In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 11 – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Produced and set in 1967, filmmaker Stanley Kramer’s drama/comedy/interracial love story takes place in a U.S. where interracial marriages had still been illegal in 17 states just 6 months prior to the film’s release.
Starring Sidney Poitier as the accomplished doctor whose engagement to Katharine Houghton causes a dilemma for her supposedly liberal parents, played by Spencer Tracy (in his last role) and Katharine Hepburn, the San Francisco-set tale was an immediate critical and commercial success – even in Southern states where it was assumed the story would be shunned. Watch the Trailer
The movie plays out almost like a stage play in the upper-class San Francisco home of newspaper publisher Matt Drayton (Tracy) and his art gallery owner wife Christina (Hepburn). There, 23-year-old Joanna Drayton (Houghton, Hepburn's niece in real life) announces that she’s returned home early from her Hawaiian vacation to let her folks know that she’s now engaged to 37-year-old physician John Prentice (Poitier), whom she met 10 days earlier.
Prentice hopes to have Drayton’s blessing for the marriage before he leaves for a medical trip to Geneva later that evening, or else he’ll call off the engagement. To add even further to the stakes, Joanna’s insisted that John’s parents fly in from Los Angles to join them for dinner for the occasion. It’s a lot to take in – especially for Tracy’s Matt Drayton, who considers himself a progressive, but isn’t sure he can bless a union he knows will encounter all sorts of trouble from the society of the 1960s.
His character’s will is tested...as was the actor’s own well-being during production. Already sick before shooting started, Tracy soldiered on through the performance, but died only 17 days after the film wrapped. It’s a highly memorable, affecting performance, perfectly countered by Poitier’s own representation of class and integrity.
While some of the film’s notions about interracial relationships are antiquated, the message still comes through loud and clear – love really does know no bounds, racial or otherwise. Also, the laws preventing interracial marriage were struck down, by coincidence, only a couple of days after Tracy’s death. The Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia, was the subject of another amazing film called "Loving."
Nominated for 9 Academy Awards, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" won for Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn, and Best Original Screenplay for William Rose.
Where to Watch
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Comedy Drama / 1967
Synopsis: When Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton), a free-thinking white woman, and black doctor John Prentice (Sidney Poitier) become engaged, they travel to San Francisco to meet her parents. Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Christina (Katharine Hepburn) are wealthy liberals who must confront the latent racism the coming marriage arouses. Also attending the Draytons' dinner are Prentice's parents (Roy E. Glenn Sr., Beah Richards), who vehemently disapprove of the relationship.