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Old August 26th 05, 05:31 AM
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Default Guess Who's Coming To Dinner


I wrote that in a vast majority of instances, the issue of
interracial marriage for parents is class and moolah.

Here is a review by Roger Ebert of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

His point is not the same as the point in the movie. He notes that
Hollywood pulls out of the bag all of its tricks to make the marriage
acceptable to the audience, i.e. Poitier is rich, mobile, from a good
family and all the rest.

Point made. Hollywood was speaking to the audience -- the vast
majority with common sense that I mentioned.

Message, when shorn of all the gobbledygook: a black man with a
doctor's degree, status, money, good mannners, good clothes is more
worthwhile than sex-rgcp obsessed white human messes such as, say, Bill
Brock and Vince Hart (two names that somehow just popped to mind).

Makes sense to me.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
By Roger Ebert / Hanuary 25, 1968
Cast & Credits

Matt Drayton Spencer Tracy
Christina Drayton Katharine Hepburn
John Prentice Sidney Poitier
Joey Drayton Katharine Houghton
Msgr. Ryan Cecil Kellaway
Mrs. Prentice Beah Richards
Mr. Prentice Roy E. Glenn Sr.
Tillie Isabell Sanford

Columbia presents a Stanley Kramer production, directed by Kramer from
ascreenplay by William Rose. Photographed in color by Sam Leavitt.
Yes, there are serious faults in
Stanley Kramer's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," but they are overcome
by the virtues of this delightfully old-fashionedfilm. It would be easy
to tear the plot to shreds and catch Kramer in theact of copping out.
But why? On its own terms, this film is a joy to see,an evening of
superb entertainment.

Entertainment, I think, is thekey word here. Kramer has taken a
controversial subject (interracial marriage)and insulated it with every
trick in the Hollywood bag. There are glamorousstar performances by
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy made more poignant by his death.
There is shameless schmaltz (the titlesong, so help me, advises folks
to give a little, take a little, let yourpoor heart break a little,
etc.). The minor roles are filled with crashingstereotypes, like a
Negro maid who must be Rochester's sister and an Irishmonsignor with a
brogue so fey and eyes so twinkling he makes Bing Crosby look like a

And there is the plot, borrowed from countless other drawing room
comediesabout "ineligible" suitors. Only this time the controversial
suitor is nota socialist ("Man and Superman"), a newspaper reporter
("The PhiladelphiaStory") or even a spinster ("Cactus Flower") -- but a

Of course, the negro is Sidney Poitier. He is a noble, rich,
intelligent, handsome, ethical medical expert whoserves on United
Nations committees when he's not hurrying off to Africa,Asia,
Switzerland and all those other places where his genius is
required.During a vacation in Hawaii, he meets Katharine Houghton, and
they fall in love and come home to break the news to her parents.

Miss Hepburn takes the news rather well ("Just let me sit down a moment
andI'll be all right"), but Tracy has his doubts. Although he is a
liberal newspaperpublisher and a crusader against prejudice, he doesn't
want to be hurriedinto making up his mind. And that's the trouble.
Poitier has to catch the10 p.m. flight to Geneva, you see, so Tracy has
to decide before then.

It is easy to ridicule this deadline as contrived and artificial: and
itis easy to argue that Poitier's character is too perfect to be
convincing.But neither of these aspects bothered me. The artificial
deadline is a conventionof drawing room comedies. It provides automatic
suspense and keeps the actionwithin a short span of time. And Poitier's
"perfect Negro" is no more perfectthan Miss Houghton's perfect liberal
daughter, Miss Hepburn's perfect Rockof Gibraltar mother and Tracy's
perfect Spencer Tracy.

The things that did bother me were more subtle. Despite Poitier's
reluctance,Miss Hougton insists that HIS parents also be invited to
dinner. They area pleasant middle-aged couple (played by Roy E. Glenn
Sr. and Beah Richards), who turn out to be the most believable
characters in the story. But their presence leads to two troublesome

The first occurs when Poitier (who has been unfailingly polite and
deferentialto Tracy) backs his own father into a corner and lectures
him. The Negrofather, like the white one, opposes interracial marriage.
And Poitier, whohas already agreed to abide by Tracy's decision,
cruelly attacks his ownfather's position.

The words ring false. Poitier accuses his fatherof being an Uncle Tom:
"Your generation will always think of itself as Negrofirst and a man
second. I think of myself as a man." In a cruel switch, hethreatens to
disown his father if he opposes the marriage. This speech doesn'tseem
consistent with Poitier's character elsewhere in the film. Contrastedto
Poitier's awe of Tracy, it seems to establish the older Negro as a

The second bothersome scene is similar to the first. Poitier'smother
lectures Tracy, informing him that he really opposes the
marriagebecause he has forgotten what it means to be in love. Tracy has
successfullyweathered all other arguments, but this one shakes him.
After a long periodof thought, he agrees to the marriage.

What it boils down to, then,is that the two fathers are overcome by
implied attacks on their masculinity.The race question becomes
secondary; what Tracy really had to decide is ifhe feels inadequate as
a man. Kramer accomplishes this transition so subtlyyou hardly notice
it. But it is the serious flaw in his plot, I think.

Still, perhaps Kramer was being more clever than we imagine. He has
pointedout in interviews that his film does accomplish its purpose,
after all. Andit does. Here is a film about interracial marriage that
has the audiencethrowing rice. The women in the audience can usually be
counted on to identifywith the love story. I suppose. But what about
those men? Will love conquerprejudice? I wonder if Kramer isn't
sneaking up on one of the underlyingcauses of racial prejudice when he
implies that the fathers feel their masculinitythreatened.

All of these deep profundities aside, however, let me say that "Guess
Who's Coming to Dinner" is a magnificent piece of entertainment. It
will make you laugh and mayeven make you cry. When old, gray-haired,
weather-beaten Spencer Tracy turns to Katharine Hepburn and declares,
by God, that he DOES remember what it is like to be in love, there is
nothing to do but believe him.

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Old August 26th 05, 06:14 AM
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Has Sam Sloan ever had a published rating above 2200 (any national
federation)? If not, what is the basis for Sloan's claim to be a
"former master"?

Has Larry Parr ever examined the *content* of the various Sloan
Pok=E9mon porn pages--links available upon request--and commented upon
Sloan's character?

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Old August 26th 05, 06:15 AM
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p.s. don't pollute rgcm - apologies for crosspost

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Old August 26th 05, 03:54 PM
[email protected]
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Seriously, Larry, do you honestly think a Hollywood movie constitutes
sociological evidence? Is this the best you can do to prove your thesis
that laissez faire economics will eliminate racism?

It does seem rather odd - especially his contention that such laissez
faire economics would be liberating to the masses. This seems to speak
against all cross-cultural evidence I have seen; look at Finland, for
example. High taxes, and the happiest and smartest people in the world,
according to many polls - and they have benefitted greatly from the
"Information Age," whereas Larry notes, Americans have not (and I
realize that such cross-cultural comparisons are always dodgy). In
fact, a headline today trumpeted how companies are getting richer and
individuals are not in this economic uptime.

But I don't feel qualified to argue with him on the topic, except to
note, as you do, that his rationalizations seem to be no different or
less contorted than the ones communists used to promote their economic

Interestingly, I finally finishing watching another Kramer movie,
"Judgment at Nuremberg," which due to the emotions it stirred it me
(positive and negative), I had only watched bits and piece of over the
last 40 years (when you know your own mother, at nine years of age, was
spending her time in bomb shelters, and had to live through that
post-war destruction through no fault of her own, you can be emotional
about such things).

So perhaps Kramer liked to tackle these difficult topics, and used
emotion to make his point. OK for a movie, as Kingston notes, but to
use as proof for Larry's theories on economics?

Then finally to the chess tie-in so Bill won't say "Give a hoot, don't
pollute"- would Parr suggest such laissez-faire policies for the USCF
and the chess world in general to promote chess? It seems to me that we
are already so laissez-faire in chess that nothing ever gets done -
except for those politicians who personally profit from chess, at the
expense of the game, of course.

I would be very interested to hear Parr's view on this comment of mine.

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Old August 26th 05, 10:01 PM
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wrote in message

It does seem rather odd - especially his contention that such laissez
faire economics would be liberating to the masses. This seems to speak
against all cross-cultural evidence I have seen; look at Finland, for
example. High taxes, and the happiest and smartest people in the world,
according to many polls -

They are the happiest and smartest? Why then do they have the highest
suicide rate in the world?

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Old August 26th 05, 11:23 PM
[email protected]
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They are the happiest and smartest? Why then do they have the highest
suicide rate in the world?

Stan, you are going to force me to agree with Parr about you if you
continue such nonsense.

There are 3 countries in the most recent WHO database who surpass
Finland's *male* suicide rate, which is the biggest problem. Two of
them had rates *double* that of Finland.

I also noted in that post the danger of cross-cultural comparisons....
I mean, what does the word "happy" mean? It is disingenuous at best to
assume everyone defines it in the same way.

In 1983, I earned a degree in Gerontology and Adult Development. Death
and Dying was a large component of that. At that time, the prevalent
theory was that Nordic countries had higher suicide rates due to a
number of factors, including the stoicism expected of males, the fact
that committing suicide due to say, advanced disease was not seen in
the same light as many other countries.

Much has changed even since the last set of WHO data has been
collected. Them being the "happiest and smartest" is a fairly recent
development, as is the boom in another country, Ireland's economy, due
to the information revolution (don't know how that would fit into
Parr's world economic view).

I would need to do deeper research, but I believe the suicide rate
among males has shown improvement in recent years in Finland. But could
you do a little research before you spout off? Even Larry does that.

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