Sunday, 12 June 2011

AFI 100 Movies #99 Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)

I liked this film quite a lot, I guess that makes me a wooly liberal.

Sidney Poitier plays Dr John Prentice, the film opens with Dr Prentice and his new girlfriend Joey Drayton returning to Joey's home city of San Francisco having nurtured a whirlwind romance only ten days before, when they met by chance in Hawaii.

They are so smitten with each other that they decide that they want to get married, and seek Joey's parents approval. Now, in 2011, you might think, what's the big deal? But in 1967 America was still coming to terms with legislative reforms won by the black civil rights movement.

Joey's parents are played by hollywood legends Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.

Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) is a successful businessman in the publishing sector, renowned for his liberal attitude concerning politics. When Joey comes home with John he is forced to question his own beliefs, his wife Christina (Katherine Hepburn), herself, a successful entrepreneur, is at first stunned by the news of their relationship, but soon realises how much in love they are and gives Joey her blessing.

So, what could possibly go wrong? John is a highly respected doctor, he is well mannered, and also insists on no sex before marriage, as he is worried that it might affect their relationship. There can't be any reason for Mr Drayton to object surely?

Well, it would seem (and Joey actually points this out) that Mr Drayton can see nothing wrong in two people of different races marrying, unless it's his daughter. Matt isn't the only one who shows prejudice toward John, the Drayton's maid, Tillie, who herself is black, thinks that John has ideas above his station, and makes it clear to him in no uncertain terms that she does not approve of his actions.

Things become even more tricky when John privately tells Mr and Mrs Drayton that if either of them disapproves of his proposal, he will do the honourable thing and call off the proposed wedding.

And, as if that wasn't enough, Joey invites her future in-laws to dinner, even though they don't yet know that she is white.

This was the first time I had seen Sidney Poitier on screen, and he has a real charisma, and presence. Hepburn and Tracy (in his last screen performance) simply ooze star quality. Despite the subject matter there are plenty of comedic moments to enjoy. Isabel Sanford is a real firecracker as Tillie the maid and certainly has some memorable moments.

Very enjoyable.

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