There are certain movies I could watch again, and again, and again. One of those movies is the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” starring Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn (who won the Best Actress Oscar that year), and Sidney Poitier. I watched it again last week, and while it’s a movie that’s definitely a 1967 movie, it continues to resonate in an honest way about how we struggle with race in America (you can watch it on Amazon Prime).
The story centers around a couple, one young white lady and one slightly older black man, who meet unexpectedly, and fall in love. They’re so eager and excited to get married that, in one evening, the girls’ parents (Tracy and Hepburn) are asked to give their approval. The real drama is what will Tracy and Hepburn say, and as the drama unfolds, more and more people show up for dinner, their struggle becomes harder to hide.
There’s a poignancy to the movie, partly because Spencer Tracy (one of my favorite actors, btw) would die before the movie was released, and in his great speech at the end Katherine Hepburn’s tears are the real tears of love of someone who knows this would likely be their last movie together. And that’s important to remember, love brings us real tears as we struggle with the challenges and joys of life. But the real poignancy happens because Tracy and Hepburn’s characters have to acknowledge they’ve raised their daughter to always believe racism is wrong, but now what they believe is something they must live.
The climax of the film comes on the patio before dinner when Tracy is having a conversation with Beah Richards (who plays Poitier’s mom). The transforming moment is when she tells Tracy that the whole problem is that he’s forgotten what it’s like to love someone, and if he remembered then he’d know that what her son feels for his daughter is the same. Love is transformational, love changes us, love gives us life and hope. As we enter the long season after Pentecost (a season that looks to feel longer than it normally does) if we’re going to get anywhere as a community then we have to remember what it means to love, and allow that love to reshape how we see and live with one another, allowing others to live too.
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