06 November 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (starring Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy)

'Guess who's coming to dinner?' is apparently a landmark film, which was made in 1967. I wasn't very old then, so it's not surprising that I didn't see it at the time; more surprising, perhaps, is that I had not even heard of it before Amazon recommended it to me, based on my wishlist and DVDs I had bought.

The story is about Joanna (Katharine Houghton), a young white woman, who falls deeply in love with John (Sidney Poitier), an intelligent, much-sought-after doctor. John also happens to be black. I gather that this was pretty much unheard of in the USA in the 1960s, when – although it’s hard to imagine, from our more enlightened times – it was illegal in several states for ‘mixed race’ marriages.

However, Joanna is confident that her parents, who have brought her up to be extremely liberal minded about race, will be delighted for them. John is less certain about his parents. What nobody expects the extremely negative reaction from Tilly, Joey’s family’s much-loved cook and housemaid, who is also black. All the parents, too, have to battle their initial shock at something they were not expecting. Joanna's parents, played brilliantly by Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, have a major struggle to see if they can reconcile their theoretical beliefs with the actual situation in front of them.

The feel of the film is rather ‘1950s’ – I was surprised it was made as late as it was, and that was not just due to the content. There were some very fake-looking scenes supposedly featuring sunsets or other outdoor views, which were nothing of the sort. Still, the acting was good, the script excellent (given its vintage), and I felt totally involved in the film and characters all the way through.

Even though the particular subject-matter is now long out of date, this film gives a fascinating insight into some of the ways we deal with prejudice of any kind, and how difficult it can be to reconcile what we believe in theory with a situation involving someone we love.

Definitely recommended. Rated PG in the UK and apparently not rated at all in the USA.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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