Film Feature: Remembers Sidney Poitier

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StarGUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967) by Jon Lennon Espino

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

It is undeniable that every role Sidney Poitier has taken on has elevated the project in some way. His early career began with a role that reflected the racial tensions of the time, "No Way Out” (1950), and while he would be cast in similar roles spanning his career, he always improved them with his mere presence. The film that I still find myself thinking about to this day is "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" where the star power involved (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) creates a memorable experience even when the story comes apart at the seams at times. Poitier's character is an African-American doctor who becomes engaged with a color-blind white woman (Katherine Houghton), and they must both now tell his fiancee’s parents (Hepburn and Tracy) about the wedding. As you can imagine, this doesn't go well on either side, but aside from the racial commentary at the time, there are other topics that are better explored within it. 

One of the themes that are touched on includes how you don't inherently owe your parents anything. What I mean by that is that in many families, the idea of "respect" is something that the older generations feel entitled to because of age and life experience. What Poitier's character experienced with his father shows how that notion is not only outdated but toxic and it breeds other toxic views. In this scene, Poitier reminds his father that everything that his father did for him was out of fulfilling the responsibility that he took as a father by having children, and not something that his father should expect to get paid back for in the future. His father's view of "respect" being guaranteed and not earned is something that has stuck with me when it comes to dealing with family members who feel the same, so they don't put in the effort to become better people. It also touches on the idea that you can choose your family, whether it means picking people outside of your blood relations to create a family with, or even something as small as cutting out toxic people from your life who still hold on to racist or prejudice ideals that they expect you to respect because they are your "elders."  

AVAILABLE through Video On Demand or the STARZ channel.

Source material for this article is from Wikipedia. Sidney Poitier 1927-2022

Written by: Patrick McDonald, Spike Walters and Jon Lennon Espino.
Published by: Patrick McDonald, Editor,

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