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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A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

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.

A Raisin in the Sun (1961) from Columbia Pictures
Not Rated. Drama, African American Actors/Issues, Comedy

Description (from the film case): The Younger family, frustrated with living in their crowded Chicago apartment, sees the arrival of a $10,000 insurance check as the answer to their prayers. Matriarch Lena Younger (Claudia McNeil) promptly puts a down payment on a house in an all-white suburban neighborhood. But the family is divided when Lena entrusts the balance of the money to her mercurial son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier), against the wishes of her daughter (Diana Sands) and daughter-in-law (Ruby Dee.) It takes the strength and integrity of this African-American family to battle against generations of prejudice to try to achieve their piece of the American Dream.

My thoughts: If Sidney Poitier never played another role in his life, he was Walter Lee Younger.

There’s a whole lot of life lived in a few days for this family, and to see the growth in them is remarkable. The film hits deep where it needs to, lightens up and makes you laugh along the way, and after mercurial Walter Lee’s fire all movie, I can’t say that the quiet, sober, but decided monologue he eventually gives doesn’t put a proud tear in my eye.

Honestly, I’m sorry this story was ever remade for the screen, as I personally think movie remakes should be reserved for stories that were a good idea but were delivered poorly, not for stories that were already masterfully executed on multiple levels, as remakes that come after such works will be duly compared–but won’t be able to compare.

Here’s to a superb 1961 cast in a superb film.

My corresponding reading: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.

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Now, mind you, I find the film to be much more engaging than its original trailer, but, hey. I try to cut older trailers some slack.