November 21, 2011

Happy Mon. Nice day here, but continues cold. -35 in the flats, and most of the inversion has disappeared.

We watched an old movie, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? (1967) with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as parents of a 23 year old daughter who resembles Ann Margaret. She arrives home to San Francisco from a vacation in Hawaii with her new boyfriend in tow, 37 year old John (Sidney Poitier), a widowed doctor who delivers medical services to African communities. The parents are dumbfounded, despite their support of the Civil Rights Movement. To make matters worse, daughter wants to marry this man she met 10 days before right away! The parents’ cook is a black woman who has worked for them for 22 years and was a nanny to the girl. She is sure John is hustling the girl and is outraged. John is the soul of reason, though why he would decide he wants to marry a white girl 14 years his junior whom he just met is a question no one asks. It does not help that the young woman acts like an infatuated 15 year old. This was pre-women’s lib, so perhaps that seemed normal to viewers in 1967.

Anyway, the plot thickens when John’s parents announce they are flying up from LA to SF to see John before he heads for Geneva, Switzerland. Naturally they are all invited to dinner with Spencer and Kate. The ensuing action has people going off in pairs to discuss the situation, and there is pretty much non-stop discussion. White dad is against the marriage, and so is black dad. White mom and black mom think their children seem happy, so they are supportive. Black nanny/ cook is against it. White Catholic priest who joins them for dinner thinks it’s wonderful. No one else at the dinner is Catholic. Finally, the “kids” get their parents’ blessing after Spencer delivers a father-knows-best speech at the end summing up all their worries and fears but saying go ahead. The film won AAs for the script and for Katherine Hepburn (neither deserved to win, so maybe there was weak competition that year). It has all the hallmarks of a stage play, but was not a play before it was a film. The acting is mostly so-so, though the situation is interesting. The child of that marriage could easily have grown up to be a classmate of Barack Obama. We are still having some of the same conversations. I’d give the film about 2 stars for interest as a social document.

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