Nominated for ten Academy Awards, this comedy-drama achieves classic status for several reasons. The first and most obvious is its early exploration of interracial marriage, a still-taboo subject at a time when violent racial riots were igniting in cities across the United States. Director Stanley Kramer, known for dissecting serious social issues in films such as Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), as well as for his sense of humor in films such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), blends his sensibilities beautifully. He and screenwriter William Rose (Best Original Screenplay) inject welcome humor while allowing the audience to peek into the hearts of liberal whites and wary blacks, without proselytizing. Film history is made as well: In Spencer Tracy's last film role (he died weeks after production), he delivers a monologue to Katherine Hepburn (Best Actress) about the persistence of long-lasting love that is heartbreaking considering the imminent end of their real-life romance. The collaboration represents Kramer's fourth with Tracy and second with Sidney Poitier, who brilliantly portrays Dr. John Prentice's perfect gentleman with humor, grit, and charisma. In the same year, Poitier starred in To Sir, With Love (1967) and In the Heat of the Night (1967), which won Best Picture. Film newcomer and Hepburn's real-life niece Katharine Houghton is a delight as Tracy and Hepburn's bright and independent daughter whose love for Dr. Prentice is fierce and fearless, if a bit naive. Isabel Sanford, Cecil Kellaway, and Beah Richards lead a rich supporting cast in a film that, like so many works of art that broke new ground, has come to seem dated in its cautious, watered-down attitude, but which deserves to be applauded and celebrated for its courage, incendiary in its time.
by Lisa Kropiewnicki review