One of the most stressful reconciliations that American culture has had to process over the nation’s tenure is the meeting of two cultures in marriage. Proudly boasting itself as “the melting pot” of global heritage, the United States has resisted marriages between religions, races, and most recently sexualities. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? focuses on the drama of interracial relationships in the 1960’s, and what that meant for different socio-economic groups at the time.
Advertising with the tagline, “A love story of today,” the film begins with the liberal and upper class Matt and Christina Drayton getting introduced to their daughter Joanna’s new fiancé Doctor John Prentice, a black man. The ever-sophisticated Sidney Poitier (seen earlier this semester as Mr. Tibbs) portrays Prentice, and he brings his full gravity to the film as the doctor.
An especially poignant scene revolves around Matt Drayton and Prentice discussing what the future holds of the children of Prentice and Joanna. Inspired by Joanna’s confidence, Prentice says that he is optimistic for his child, perhaps not as optimistic as Joanna who believes her children will be president, but Drayton does not match his positivity saying “I have a feeling things aren’t changing as fast as they are in my own backyard.” It’s a heavy moment framed profoundly by the decision of Loving v Virginia, which had only been finalized six months earlier.
An interesting footnote on the development of the American couple is the 2005 film Guess Who, which is a loose remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? However Guess Who is played as a comedy, and flips the roles of the Draytons and Prentice. Instead of analyzing the challenges of race and class, Guess Who devotes its plot to sophomoric jokes and easy stereotypes.