Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner I believe is the first Katharine Hepburn movie I saw. Of course, at the time I didn’t know who Katharine Hepburn was and I was looking at it more for general boredom and because it had Sidney Poitier. How times have changed. One thing that struck me about the film was how tastefully everything was done. Sure, Kramer’s screenplay is a bit unrealistic and even a bit on the schmaltzy side, but the film never veered into the annoying or the superfluous, it was always very, very sophisticated. And I suppose this is why I’m a fan of it.
Today, the film’s nomination for Best Picture [and it’s Best Actress win] are somewhat maligned. Although I’ve never found Christina Drayton to be Kate’s more accomplished roles, I wouldn’t deny the fact that the performance was good. As much as I love The Graduate I never thought Anne Bancroft deserved that much attention for her supporting role. All things equal, I suppose Kate’s Christina was supporting too; and I wonder if the performance would be as maligned if she’d won Best Supporting Actress that year over Estelle Parsons. Still, the only nominee that I would have readily handed the Oscar over to was the other Hepburn. But I digress. Kate is phoning it in a bit in the performance, but I still find her performance to be oddly delightful.
There are some key moments to Kate’s performance in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. There is, of course, that now legendary confrontation she has with her subordinate. It’s one of the funnier parts of the performance [and film] and Kate handles the bigoted  quite well. I like the way she plays it, because it seems that after seeing how nasty  looks she’ll have nothing to do with dissuading Dr. Prentice from marrying Joey. That almost frivolous ice-cream drive is not as silly as it seems. Kate’s quasi monologue to her husband seems to be the basis of her happiness for Joey. She realises that [black-or-white] Joey has found someone she can be of use to, and be happy with – and this pleases her. Much has been said of her teary eyes in the film [and all those wretched close-ups from Kramer], and there’s no crying scene more important than when she parts ways with her husband. It’s a nice little moment for the two thespians – this is Tracy’s film – but Kate has a nice little important part in the bedroom and that long voiceless walk down the stairs as she stares out at the sky is beautiful in its own clichéd way.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is #92 on my list of favourites, so perhaps I am a bit easy on it [obviously]. Regardless of whether or not Kate’s win makes you happy or annoyed, there is something good to be taken from the film. And even if it’s not your favourite Kate win, it’s a good place to start when looking at the shades of Katharine Hepburn
Addendum. I read this before seeing Joe's review. I guess you can see it and not find anything redeeming :)