They say “love conquers all”, but when the couple in love have two different racial backgrounds, that’s when the trouble starts. In 1967, racial prejudice was prominently significant, but Director Stanley Kramer wanted to address the problem head on. In his movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” the issues of racism, prejudice and interracial marriage are portrayed in a serious, political manner. Racial prejudice has always been a major social issue, particularly at this time in the 60’s when racial tension and rioting was occurring, as well as the campaigning led by Martin Luther King Junior for Civil Rights. By being courageous enough to stand up for what they believe in barriers have been broken down and this issue addressed. Some people, such as Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, are brave enough to take an even bigger risk and see racism in a favourable light, which is shown in Sullivan’s 2005 hit, “Guess Who.” The remake takes the issues from the original, but portrays them in a more modernised, comedic way. These two movies, one award-winning, have been very successful in addressing racial discrimination.
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In Kramer’s 1967 film, John (Sidney Poitier) and Joanna (Katherine Houghton) are very much in love, but one problem, John is African-American, and Joanna is white. ”After all, a lot of people are going to think we are a shocking pair.” (GWCD, John Prentice, 1967). Back then this was a very rare situation because many people looked down upon the coloured man. It was a horrible time for the black man to be in love with another of a different race because in the 60’s, sixteen US states still viewed inter-racial marriage as illegal. In Sullivan’s 2005 remake, the couple are once again very much in love, but the situation has been reversed, Simon (Ashton Kutcher) is white and Theresa (Zoe Saldana) is the coloured girlfriend. Marriage between two people is a wonderful thing, but even today, a marriage between two people of different races is questionable, without looking at the obstacles that will occur later on.
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was a great classic movie. “It was a box-office sensation and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards” (Movie Cover). It was a film that shocked audiences because of the controversial topic yet also reflected society’s prejudices of the 1960’s time period. This film explores the subject of interracial marriage, and the impact it has upon the parents of the bride and groom in their values and attitudes and those of society. Although, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was filmed in 1967, its issues of racial tension are still relevant today, making it a worthwhile subject of multi-cultural study even for modern audiences. “Guess Who” is a light romantic-comedy following the same storyline yet also touches on other prejudices.
The original movie is very straight forward, with very little humour. Its purpose was to inform the intended audience about the issue of interracial marriage and racial prejudice and not to make fun of it. Sullivan’s remake addresses the same issues, but in a modern way. From sharing a bed to go-carting to dancing, the remake has been adapted to suit an open-minded audience with the view to entertain.
Many stereotypes are portrayed in the two movies. In “Guess Who,” Bernie Mac plays the black, over-protective father. He is big, thinks he knows everything, and still sees his daughter as the “apple of his eye”. Simon is the timid, white boy, and Theresa is the independent, artistic, coloured girlfriend. But it wasn’t just the main characters that are stereotyped. In the beginning of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, John and Joanna get into a cab and are driving to Joanna’s parent’s house. The taxi driver is white and giving them odd looks because it was an uncommon sight. When they arrive at their destination, the taxi driver is almost disgusted when John goes to pay him; it was as if it was beneath him to accept money from a “Black” man. In the remake, Simon and Theresa are going to her parent’s house, but this time the taxi driver is black. When the couple arrive at the house, the father automatically assumes that the taxi driver is the boyfriend because of the skin colour.
Assumptions are nearly always misleading, and the audience are questioned about their prejudice. These two scenes have been reversed, showing the working class views of that time. Another example would be in the second movie, there was a wedding planner. The viewers assumed that he was gay because of the way he dressed, his mannerisms, and they way he talked. But at the near the end of the movie, we find that he is actually married, and merely metro sexual.
Compared to the remake, the first movie lacked in special effects, with the main emphasis placed on the central theme. “Guess Who” had voice-overs, interesting lighting techniques and the setting changed frequently. The original had simple scenes with simple lighting and mid-frame angles were commonly used. Only a few of the characters, generally the main ones, had close-ups. Music was one of the key elements in both movies. Kramer only used one song though, and it was “The Glory of Love”. It was played at the beginning of the movie, and in the background at random intervals through out the film. Sullivan’s remake was more modern, featuring well known songs, which is evident in the “car ride” scene. Songs such as Black Betty, Walk on the Wild Side and Ebony and Ivory made the car ride extremely uncomfortable as they all commented on racial difference, with Percy already upset at the fact that Simon was white.
Taking away the fact that the movies were made in two different times, using two different techniques, the common theme of racist behaviour was well delivered, engaging audience’s intellects. They both delivered smart, thought-provoking themes to suit the era in which they were produced. Both movies successfully portrayed the political and personal problems faced by the two couples; the underlying theme of “love conquers all” was well and truly established. Overall, both productions were very successful, and neither one was more enjoyable then the other.
Anderson, K, “Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph Vol 4, No. 1, 2010
Character Analysis Worksheet
Sullivan, K. R., ‘Guess Who’, Columbia Pictures Industries, 2005, Los Angeles
Kramer, S., ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’, Columbia Pictures, 1967, Los Angeles
http://www.essaypride.com/essays.php?free_essay=466947&title=Film-Analysis-Guess-Who-And-Guess-Whos-Comming-To-Dinner, accessed 21/10/11
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