Film Club to screen ground breaking American classic

July 24, 2014

Guess Whats Coming to the Roxy?
Sunday’s Film Club offering for July provides movie buff heaven, with the Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier acting master class “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”- an extremely controversial film for that time (1967) due to its subject of interracial marriage.

At the time the film was shot mixed marriages were still illegal in no less than 17 (mostly southern) American states.

Director Stanley Kramer had always championed social causes in his films, and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is credited with doing much to improve standards of racial discrimination in the US. Kramer also produced the film, and engaged William Rose to write a screenplay, which was to go on to win an Academy Award.

The story centres on Joanna, played by Katherine Houghton who was actually Katherine Hepburn’s niece, who brings her new fiancé – a young idealistic black physician played by Sidney Poitier – home to her liberal upper-class home in San Francisco to meet her parents (Tracy and Hepburn). And, yes, they have no idea that he is black.

This was the 9th time that Tracy and Hepburn had starred together in a film. Of course the pair had been involved in a discreet but widely known affair for 26 years, though Tracy, a devout catholic, never divorced his wife. This was to be Spencer Tracy’s last film, as he was dying as the film was being made. He was so ill that his scenes were only shot between 9 am and noon each day so he could rest. Tragically, Tracy died only 17 days after the film was completed. Hepburn never saw the completed film, saying the memories of Tracy were too painful. The film was released six months after Tracy’s death.

This is Spencer Tracy’s first visit to the NWTC Film Club, though Hepburn is a regular (‘Bringing up Baby” and “The African Queen”). Spencer Tracy was 67 when he died.
His career traversed 37 years and 75 films. Only Sir Laurence Olivier earned as many Best Actor Academy Award nominations (9), and he won in successive years (1937 and 1938) for “Captains Courageous” and “Boy’s Town”.

Katherine Hepburn, on the other hand, lived to the age of 96. Her 66 year career involved 44 feature films, eight television movies and 33 plays. She won four Best Actress Oscars and her 12 nominations have been only surpassed by Meryl Streep.

Sidney Poitier’s life has been no less amazing. An actor, author and diplomat, he was born in the Bahamas, and was the first Negro to win an Academy Award (for “Lilies of the Field”). Poitier, now Sir Sidney Poitier KCB, is 87 years of age and continues as the Bahamas Ambassador to Japan, a post he has held since 1997. He has starred in 52 films, directed a further 9, and is the author of 3 autobiographical books. In one stellar year (1967) he made “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, “To Sir With Love” and the Oscar winning Best Picture “In the Heat of the Night”.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Hepburn) and Best Original Screenplay (William Rose). It was a Box Office sensation.

Shot for only five million dollars, it amassed 70 Million worldwide (a huge amount for the sixties, and up to that point the biggest grossing film in cinema history).

Surprisingly, the film had excellent audiences in the southern states of the USA, where boycotts had been widely expected.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” runs for 108 minutes, is rated PG, and is highly recommended. Remember, new members are welcome and for only $30 you can see the last six films for 2014. Visitors and temporary members are also welcome. The film screens at 4 pm on Sunday at the Roxy.