Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

108 mins | Comedy-drama | 11 December 1967

Director:

Stanley Kramer

Writer:

William Rose

Producer:

Stanley Kramer

Cinematographer:

Sam Leavitt

Production Designer:

Robert Clatworthy

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures
Full page view
HISTORY

On 26 Sep 1966, NYT announced that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy would reunite onscreen for the ninth time to play a liberal married couple in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, an original screenplay by William Rose. The project marked the duo’s first collaboration since Desk Set (1957, see entry), ten years earlier, and Tracy’s fourth performance for director Stanley Kramer. According to the 15 Nov 1967 Var, Rose was paid $50,000 for the story, $150,000 for the script, plus net participation. A 5 Apr 1967 DV item estimated the total budget at $3.5 million, with Hepburn, Tracy, and co-star Sidney Poitier also sharing a small percentage of the profits.
       Although the 28 Sep 1966 DV reported that Samantha Eggar was rumored to portray Hepburn and Tracy’s onscreen daughter, the role eventually went to Hepburn’s niece, up-and-coming actress Katharine Houghton. Hepburn told the 3 Feb 1967 LAT that she suggested the choice, and Houghton was hired after meeting with Kramer in New York City for a script reading.
       In an 8 Apr 1984 profile on former Columbia Pictures production chief Mike Frankovich, LAT reported that the picture faced opposition from East Coast studio executives, who feared the interracial romance between Poitier and Houghton was “very risky.” While the film was well received upon its release, LAT critic Charles Champlin opined in his 17 Dec 1967 review that “Kramer and Rose were…seemingly at great pains to make [the story] palatable for the greatest number,” citing the characterization of “John Prentice” as an African-American man with extraordinary professional achievements, and the fact ... More Less

On 26 Sep 1966, NYT announced that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy would reunite onscreen for the ninth time to play a liberal married couple in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, an original screenplay by William Rose. The project marked the duo’s first collaboration since Desk Set (1957, see entry), ten years earlier, and Tracy’s fourth performance for director Stanley Kramer. According to the 15 Nov 1967 Var, Rose was paid $50,000 for the story, $150,000 for the script, plus net participation. A 5 Apr 1967 DV item estimated the total budget at $3.5 million, with Hepburn, Tracy, and co-star Sidney Poitier also sharing a small percentage of the profits.
       Although the 28 Sep 1966 DV reported that Samantha Eggar was rumored to portray Hepburn and Tracy’s onscreen daughter, the role eventually went to Hepburn’s niece, up-and-coming actress Katharine Houghton. Hepburn told the 3 Feb 1967 LAT that she suggested the choice, and Houghton was hired after meeting with Kramer in New York City for a script reading.
       In an 8 Apr 1984 profile on former Columbia Pictures production chief Mike Frankovich, LAT reported that the picture faced opposition from East Coast studio executives, who feared the interracial romance between Poitier and Houghton was “very risky.” While the film was well received upon its release, LAT critic Charles Champlin opined in his 17 Dec 1967 review that “Kramer and Rose were…seemingly at great pains to make [the story] palatable for the greatest number,” citing the characterization of “John Prentice” as an African-American man with extraordinary professional achievements, and the fact that he and his fiancée, “Joey Drayton,” are never shown embracing.
       Additionally, filmmakers encountered difficulties securing finances from the studio because no insurance companies were willing to provide coverage for Spencer Tracy, who was in extremely poor health. According to Frankovich, Kramer, Hepburn, and Tracy calculated that it would cost Columbia approximately $600,000 to re-shoot Tracy’s scenes with another actor should he become incapacitated during filming. Accounting for these “eventualities,” Kramer and Hepburn agreed to lower their salaries, while Tracy deferred his paycheck until the end of production.
       With contracts in place, the 24 Mar 1967 DV indicated that principal photography had begun four days earlier at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles, CA, with the 6 Apr 1967 Los Angeles Sentinel reporting that the set remained closed to reporters during filming. A 14 May 1967 LAT item noted that San Francisco, CA, locations included San Francisco International Airport, a malt shop on Mission Road, and an art gallery on Sutter Street. According to the 12 Jun 1967 LAT, Tracy worked only partial days to conserve strength as his condition worsened. He died of a heart attack on 10 Jun 1967, just weeks after he completed his scenes for the film.
       Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was scheduled for release in Dec 1967 in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration. The 22 Aug 1967 DV stated that Kramer had arranged for seven nights of screenings 2-8 Dec 1967 at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles, while items in the 2 and 3 Dec 1967 NYT reported a double premiere at New York City’s Beekman and Victoria Theatres on 11 Dec 1967. Proceeds from the latter events benefitted the United Neighborhood Houses and the Salvation Army, and a 15 Dec 1967 DV item reported a three-day gross of $41,000 from both venues. The picture was a global success, and the 4 Sep 1968 Var stated that worldwide rentals neared $36 million after almost a year in release.
       On 12 Jun 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down state restrictions on interracial marriage presented in the case of Loving v. Virginia. The following day, DV announced that a scene between Tracy and Roy Glenn referencing these state laws would not be changed or removed to reflect the Supreme Court decision. However, the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in Apr 1968 prompted Columbia to request that exhibitors cut a facetious reference to the late Civil Rights leader for the remainder of the film’s theatrical run. The scene in question occurs midway through the film, when, upon learning that yet another guest will be expected at dinner, Isabell Sanford’s character, “Tillie,” exclaims, “Who’s next, the Reverend Martin Luther King?”
       According to the 28 Dec 1967 DV, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was selected as the featured film in the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) inaugural symposium program designed to put filmmakers in conversation with students at several top U.S. universities.
       Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of “Christina Drayton” earned her a second Academy Award for Best Actress, while William Rose also won for Writing (Story and Screenplay—written directly for the screen). Tracy received a posthumous nomination for Best Actor, and the film was honored in the following categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (Cecil Kellaway), Actress in a Supporting Role (Beah Richards), Art Direction, Film Editing, Music (Scoring of Music—adaptation or treatment), Directing, and Best Picture. AFI ranked Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner #99 on its 1998 list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time, #58 on its list of 100 Years…100 Passions, and #35 on its list of 100 Years…100 Cheers.
       On 28 May 1975, ABC broadcast a pilot for a proposed television series based on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, produced and directed by Stanley Kramer. The pilot, starring Leslie Charleson and Bill Overton, centered on a racially mixed couple who confront the prospect of meeting each other's parents. In Mar 2005, Columbia Pictures released Guess Who, a comedy directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan loosely based on the film; however, black actor Bernie Mac took over Spencer Tracy's role of a disgruntled father dealing with his daughter's white finacé, played by Ashton Kutcher. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1967
p. 14.
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Aug 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1967
p. 15.
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Dec 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1968
p. 15.
Los Angeles Sentinel
6 Apr 1967
Section A, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1967
Section D, p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
14 May 1967
Section C, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1967
Section D, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1967
Section D, p. 14, 18.
Los Angeles Times
8 Apr 1984
Section K, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1988
Section H, p. 1.
New York Times
26 Sep 1966
p. 65.
New York Times
2 Dec 1967
p. 44.
New York Times
3 Dec 1967
p. 118.
New York Times
12 Dec 1967
p. 56.
Variety
15 Nov 1967
p. 15.
Variety
4 Sep 1968
p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Stanley Kramer Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Women's ward
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Scr supv
Stills
Company grip
Ch elec
Prop master
SOURCES
SONGS
"Glory of Love," words and music by Billy Hill, sung by Jacqueline Fontaine.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 December 1967
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 December 1967
Production Date:
20 March--June 1967
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures
Copyright Date:
31 December 1967
Copyright Number:
LP35733
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
108
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Among the socially prominent citizens of San Francisco are Matt Drayton, the publisher of a liberal newspaper, and his wife, Christina, the owner of a fashionable art gallery. One day their daughter, Joey, returns from a vacation in Hawaii with John Prentice, a black physician whom she has known for only ten days but intends to marry. Because John must leave the next day for Switzerland on behalf of the World Health Organization, Joey is determined that their wedding take place immediately, and she asks for her parents' permission. Furthermore, John secretly confides to the Draytons that he will not marry Joey without their consent. Suddenly confronted with a test of their longtime liberal beliefs, Matt and Christina find themselves unable to reach a decision. Less involved observers, however, quickly voice their opinions: Christina's business associate, Hilary St. George, is quick to reveal her bigotry; an old family friend, Monsignor Ryan, is confident that the couple will be able to overcome their obstacles; and the Draytons' shocked black maid, Tillie, berates John for his impertinence. Though Christina yields to her daughter's wishes, Matt remains undecided. The dilemma is compounded when Joey persuades John's parents to fly up from Los Angeles. Upon their arrival, Mrs. Prentice sides with Christina; but her husband is dubious about the situation and argues with his son. Mrs. Prentice appeals to Matt, recalling the days when they stood on the threshold of a youthful marriage. Realizing that the decision rests with the children, he finally offers Joey and John his blessing; moved by the wisdom of Matt's words, Mr. Prentice also ... +


Among the socially prominent citizens of San Francisco are Matt Drayton, the publisher of a liberal newspaper, and his wife, Christina, the owner of a fashionable art gallery. One day their daughter, Joey, returns from a vacation in Hawaii with John Prentice, a black physician whom she has known for only ten days but intends to marry. Because John must leave the next day for Switzerland on behalf of the World Health Organization, Joey is determined that their wedding take place immediately, and she asks for her parents' permission. Furthermore, John secretly confides to the Draytons that he will not marry Joey without their consent. Suddenly confronted with a test of their longtime liberal beliefs, Matt and Christina find themselves unable to reach a decision. Less involved observers, however, quickly voice their opinions: Christina's business associate, Hilary St. George, is quick to reveal her bigotry; an old family friend, Monsignor Ryan, is confident that the couple will be able to overcome their obstacles; and the Draytons' shocked black maid, Tillie, berates John for his impertinence. Though Christina yields to her daughter's wishes, Matt remains undecided. The dilemma is compounded when Joey persuades John's parents to fly up from Los Angeles. Upon their arrival, Mrs. Prentice sides with Christina; but her husband is dubious about the situation and argues with his son. Mrs. Prentice appeals to Matt, recalling the days when they stood on the threshold of a youthful marriage. Realizing that the decision rests with the children, he finally offers Joey and John his blessing; moved by the wisdom of Matt's words, Mr. Prentice also relents. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.