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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? is a classic 1967 that addresses the complexities of prejudice, racism, and bigotry as it pertains to a young interracial couple approaching their parents for the first time to discuss their impending (and hotly contested) marriage. The main conflict revolves around disagreements between parents and their children about interracial marriage and the generation gap in general. There is one use of the "N" word, spoken in the heat of a passionate diatribe delivered by an African-American maid to the groom-to-be. Outdated terms for African Americans such as "Negro" and "colored" are used. There is occasional profanity such as "bitch" and "hell." Overall, this movie remains relevant as it shows the simplicity and beauty of love amidst the complexities and ugliness of prejudice and bigotry in American society.
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What's the story?
In GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, two young people fall in love. The glitch comes when one is the handsome African-American doctor John Prentice (Sidney Poitier) and the other is the idealistic white Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton). The upper-class liberal Draytons (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) and working class Prentices (Beah Richards and Roy Glenn) are thrown into a tizzy, but everyone must figure out what to do during an impromptu dinner at the Drayton's fancy home. Eventually, ultimatums are cast, the mothers function as fonts of wisdom, and everyone must figure out how to live and love in a changing world.
Is it any good?
It may seem a bit dated due to its 1960s jive lingo and its dominant feelings regarding race, but this film still presents a funny and relevant tale of parent-child quarreling and social conflict. It combines big-name stars and contemporary themes to create a meaningful tale questioning family, love, and social norms. Hepburn delivers a hilariously understated scene as she calmly (yet insultingly) fires her racist assistant.
The film also marks the last onscreen pairing of longtime lovers and costars Hepburn and Tracy. Hepburn would nurse Tracy through his final battle with poor health; he succumbed to a heart attack just weeks after filming. Pay attention and you'll catch a funny and biting appearance by Isabel Sanford, the family maid who quips, "Civil rights is one thing. This here is somethin' else!" Kids who saw the 2005 remake, Guess Who, starring Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, might be interested in seeing this film with a little parental encouragement.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about parent-child relationships and issues of tolerance. Are families more tolerant of interracial relationships today? Why or why not?
What are the ways in which the movie feels firmly dated in its 1967 release, and what are the ways in which the movie feels relevant to the present?
Each of the main characters delivers an extended monologue in which they present their views on love, race, marriage, family, and aging. What purposes do these monologues serve in both the film's story and underlying message?
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