaves after dinner to fly to a meeting in New York City, then onward to Switzerland, where he is an assistant director with the World Health Organization. She has also invited John's parents to fly up from Los Angeles for dinner, so they can all become acquainted. Due to this invitation, what was intended to be a sit-down steak dinner for two turns into a meet-the-in-laws dinner party. Furthermore, John is forced to reveal that he had not yet told his parents of his intention to marry a white woman.
Matt's golf buddy, Catholic Monsignor Mike Ryan, stops by after Matt earlier cancelled their golf game. After learning of John, he shares Joanna's enthusiasm for the pending nuptials and tells her father as much. However, Matt says he cannot give the couple his blessing: he fears that Joanna will be hurt by the prejudice that John and she will surely encounter.
One of Christina's art gallery employees, Hilary, who had briefly met John and Joanna earlier in the day, stops by the Draytons' home to express her disapproval over the relationship. Though Christina is still unsure of her own feelings about the matter, she is so offended at Hilary's racism that she fires her on the spot. Later, when dressing for dinner, Christina shares with Matt her support for Joanna, even if it should mean having to fight her husband.
Cocktails at the Drayton home resemble a game of musical chairs, as different permutations of parents and clergy and children gather and share their views about the situation, with the mothers generally expressing more faith in their children than the fathers. Universally, the parents express that more than a few hours are necessary for a proper decision.
Mrs. Prentice tells Matt that her husband and he, in growing old, have forgotten what it is like to feel romantic passion; if they remembered, they would see that as more important for their children than any racial problem.
When the elder Prentice tells John that he is making a huge mistake, John pushes back that his father thinks of himself “as a colored man, [while] I think of myself as a man.”
After thinking about the situation, and his conversation with Mrs. Prentice in particular, Matt calls everyone together (including Tillie) to make an announcement. He says that it does not matter what everyone else may think about John and Joanna getting married; all that matters is that they love each other. The film ends with the two families and Monsignor Ryan finally sitting down to dinner.
According to Kramer, Rose and he intentionally structured the film to debunk ethnic stereotypes. The young doctor, a typical role for the young Sidney Poitier, was purposely created idealistically perfect, so that the only possible objection to his marrying Joanna would be his race, or the fact she had only known him for 10 days; the character has thus graduated from a top school, begun innovative medical initiatives in Africa, refused to have premarital sex with his fiancée despite her willingness, and leaves money in an open container on his future father-in-law's desk in payment for a long-distance phone call he has made. Nothing is made of the 14-year difference in their ages. Kramer and Rose completed the film script in five weeks.
Kramer stated later that the principal actors believed so strongly in the premise that they agreed to act in the project even before seeing the script. Production had been set for January 1967 and ended on May 24, 1967. Spencer Tracy was in poor health, and insurance companies refused to cover him. Kramer and Hepburn put their salaries in escrow so that if he died, filming could be completed with another actor. According to Kramer, "You're never examined for insurance until a few weeks before a picture starts. [Even] with all his drinking and ailments, Tracy always qualified for insurance before, so nobody thought it would be a problem in this case. But it was. We couldn't get insurance for Spence. The situation looked desperate. So then we figured out a way of handling it. Kate and I put up our own salaries to compensate for the lack of an insurance company for Spence. And we were allowed to proceed."
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 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 are 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. There were days when he was great, and I got the chance to know what it was like working with Tracy."
A bust of Tracy sculpted by Hepburn herself was used as a prop, on the bookshelf behind the desk where Sidney Poitier makes his phone call. Tracy died two weeks after he completed his work on the film.
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."
According to Hepburn, the role of Joey Drayton would be one of Houghton's first major roles as a young actress. "The part of my daughter," Kate said, "was a difficult one. A young unknown actress needs more opportunity to win the sympathy of the audience. Otherwise, too much has to depend on her youth, innocence, and beauty. She had one good speech to win the audience, but it was cut. Instead she only talks with her father about the differences between the principles he taught her and the way he's behaving."
Poitier frequently found himself starstruck and as a result, a bit tongue-tied, in the presence of Hepburn and Tracy, whom he considered to be "giants" as far as acting is concerned. However, Poitier reportedly found a way to overcome his nerves. "When I went to play a scene with Tracy and Hepburn, I couldn't remember a word. Finally, Stanley Kramer said to me, 'What are we going to do?' I said, 'Stanley, send those two people home. I will play the scene against two empty chairs. I don't want them here because I can't handle that kind of company.' He sent them home. I played the scene in close-up against two empty chairs as the dialogue coach read Mr. Tracy's and Miss Hepburn's lines from off camera."
Given the tense nature of racism in the United States during the time of the film's production, Poitier felt he was "under close observation" by both Tracy and Hepburn during their first dinner meetings prior to production. However, he managed to swiftly win them over. Due to Tracy and Hepburn's close history with Kramer, Poitier cited that Hepburn and Tracy came to bear on him "the kind of respect they had for Kramer, and they had to say to themselves (and I'm sure they did), this kid has to be pretty okay, because Stanley is nuts about working with him".
The film premiered in theaters on January 1, 1968. The film falls into the genre of comedy drama. The film was released on VHS on December 12, 1987, on the 20th anniversary of the original release. The film was released on DVD on May 22, 2001.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was a box-office hit in 1968 throughout the United States, including in Southern states where it was traditionally assumed that few white filmgoers would want to see any film with black leads. The success of this film challenged that assumption in film marketing. Despite this success, which included numerous film award nominations, Frank Rich of The New York Times wrote in November 2008 that the film was frequently labeled as dated among liberals. Another main point of contention was the fact that Poitier's character, the golden future son-in-law, had no flaws and a résumé of good deeds. Many people felt that the dynamic between the Draytons and Poitier's character would have inevitably resulted in a happily-ever-after film ending because Poitier's character was so perfect, respectable, likable, and proper. Some people went as far as saying Prentice was "too white" not to be accepted by the Draytons.
The release of the film in the U.S. gave Poitier his third box-office success in six months in 1967, all of which placed the race of Poitier's character at issue. The film grossed a total of $56.7 million.
In a 1986 review of the film by The New York Times, Lawrence Van Gelder wrote: "the suspicion arises that were the film made today its makers would come to grips a good deal more bluntly with the problems of intermarriage. Still, this remains a deft comedy and - most of all - a paean to the power of love."
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.
In 2003, comedian Daniele Luttazzi published the screenplay Tabù, an almost verbatim parody of the film. In the variation, the engaged lovers are aged 40 (him) and 12 (her), and are brother and sister.
The 2005 film Guess Who starring Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac is a loose remake styled as a comedy rather than a drama, with the racial roles reversed: black parents are caught off-guard when their daughter brings home the young white man she has chosen to marry. Talking about the film, Bernie Mac told USA Today in 2003, "Interracial dating is not that significant anymore." In the article, the writer cites that during the time at which the original movie was filmed, "interracial marriage was considered risky." Casting for Mac's remake of the film began in November 2003. Mac said of the script, "They want to make it a comedy, but I won't disrespect Spencer, Katharine or Sidney."
The plot is very similar to another film, Crossroads, made by the Canadian director Don Haldane a decade earlier in 1957. In this film, a young white woman in Toronto surprises her mother with her black fiancé.
In the episode Guess Who's Coming to Marry (season 2, episode 6) of the black sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air, an aunt of the lead character introduces her fiancé, a white man, to the horror of her family.
There's Some Black People Comin' Over for Dinner.
The year 1967 in film involved some significant events. It is widely considered as one of the most ground-breaking years in film, with "revolutionary" films highlighting the change, including: Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Cool Hand Luke, The Dirty Dozen, and In the Heat of the Night.22nd British Academy Film Awards
The 22nd British Film Awards, given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1969, honored the best films of 1968.25th Golden Globe Awards
The 25th Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best achievements in 1967, were held on 12 February 1968.40th Academy Awards
The 40th Academy Awards honored film achievements of 1967. Originally scheduled for April 8, 1968, the awards were postponed to two days later, April 10, 1968, because of the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.. Bob Hope was once again the host of the ceremony.
Due to the increasing rarity of black and white feature films, the awards for cinematography, art direction and costume design were combined into single categories rather than a distinction between color and monochrome. The Best Picture nominees were an eclectic group of films reflecting the chaos of their era. The event was the first one since the 1948 awards show to feature film clips from the Best Picture nominated films.
This year's nominations also marked the first time that three different films were nominated for the "Top Five" Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. The three films were Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. However, the winner of Best Picture was producer Walter Mirisch and director Norman Jewison's thriller/mystery film, In the Heat of the Night (with seven nominations and five wins – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Sound).
The Graduate is, as of the 90th Academy Awards, the last film to win Best Director and nothing else.
Due to an all-out push by Academy President Gregory Peck, 18 of the 20 acting nominees were present at the ceremony. Only Katharine Hepburn and the late Spencer Tracy, who was nominated posthumously, were missing.Alexandra Hay
Alexandra Lynn Hay (July 24, 1947 – October 11, 1993) was an American actress of the 1960s and 1970s. She was a native of Los Angeles, and graduated from Arroyo High School in El Monte.
Hay's first credited role was in an episode of The Monkees, "Monkee Mother" (episode 27, original airdate March 20, 1967). Her career continued with small roles in the 1967 movies Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Ambushers. In the former, she portrayed a carhop who takes an ice cream order from Spencer Tracy’s character.In 1968, she co-starred in the romantic comedy How Sweet It Is! as Gloria, and in Skidoo, as Jackie Gleason's and Carol Channing's daughter, in love with a hippie boy, played by John Phillip Law. She and Law were re-teamed later, in The Love Machine (1971). She also starred in the 1969 film Model Shop. Her later films included Fun and Games (1971) (released in the U.S. as 1000 Convicts and a Woman), How to Seduce a Woman (1974), and The One Man Jury (1978).
Hay had television roles in episodes of Mission: Impossible, Love, American Style, Dan August, Kojak, The Streets of San Francisco, and Police Story. She appeared in the television movies, The F.B.I. Story: The FBI Versus Alvin Karpis, Public Enemy Number One and The Screaming Woman. She was also featured in a February 1974 pictorial in Playboy magazine titled "Alexandra the Great".Hay died in 1993 at age 46, of arteriosclerotic heart disease. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered off the coast of Marina del Rey, California.Angela D. Dillard
Angela D. Dillard is a scholar and author. She wrote Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit religion and political radicalism in Detroit from the 1930s to the 1960s. She also wrote Guess who's coming to dinner now?, a critical study of conservative political thought among African Americans, Latinos, women and homosexuals. She is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts and was an associate professor of history and politics at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She was writing a political biography of James H. Meredith. According to her profile at the University of Michigan she is writing Civil Rights Conservatism about connections and cooperation between the post-WWII civil rights movement and the rise of the "New Right". She has published work in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Dissent, and the Chronicle of Higher Education and has appeared as a guest on television and radio programs.Dillard has a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan, an
MA from the University of Michigan in American Culture, an MA from the New School for Social Research in Political Theory, and a BA she earned from James Madison College and Michigan State University in Justice, Morality, Constitutional Democracy.As well as being an Associate Dean, she is the Earl Lewis Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies. Her work specializes in American and African-American intellectual history including issues of race, religion, and politics.Beah Richards
Beulah Elizabeth Richardson (July 12, 1920 – September 14, 2000), known professionally as Beah Richards, was an American actress of stage, screen, and television. She was also a poet, playwright, and author.
Richards was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her supporting role in the film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1968, as well as winning two Primetime Emmy Awards for her guest roles in the television series Frank's Place in 1988 and The Practice in 2000. She also received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 1965 production of The Amen Corner.Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Grey's Anatomy)
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is the fifth episode of the twelfth season of the American television medical drama Grey's Anatomy, and the 250th episode overall. It aired October 22, 2015 on ABC in the United States. The episode was written by Mark Driscoll and directed by executive producer Debbie Allen. On its initial airing the episode was watched by 8.96 million viewers and opened up to positive reviews from television critics.The episode focuses on the dinner party Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Dr. Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary), and Dr. Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) are hosting, during which Dr. Callie Torres' (Sara Ramirez) new girlfriend Dr. Penelope Blake (Samantha Sloyan) creates tension for the guests when it is revealed that she was one of Derek's doctors when he died. Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) tries to get used to Callie's new girlfriend, Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew) distracts herself from her husband Dr. Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams), and Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) and Dr. Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) have a fight.Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Scandal)
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is the second episode of the third season of American television series Scandal. It premiered on October 10, 2013 on ABC.
Despite being credited as a regular for "It's Handled", the episode marks the first appearance of Scott Foley as Jake Ballard as a regular member of the cast.Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (album)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a reggae album by Black Uhuru. The album was first released under the title Showcase in 1979, then as a re-edition entitled "Black Uhuru" in 1980, with the addition of "Shine Eye Gal" (featuring a guest performance by Keith Richards on guitar), and with different mixes of the original LP tracks (some shorter, some longer.) The Guess Who's Coming to Dinner release, from 1983, is identical to the 1980 re-edition.The album was listed in the 1999 book The Rough Guide: Reggae: 100 Essential CDs.Guess Who (film)
Guess Who is a 2005 American comedy film about race relations directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. It is a loose remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a film about a black man marrying a white woman. This film instead focuses on a black woman marrying a white man. The film stars Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, and Zoe Saldana.
The majority of the film was filmed in Cranford, New Jersey.Kannamoochi Yenada
Kannamoochi Yenada? (Tamil: கண்னாமூச்சி ஏனடா?; English: Why Hide and Seek?) is a 2007 Tamil romantic comedy film written and directed by V. Priya. The film stars Sathyaraj, Prithviraj, Sandhya and Raadhika in lead and Sripriya, Manobala and Radha Ravi in supporting roles. The film's score and soundtrack is composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja. The film, a remake of the 2005 American film Guess Who, which is itself a remake of the 1967 American film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, was jointly produced and distributed by Raadan Media Works, UTV and Pyramid Saimira. It released on 8 November 2007 during Deepavali.Katharine Houghton
Katharine Houghton (born Katharine Houghton Grant; March 10, 1945) is an American actress and playwright. She portrayed Joanna "Joey" Drayton, a white American woman who brings home her black American fiancé to meet her parents, in the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Katharine Hepburn, who played the mother of Houghton's character in the film was, in real life, Houghton's aunt.Robert C. Jones
Robert Clifford Jones (born March 30, 1936) is an American film editor, screenwriter, and educator. He received an Academy Award for the screenplay of the film Coming Home (1978). As an editor, Jones has had notable collaborations with the directors Arthur Hiller (seven films from 1967 to 1992) and Hal Ashby (4 films from 1973 to 1982). Jones has been nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), and Bound for Glory (1976).Stanley Kramer
Stanley Earl Kramer (September 29, 1913 – February 19, 2001) was an American film director and producer, responsible for making many of Hollywood's most famous "message films". As an independent producer and director, he brought attention to topical social issues that most studios avoided. Among the subjects covered in his films were racism (in The Defiant Ones and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner), nuclear war (in On the Beach), greed (in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), creationism vs. evolution (in Inherit the Wind) and the causes and effects of fascism (in Judgment at Nuremberg). His other notable films included High Noon (1952, as producer), The Caine Mutiny (1954, as producer), and Ship of Fools (1965).
Director Steven Spielberg described him as an "incredibly talented visionary", and "one of our great filmmakers, not just for the art and passion he put on screen, but for the impact he has made on the conscience of the world." Kramer was recognized for his fierce independence as a producer-director, with author Victor Navasky writing that "among the independents . . . none seemed more vocal, more liberal, more pugnacious than young Stanley Kramer." His friend, Kevin Spacey, during his acceptance speech at the 2015 Golden Globes, honored Kramer's work, calling him "one of the great filmmakers of all time."Despite uneven critical reception, both then and now, Kramer's body of work has received many awards, including 16 Academy Awards and 80 nominations, and he was nominated nine times as either producer or director. In 1961, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1963, he was a member of the jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival. In 1998, he was awarded the first NAACP Vanguard Award in recognition of "the strong social themes that ran through his body of work". In 2002, the Stanley Kramer Award was created, to be awarded to recipients whose work "dramatically illustrates provocative social issues".The Best Years
The Best Years is a Canadian teen drama television series created by producer and writer of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Aaron Martin. The first season aired on Global in Canada and on The N in the United States. The second season was shown in the United States on The N and in Canada on E!, CanWest's secondary network.William Rose (screenwriter)
William Rose (August 31, 1918 – February 10, 1987) was an American screenwriter of British and Hollywood films.Writers Guild of America Awards 1967
The 20th Writers Guild of America Awards, given on 22 March 1968, honored the best film and television writers of 1967.
Films directed by Stanley Kramer