Guess Who’s …

Enjoying this classic film with the fam this morning. The young miss hadn’t seen it. Seems like a good choice for the holiday. The “Get Permanently Lost” scene and Spencer Tracy’s final monologue get a lot of attention. These are thoughtful and entertaining, to be sure.

I was reminded of the favorable portrayal of the Church, as represented by Msgr Mike Ryan, performed by Cecil Kellaway. At 42:14 in the link above, the priest confronts Matt Drayton, and suggests about 45 seconds in that the bride’s father may be a “phony liberal.” Best of all is his character’s delight at love as he takes leave of Joanna and John at a bit past 44 minutes.

I heartily approve of so many aspects of this scene–positive portrayals of God, of religion, of Catholicism, of clergy. And in 1967-68. If such a groundbreaking movie were made today on an important social issue, would a filmmaker or scriptwriter hit all four marks?

Meanwhile any less-than-obvious choices for viewing on the Fourth?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to Guess Who’s …

  1. I don’t like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I can’t stand the daughter. She’s a spoiled, shallow, self-absorbed, insufferable brat and this movie would have been 100x better if Sydney Poitier’s character had ditched her and found someone better. He could hardly do any worse in a choice of bride. I am very serious when I say that my favorite part of the movie is when Spenser Tracy tells his daughter to shut up. I clapped and cheered when I heard that line.

    • Todd says:

      She is Ms Hepburn’s niece.

      • I don’t blame Ms. Hepburn’s niece for being insufferable, at least not entirely. The problem primarily lies with the screenplay. For whatever reason, the screenwriters chose to make the daughter spoiled, shallow, and self absorbed. Ms. Hepburn’s niece does almost nothing with what she is given, but then again the screenplay gives her almost nothing with which to work. It is terribly unfortunate and the movie is dreadfully damaged because of it.

    • Liam says:

      Yes, the youth-angle “relevance” dimension of the film was badly done at its time and has aged worse. I consider it an object lesson of how the urge to seem relevant ought to be resisted, strongly.

  2. Todd says:

    Regarding the youth angle, keep in mind that people deep into adulthood who don’t really know young people, or bother to know them, can’t be expected to portray them accurately. As I recall my parents’ observations, there was indeed a perception of self-absorption among people who did not navigate either the world wars or the Great Depression. And still today, there is talk of a “Great Generation,” and perhaps the conceit worms its way into how the young were portrayed. Or still are today. The movie is from the viewpoint of the parents. The characters of Joanna and John are perhaps irrelevant in particulars.

    • Liam says:

      Note that Poitier is not the youth angle in that film – He was 40 when the film was released – he was old enough to have enlisted in the middle of WW2 (Spencer Tracy was old enough to have enlisted in the Navy in WW1 but didn’t serve much past training) – he’s 90 now. Poitier is 18 years older than Katherine Houghton.

      • Todd says:

        I’ve also read more criticisms of his character than any other, especially that he seemed too perfect. I didn’t find him 100% perfect though

      • Liam says:

        I agree that his character is not perfect. The dressing down of his father scene is too pat/stagey – in real life, there’s no way he’d get away with that soliloquy uninterrupted – it would be much more of a back and forth. On the other hand, it’s one of the things that clearly registers his character more as middle-aged (accustomed to certain level of authority, and not merely as a doctor) rather than young adult like his intended.

    • “The characters of Joanna and John are perhaps irrelevant in particulars.” I disagree. The film frames their relationship as if this is a good relationship, and the audience needs to want the two young people to get married. That’s why they made Sydney Poitier’s character far too perfect (though he’s not perfect: he has dreadful taste in women); they want the audience to root for the young people.

      The writers could have framed the relationship as “Yes, this is a terrible idea and yes these two people will be divorced in a year. But so what? It’s their life, it’s their choice.” That would have worked far better and meshed with the characterization of the daughter. But they didn’t, which is the why the film doesn’t really work.

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