The 39 Steps has opened and is as much fun as it is exhausting. My lovely wife Kat came to visit on the weekend to see the show and take in Naples' sights, which consist mainly of quaint places to eat. With a couple of days off before we head into our final week of shows - yes, it's a very short run - some of the cast and crew took to the local vineyards for some wine tasting yesterday. Let me just say that I'm glad we didn't have a show yesterday...
While Kat was here, we watched the first of the nominees from 1967's Best Picture race...
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway, Beah Richards, Roy E. Glenn
2 wins, for Best Actress (Hepburn) and Best Original Screenplay
With an undoubtedly topical subject matter for 1967, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner takes place in the home of the Draytons, Matt (Tracy) and Christina (Hepburn), over the course of one principle-testing evening. Their sweet young daughter, Joey (Houghton), is excited to be bringing home the man she fell in love with while on a recent trip to Hawaii. The only thing is: he's black.
While Joey is oblivious to any potential problems, her new fiancé, John (Poitier), is a little more circumspect, aware that his new in-laws may be shocked by the interracial affair. He respectfully explains to Matt and Christina that, unless they wholeheartedly approve of his marrying their daughter, he will walk away, adding that he will need an answer before he flies to Europe after dinner. Christina is for the idea, but, despite his mostly liberal attitude, Matt has a few reservations. As if the time pressures weren't enough, Matt is also forced into the role of host when Joey spontaneously and naively invites John's parents (Richards & Glenn) over, despite John's desire to break the news to them himself.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a very endearing film with very endearing characters. While I'm sure interracial marriage is still taboo in many areas, the issue is certainly not as shocking as it was over 40 years ago. Back then, I imagine the film may not have seemed so endearing, or at least, the endearing tone would have been offset somewhat by the story's tackling of the tough social issues of the day. Modern audiences, however, may even describe the film as quaint. Having said all that, it is still abundantly clear how serious the issue is to the characters within the film and the whole subject is dealt with delicately and earnestly.
Featuring such an abundance of dialogue, one would be forgiven for assuming the picture is an adaptation of a stage play. Not to mention that the action takes place predominantly in one location over the course of one evening. However, William Rose wrote the script directly for the screen, winning the Academy's Best Original Screenplay award in the process. His script is at times farcical, at times sentimental, but never too much of either. And while there is obviously a sincere message, Rose cleverly manages to maintain a lighthearted attitude, mostly through the creation of such lovable characters.
Support Matt vs. the Academy and buy:
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner on DVD
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner on Instant Video