#MovieQuoteMonday: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Spencer Tracy Katharine Hepburn

Now, Mr. Prentice, clearly a most reasonable man, says he has no wish to offend me, but wants to know if I’m some kind of a nut. And Mrs. Prentice says that like her husband, I’m a burnt-out old shell of a man who cannot even remember what it’s like to love a woman the way her son loves my daughter. And strange as it seems, that’s the first statement made to me all day with which I am prepared to take issue. Because I think you’re wrong. You’re as wrong as you can be.

I admit that I hadn’t considered it, hadn’t even thought about it, but I know exactly how he feels about her. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that your son feels for my daughter that I didn’t feel for Christina. Old? Yes. Burnt out? Certainly. But I can tell you the memories are still there – clear, intact, indestructible. And they’ll be there if I live to be 110. Where John made his mistake, I think, was attaching so much importance to what her mother and I might think. Because in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt, that’s everything.

This was the ninth and final film featuring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy together.  Tracey passed away just 17 days after filming was complete.  Hepburn has said that she has never seen the completed film because it was too painful for her to watch Spencer Tracy.  This movie explores the very controversial topic of interracial marriage during the late 60s — something that was not only completely taboo, but in fact illegal in most states until 1967, just after this film was released.  Matt and Christina Drayton, played by Tracy and Hepburn, have learned that their daughter, Joey, is engaged to John, a black man (Sidney Poitier).

Throughout the film, the family had been sort of tip-toeing around Matt, waiting to see if he would give his daughter and new son-in-law his blessing for their marriage.  Unbeknownst to Joanna, John approached Matt and said that he wouldn’t marry Joanna unless he had their blessing.

To add to the brewing tension, John’s parents flew up for the weekend to meet Joanna, not knowing that she is white.

After watching Tracy’s normal antics throughout the course of the film — his temper, his lack of patience and general uneasiness — the film culminates in this scene in which Tracy delivers this speech, ultimately giving his daughter and her fiance his blessing but also, in a way, saying goodbye to the love of his life, Katharine Hepburn.  This scene is one that perfectly represents an actor being in character as well as out of character, for although he is speaking to his daughter, Joanna, about his wife, Christina, I think he is really speaking of the love he shared with Katharine Hepburn.

I can’t watch this scene without completely losing it, for anyone who has known the love of someone like Spencer Tracy, you know that it’s about as good as it gets.  My Irish grandfather was much like him — intense, tempered, opinionated.  But he was also fiercely loyal and surprisingly open-minded — something that he tried very hard to camouflage.  Katharine Hepburn could have had almost anyone in Hollywood, but she chose good old Spence.  It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 

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2 replies

  1. Great stuff. Thanks for the opportunity to see that amazing scene again.

    I saw this film long ago, and had forgotten that Tracy died shortly after. That makes it all the more poignant. As well as showing us than an old man, admittedly burnt out – could think on his feet. As for Tracy – that was a lot of words to remember as well as the movements.

    Two things stand out – one that no one other than Joey’s one line, and Tilly’s one line – no one else spoke. In seven and half minutes. The second thing was the total absence of background music, or musical clues about how we should feel.

    jmm

    • You’re right, no other actors spoke during that scene, even though Katharine Hepburn said enough with her expressions to fill the entire film!

      I also love the fact that the priest didn’t get off scot-free in the whole thing. Even those who you thought would be for their relationship backed off, except Matt and Christina.

      Thanks for reading!

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