Saturday, March 14, 2009

Class Three: Art Imitates Life/Life Imitates Art - The Case of the Biracial President

Today is your lucky day! I couldn't decide which of two film clips to share with you, so I'm including both.

Here's the concluding monologue to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner by Spencer Tracy. He died 17 days after filming ended. Those tears you see in Katharine Hepburn's eyes are real. She knew this would be their last film together.

Does life imitate art? Here's a conversation between Tracy and Poitier as they speculate on the fate of any future children of the interracial couple. Tracy's character's daughter had met Poitier's character in Hawaii. It's fascinating to think that six years prior to the scene being filmed, a baby was born to a white mother and black father who met in Hawaii.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote an interesting piece comparing the film with the real world in light of Barack Obama's election. He reflects on how different things are now in comparison to when the movie was made:
As Mark Harris reminds us in his recent book about late 1960s Hollywood, “Pictures at a Revolution,” it was not until the year of the movie’s release that the Warren Court handed down the Loving decision overturning laws that forbade interracial marriage in 16 states; in the film’s final cut there’s still an outdated line referring to the possibility that the young couple’s nuptials could be illegal (as Obama’s parents’ marriage would have been in, say, Virginia). In that same year of 1967, L.B.J.’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, offered his resignation when his daughter, a Stanford student, announced her engagement to a black Georgetown grad working at NASA. (Johnson didn’t accept it.)
Do you remember a time when it was unusual to see an interracial couple? Did you hear racist remarks about such a situation? Do you think prejudicial attitudes have changed completely, or do such couples still face challenges?


JCK said...

I live in Southern California and it is quite common here to see interracial couples. But, when I lived in Georgia 10 years ago, it was always uncomfortable to me when people would stop and stare at an interracial couple. I'm hopeful that that has changed now.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is one of my fave's.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

That monologue! And Hepburn's tears... Oh my.