Cast & Crew
Among the socially prominent citizens of San Francisco are Matt Drayton, the publisher of a liberal newspaper, and his wife, Christina, the owner of a fashionable art gallery. One day their daughter, Joey, returns from a vacation in Hawaii with John Prentice, a black physician whom she has known for only 10 days but intends to marry. Because John must leave the next day for Switzerland on behalf of the World Health Organization, Joey is determined that their wedding take place immediately, and she asks for her parents' permission. Furthermore, John secretly confides to the Draytons that he will not marry Joey without their consent. Suddenly confronted with a test of their longtime liberal beliefs, Matt and Christina find themselves unable to reach a decision. Less involved observers, however, quickly voice their opinions: Christina's business associate, Hilary St. George, is quick to reveal her bigotry; an old family friend, Monsignor Ryan, is confident that the couple will be able to overcome their obstacles; and the Draytons' shocked black maid, Tillie, berates John for his impertinence. Though Christina yields to her daughter's wishes, Matt remains undecided. The dilemma is compounded when Joey persuades John's parents to fly up from Los Angeles. Upon their arrival, Mrs. Prentice sides with Christina; but her husband is dubious about the situation and argues with his son. Mrs. Prentice appeals to Matt recalling the days when they stood on the threshold of a youthful marriage. Realizing that the decision rests with the children, he finally offers Joey and John his blessing; moved by the wisdom of Matt's words, Mr. Prentice also relents.
Frank De Vol
Joseph Di Bella
Robert C. Jones
Charles J. Rice
Frank [a.] Tuttle
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Art Direction
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Then, in 1966, Poitier was approached by Kramer to star in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a film that would explore the issue of interracial marriage. Kramer stated in an interview at the time that he felt the question of race relations could be explored in a motion picture in very personal terms and in such a way that any moviegoer could relate to the characters.
In the biography Stanley Kramer: Filmmaker by Donald Spoto, the director recalled that "the idea for it came about while I was walking with William Rose one evening in Beverly Hills. Now, Bill Rose is a good comedy writer. Remember, he did It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) with me. Anyway, as we walked, he told me a story, mostly a comedy, about a white South African man, a liberal, whose daughter falls in love with a black guy. I said, 'Geez, we ought to set the story here, in this country, in this background....I thought to myself, 'What a sorry sight to see a front-line liberal come face to face with all his principles right in his own house.' I also thought, 'What a perfect situation for a picture for [Spencer] Tracy." Kramer also knew it would be a perfect vehicle for Poitier but first he secured Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's involvement. As he recounted in his own autobiography, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Kramer said, "I told Sidney I had no script but that I did have Tracy and Hepburn. Sidney already was a star at that point, but he said, 'I don't know if you can bring it off with the studio, but I'll tell you I'll do it. Absolutely.' So I had three stars committed in heart and principle before I had a word of dialogue on paper."
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is remembered today for two significant reasons: It was the first Hollywood film to portray an interracial romance that had an optimistic ending, and the film featured a dream cast that included Spencer Tracy's final screen performance. Although Tracy was seriously ill at the time, Hepburn knew that, with her help and a restricted shooting schedule, he would be able to work. According to Kramer, Tracy "had no physical energy for the shooting of this film, and so we had to film it only in the morning. Columbia doesn't know to this day that we shot only half days. They didn't believe the film would be a commercial success anyway, and if they'd known our schedule they would have been doubly furious."
Despite Tracy's poor health, filming on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner proceeded smoothly. Ninety per cent of the movie was shot on one set, the Drayton home, which was created on a sound stage. Exteriors for the Drayton's San Francisco house were shot in Pasadena, California and background mattes of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and other scenic landmarks were also used.
Hepburn, in particular, immersed herself in the production, often issuing recommendations on the lighting, wardrobe and camera angles, despite Kramer's comments about her repressed directorial ambitions. Poitier, however, was rather daunted by the prospect of working with Hepburn - and her real-life companion, Tracy. In his autobiography, This Life, he wrote, "I wasn't able to get this out of my head: I am here playing a scene with Tracy and Hepburn! It was all so overwhelming I couldn't remember my lines. With the other actors I was fine....Finally Stanley Kramer said to me, "What are we going to do?" I said, "Stanley, send those two people home. I will play the scene against two empty chairs. I don't want them here because I can't handle that kind of company." He sent them home. I played the scene in close-up against two empty chairs as the dialogue coach read Mr. Tracy's and Miss Hepburn's lines from off-camera."
The role of Dr. John Prentice, a renown doctor working with the United Nations, was one that earned Poitier a great deal of attention -- both positive and negative. While Poitier was at the pinnacle of his acting career in terms of popularity and earning power, the character of Dr. Prentice was derided by many critics as being "too perfect." Black activists also criticized the character for being non-threatening and an improbable superhero.
The portrayal of the relationship between Poitier and Katharine Houghton (Hepburn's actual niece), who played his fiancee, was also lambasted for not giving much screen time to their romance. Poitier biographer William Hoffman later wrote that several shots of the couple kissing were edited out of the final version. In fact, the only time you see the two actors' lips meet in the movie is in a brief scene where a cab driver glimpses them kissing in his rear view mirror.
Stanley Kramer had the reputation among critics and moviegoers as a filmmaker who made "message films." He had already made several hard-hitting dramas with Tracy, including Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), though neither were huge moneymakers. But when Tracy and Kramer first discussed the possibility of Columbia Studio funding Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Tracy pointed out that although studios claimed to "knock message pictures," they certainly didn't turn their backs on films that made money.
Yet, Tracy's deteriorating health made the film a risky venture for the studio. Because the ailing actor was uninsurable, Hepburn and Kramer placed their salaries into escrow accounts - to be used by the studio as collateral in the event that Tracy died before the film was completed. Just 10 days after the filming wrapped, Tracy did indeed pass away and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner went on to become Columbia's highest-grossing theatrical feature to date, taking in $25 million.
The film's success was also responsible for making Poitier the first African-American box office star in its history and one of Hollywood's most popular actors. Recently, Poitier cited Stanley Kramer in the list of directors, writers and producers who had helped make his phenomenal career a reality, in an era when the odds of a black actor achieving his level of success would not have "fallen in his favor," as he so eloquently stated at the 2002 Academy Awards.
Producer/Director: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: William Rose
Production Design: Robert Clatworthy
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Costume Design: Joe King, Jean Louis
Film Editing: Robert C. Jones
Original Music: Frank De Vol
Principal Cast: Spencer Tracy (Matt Drayton), Katharine Hepburn (Christina Drayton), Sidney Poitier (John Prentice), Katharine Houghton (Joey Drayton), Cecil Kellaway (Monsignor Ryan), Beah Richards (Mrs. Prentice), Virginia Christine (Hilary St. George).
C-109m. Letterboxed.Closed captioning.
by Genevieve McGillicuddy
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
TCM Remembers - Stanley Kramer
With these films, Stanley Kramer built his reputation as a producer of important films. He made movies with a conscience, movies with a message. Although his films were sometimes criticized as being too simplistic in dealing with tough subjects, Kramer still deserves a great deal of credit for tackling sensitive subject matter no other director or studio wanted to address. His exploration of timely social issues is what makes his cinema unique and his recent passing leaves us with no one to fill his shoes.
Kramer learned his craft within Hollywood's studio system. He began as a production assistant on So Ends Our Night(1941) and was soon writing and editing. By the late forties, Kramer broke away from the studio hierarchy and formed an independent production company. Outside of the Hollywood system, he could tackle social issues head-on while producing well-crafted and meaningful dramas. In The New York Times obituary for Kramer, the director was quoted in accessing his own career and it's most appropriate here: "I decided that somewhere between the films on outer space and Sylvester Stallone, there is a place for me. I was always associated with films that had an opinion. I don't believe films change anyone's mind, but I was spawned during the Roosevelt era, a time of great change, and I still believe in trying to get people to think."
For his directorial debut, Not As A Stranger (1955), Kramer signed up the all-star cast of Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Olivia de Havilland and Gloria Grahame to reveal the trials and tribulations of doctors and nurses balancing medical school with their personal relationships. In The Defiant Ones (1958) shackled Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier together as escaped convicts. As they flee the law they're forced to confront each other's racism and ultimately discover that beneath their skin color, they are not so different. On the Beach (1959) was Kramer's anti-atom bomb polemic in which Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire survive an initial nuclear holocaust only to face a slow, painful death from fallout.
From the arms race to Biblical scripture, the following year Kramer turned his attention to the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in Inherit the Wind(1960). This famous courtroom trial was a true-life clash of the titans as Fredric March and Spencer Tracy face off on the issue of Evolution versus Creationism. Although names are changed, March gave a grandstanding performance as William Jennings Bryan, the mouthpiece for conservatism, while Tracy played Clarence Darrow, a tireless fighter for progressive thought.
Kramer's films were more than just entertainment; his stories were political platforms for the Civil Rights Movement, disarmament and liberal thinking. For audiences who thought the director couldn't take on an issue greater than the Scopes Monkey Trial, Kramer's next film would prove to be even more controversial. Again, Kramer booked a cast of Hollywood's hottest names to bring mass appeal to his very serious film.
In Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Spencer Tracy presides over a German war-criminal trial which delves into the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Burt Lancaster sits smugly on the stand as Ernst Janning, an unrepentant officer of the Gestapo, as Maximilian Schell mounts his defense. Montgomery Clift, as a Jew subjected to a sterilization experiment, nervously submits his testimony. Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich each take the stand. Hollywood's greatest stars came out to shed light on one of the darkest moments of the 20th century. The Academy responded with 11 nominations, including for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Tracy), Supporting Actor (Clift), Supporting Actress (Garland), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Editing. Schell won Best Actor for his dynamic performance as Herr Rolfe.
However, Stanley Kramer wasn't "Mr. Message Film" all the time. In a lighter moment, he produced the surrealist anti-fascist fantasy, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T(1953) in which he enlisted the talents of Dr. Seuss. More famously, he pooled the greatest comics together for an insane Cinerama screwball farce - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
By Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Stanley Kramer
It never occurred to me that I would fall in love with a Negro, but I have, and nothing's going to change that.- Joanna Drayton
After all, a lot of people are going to think we are a shocking pair.- John
I don't care to see a member of my own race getting above himself.- Tillie
It's not that I don't want to know you, Hilary, although I don't.- Christina Drayton
When I had ice cream before, I had a special kind of flavor that I liked very much but I can't remember what it was.- Matt Drayton
I'll bring you the list, sir.- Carhop
Oh no. You - you must know what it is.- Matt Drayton
Daquiri Ice, Honeycomb Candy, Cocoa, Coconut, Jamocha Almond Fudge, Mocha Jamocha, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Cinnamon, Banana Mint...- Carhop
Must've been some other place.- Matt Drayton
Katharine Hepburn's character's daughter is played by Hepburn's actual niece Katharine Houghton
Spencer Tracy died 17 days after filming was completed.
Katharine Hepburn never saw the completed movie. She said the memories of Tracy were too painful.
When Portier and Houghton arrive at SFO on a United Airlines flight, they take Yellow Cab #1850 in town. The phone number of the cab company is painted on the side of the car. Today, the same number (626-2345) will still get you in touch with Yellow Cab.
On 28 May 1975, ABC broadcast a pilot for a proposed television series based on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; produced and directed by Stanley Kramer. The pilot, starring Leslie Charleson and Bill Overton, centered on a racially mixed couple who confront the prospect of meeting each other's parents. In March 2005, Columbia Pictures released Guess Who, a comedy directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan loosely based on the film; however, black actor Bernie Mack took over Spencer Tracy's role of a disgruntled father dealing with his daughter's white finacé played by Ashton Kutcher.
Winner of the British Academy's United Nations Award.
Released in United States 1967
Spencer Tracy died just after production was completed; it was his last film.
Released in United States 1967