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Stanley Kramer
Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway, Beah Richards, Roy Glenn
Writing Credits:
William Rose

a love story of today.

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (who won the Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance) are unforgettable as perplexed parents in this landmark 1967 movie about mixed marriage. Joanna (Katharine Houghton), the beautiful daughter of a crusading publisher, Matthew Drayton (Tracy), and his patrician wife, Christina (Hepburn), returns home with her new fiance, John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), a distinguished black doctor. Christina accepts her daughter's decision to marry John, but Matthew is shocked by the interracial union, and the doctor's parents are equally dismayed. Both families must sit down face to face and examine each other's level of intolerance. In Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, director Stanley Kramer has created a masterful study of society's prejudices.

Box Office:
$4 million.
Domestic Gross
$56.700 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 3.0
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 2/3/1999

• Theatrical Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 12, 2008)

Rare is the social commentary that doesn’t appear dated when viewed years later. What appears progressive and timely today seems goofy and tired tomorrow, and even the best efforts in that vein suffer from such concerns.

The Sixties were rife with this sort of concept. After all, that era is regarded as probably the most socially conscious of the 20th century, and all kinds of media recorded these attitudes for posterity. As part of that cause, 1967’s comic drama Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner has held up in some regards, but the ravages of time have affected it in many ways.

The film tells the story of rich white girl Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) and prominent black doctor John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). They met on vacation in Hawaii and quickly fell in love. In fact, the movie begins as they come to the San Francisco home of Joey’s successful and influential parents Matt (Spencer Tracy) and Christina (Katharine Hepburn). Although the two consider themselves to be socially progressive, the prospect of this interracial marriage startles both of them - especially Matt. The situation becomes even more entangled when John tells Matt that he won’t marry Joey without Matt’s blessing, a factor that becomes exacerbated by the couple’s insistence that they get hitched immediately. That means Matt has to decide within a few hours, and the scenario gets even more muddled when John’s parents (Roy Glenn and Beah Richards) fly up from LA to meet their future daughter-in-law.

Much of Guess works quite well. I think the story line moves along at an appropriate rate and that the tale is fairly engaging and compelling. Certainly one can’t fault most of the cast. Tracy, Poitier and Hepburn all offer extremely solid performances that give their characters life beyond the somewhat shallow script. These elements make Guess consistently watchable and entertaining.

However, I ultimately find the film to be unsatisfying for a variety of reasons. First of all, as Joey, Houghton is seriously out-classed by her costars. This was Houghton’s first film, and it seems likely she got the role due to nepotism since Hepburn was her aunt. I can’t imagine any other reason why she appeared in the film as her performance is largely terrible. Houghton seems wholly artificial and forced throughout the movie. Not for one second do I buy Joey as a real person, as Houghton makes her into a total idiot.

Some of the fault for that characterization must lie in the script, but I think most of the problem stems from Houghton’s performance. This issue leads into my main concern with Guess: the general absurdity of the plot devices.

Let’s look at the scenario. A naïve and innocent 23-year-old girl meets a 37-year-old widower on vacation. Within a week and a half, the two have decided they love each other and wish to marry. Not only that, but they insist on getting hitched absolutely immediately; the engagement is scheduled to last only a few days. When the loved ones of these people meet the significant others for the first time, these decisions are presented as done deals.

Consider that you are the parent of one of these two lovers: how would you react to their decisions? I have an extremely hard time believing that many folks would happily go along with their child’s choices. Even if you eliminate the age difference - and 14 years is an awfully big gap - the whole thing seems insanely impetuous and rash; there’s not one logical reason why they need to get married so quickly.

Actually, I know why they have to hook up right away: because it offers a plot device. The decision made by Joey and John forces the film to adopt an artificial timeline, a factor that’s exacerbated by John’s illogical choice to let Matt rule the roost. Had the film followed a sensible path, it definitely would have been less compelling. Here’s the alternate scenario: Joey and John come to her parents’ house and say that they’ve fallen in love and want to get married. However, they realize they’ve only known each other for a brief amount of time, so they want to get to know each other better before they tie the knot. Ooh, the drama!

While the plot found in the finished product obviously adds more tension, the story I describe would have been much more sensible and realistic. However, since that version would lack any high drama, Guess has to go out of its way to manufacture that effect. That’s what I find problematic about it, especially because the movie decides to regard any opposition to the plans of Joey and John as racially motivated.

Yes, Guess just loves to play the race card. Anyone who thinks the two are behaving impetuously doesn’t really feel that way - they’re just racist! While I won’t deny the obstacles that face interracial couples, Guess doesn’t present them in a realistic light. It forces the issue in such an absurd manner that the end result is counterproductive.

I felt extremely frustrated throughout the film because of this element. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner offers some solid acting and it has its heart in the right place, but the extremes to which the story goes to make its point are ridiculous. Characters are made out to be racist just because they don’t support the impulsive actions of an immature and obnoxious spoiled rich girl. Frankly, I thought it was insulting to Poitier to be so willing to ignore logic. John is obviously a bright and usually sensible man, but he goes along with whatever Joey wants. In real life, such a person would clearly understand the non-racial concerns held by others and would react accordingly. Instead, he just blindly follows the whims of his new babe.

This doesn’t work, and neither does much of the drama in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The film earns points for taking on a semi-challenging subject for its era, but it loses them for the heavy-handed and illogical manner in which it proceeds. Guess gets by based on the quality of its performances but ultimately falls short of its goals.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widscreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed presentation was examined for this review. This was a decent transfer but nothing more than that.

Sharpness seemed generally solid. Some shots of Hepburn appear to use the kind of “glamour lighting” typical for leading ladies in older films - especially if the actress in question needed a little softness to make her look better - but these instances are fairly infrequent. Otherwise the image came across as nicely crisp and well-defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented few concerns, and I detected modest edge enhancement.

Print flaws caused some issues but they weren’t overwhelming for a 40-year-old movie. I saw occasional examples of grain, grit and speckles, and a few instances of blotches, streaks and nicks occurred as well. Process shots suffered the most from these concerns, especially in regard to grain, which seemed heaviest during those scenes. However, print defects were acceptably negligible.

Colors seemed somewhat erratic but were generally strong. During some interior shots - particularly those in the Drayton home - the hues looked a little drab and runny, but many other scenes displayed vibrant and vivid tones. For example, the meeting at the Japanese bar between Joey, John and two of her friends showed some excellent orange hues, and a sunset shot appeared very good. Black levels seemed nicely deep and dark, and shadow detail was equally solid as most low-light situations came across as clear and easily visible. All in all, I thought Guess provided an acceptable viewing experience and that was about it.

I did like the movie’s Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack. This mix used the front right, center and left speakers and didn’t feature the rear channels at all. For the most part, this track worked best to broaden the score. The music spread nicely to the sides and offered a solid stereo image. Some dialogue and effects also emanated from the side channels, and they also functioned fairly well. One shouldn’t expect a tremendously tight and well-integrated track, but within the limitations of the era, I found this modest little soundfield to appear pretty solid.

Audio quality seemed somewhat dated but was generally good. Dialogue appeared slightly thin and flat but was acceptably warm and accurate. I detected no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were reasonably realistic and clear - although they also seemed dated and wan at times - while the music sounded fairly lush and bright. Low end was modest at best but the track offered some general depth, particularly via some of the score. The soundtrack of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner wasn’t anything terribly special, but it seems to have held up nicely over the years.

In terms of extras, the DVD includes only one: the film’s theatrical trailer.

I understand the message of social tolerance promoted in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but I can’t be the only viewer who found the methods used to be forced and illogical. The movie remains compelling due to a number of fine performances, but the entire piece can’t quite overcome the lack of common sense found in its tale. The DVD provides average picture, good audio and virtually no extras. This is a mediocre release.

To rate this film visit the 40th Anniversary Edition review of GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER

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