Yes, there are serious faults in Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” but they are overcome by the virtues of this delightfully old-fashioned film. It would be easy to tear the plot to shreds and catch Kramer in the act of copping out. But why? On its own terms, this film is a joy to see, an evening of superb entertainment.
Entertainment, I think, is the key word here. Kramer has taken a controversial subject (interracial marriage) and insulated it with every trick in the Hollywood bag. There are glamorous star performances by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy made more poignant by his death. There is shameless schmaltz (the title song, so help me, advises folks to give a little, take a little, let your poor heart break a little, etc.). The minor roles are filled with crashing stereotypes, like a Negro maid who must be Rochester’s sister and an Irish monsignor with a brogue so fey and eyes so twinkling he makes Bing Crosby look like a Protestant.
And there is the plot, borrowed from countless other drawing room comedies about “ineligible” suitors. Only this time the controversial suitor is not a socialist (“Man and Superman”), a newspaper reporter (“The Philadelphia Story”) or even a spinster (“Cactus Flower”) — but a Negro.
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