Sunday, November 09, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

I guess that it was inevitable, in light of this week's historic election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President, that Turner Classic Movies would pull out the landmark 1967 film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." (Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier - as well as Hepburn's niece, Katherine Houghton - all pictured above) It was actually a funny coincidence - we have this film in our library collection, and brought it home this weekend to watch!

It's really interesting to watch the film today. Of course, Poitier is referred to constantly as a "Negro" and even (gasp) "colored." But the basic story - liberal parents forced to confront their subconscious prejudices when their daughter decides to marry an African American - still rings true today. I was struck by several scenes. For example, Poitier confronts his father, and says things will never change until their generation - those who can only see themselves as a "colored man and not a man" - dies. Or when Tracy asks Poitier what future he sees for their child - Poitier says that his GF predicts it'll be President of the US (with a rainbow colored administration), but he'd settle for Secretary of State. Hmm...a little be prescient, eh?

It's also poignant to watch, knowing that Spencer Tracy died just 17 days after the end of filming. Hepburn - his lifelong love - propped him up and kept him going for the duration of filming, probably knowing this would be his last film. The scenes where Tracy talks about his love for his wife - wow, I was bawling - and you can see that the emotions on Hepburn's face were much more real for her.

It's a film that stands up today - not only as a record of our country at that moment in our history, but as a milepost for how far we've traveled since. And it's amazing to think that Obama's parents were experiencing this same scene almost as this film was debuting. A white girl from Kansas and an African? Absurd....

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