Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) from Columbia Pictures
Not Rated. (Contains some mildly colorful language, some discussion of sex.) Drama, Comedy, African American Actors/Issues, Romance
2 Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn)

Description (from the film case): Crusading newspaper publisher Matt Drayton’s (Spencer Tracy) liberal principles are put to the test when his daughter, Joey (Katharine Houghton), announces her engagement to John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), an internationally renowned African-American physician. While Matt’s wife Christina (Katharine Hepburn) readily accepts Joey’s decision, Matt intends to withhold his consent…

My thoughts:  “We told her it was wrong to believe that the white people were somehow essentially superior to the black people… That’s what we said. And when we said it, we did not add, ‘But don’t ever fall in love with a colored man.'”

Oh, I’ve seen Katharine Hepburn in fine form before, but never like this. And Spencer Tracy is just excellent here. The fact that he and everyone else involved in the film knew that he was dying, and what that must have cost them, makes his performance even more excellent, from its humor to its poignancy. I can’t help but to think Matt’s final words about/to Christina are as much a message from Spencer to Katharine as anything.

Sidney Poitier does just enough to make you feel as uncomfortable as John feels, and whether or not you fully agree with John Wade Prentice, he commands respect. What courage it must have taken to make such a controversial film at this period in American history, the year before Dr. King’s assassination, and around the time when marriage between whites and non-whites was still illegal in several U.S. states. It’s an exploration of what you’ll do when you come face to face with your principles and theories, what you’ll do about what you said. Although most of the “arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them,” the actors still make this relevant story resonate.

And the film is so positively ’60s! The music, the clothing, the hairdos, the funny-looking sets, the dancing! I wasn’t expecting either my laughter or my tears, but this film got some of both out of me.

Must watch it again.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

LittleWomen.qx5.EGLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A joy to finally read, after seeing the 1933 and (the best) 1994 versions of the movie several times. I ate it up, cover to cover. I’m glad the novel gives more about the sisters’ lives after their marriages than either of the movies do, and while the families are clearly happy, Alcott does not tie up the conclusion with a perfect “not-a-care-in-the-world-and-happily-ever-after” bow. So disappointing to confirm how much the Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel film copied directly from Little Women, as far as Jo/Laurie and Anne/Gilbert are concerned, but that’s not Little Women’s fault, and though I may never be fully reconciled to the way Laurie “switches over” to Amy, I’m still fond of the story in spite of it.

Jo’s poem to Beth, toward the end, is one of the most moving pieces of the novel, as are Beth’s words to Jo, at the sea: “Jo dear, I’m glad you know it. I’ve tried to tell you, but I couldn’t.” Beth, in all of her virtue, is still portrayed as human: a dying, nineteen-year-old girl wondering if her short life has truly amounted to anything. One of my main questions going in was whether or not Alcott would make Beth a flawless, otherworldly angel, and I’m pleased that Alcott doesn’t.

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Indeed, the 1994 film version by Columbia Pictures with Winona Ryder in her Oscar-nominated role as Jo (and a fantastic musical score by Thomas Newman) is the best film version of Little Women, but the 1933 release with Katharine Hepburn has its own “old movie” charm.