You can learn a lot from television, if you are alert, and usually not what they want you expected.
My local oldies station has been running Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner incessantly for about a month. I’ve watched the whole thing several times and bits and pieces here and there as well. If you don’t remember the story, in 1967, a very handsome, very black man (Sidney Poitier) wants to marry a very pretty, very blonde white girl (Katherine Houghton). They spring this on her liberal parents and complications ensue.
I like the movie despite its obvious problems. I even forgive that it ends with a fifteen minute monolog by the grumpy, old white guy (Spencer Tracy), as he puts everybody else in their places.
The movie is dated and excessively, even simplistically, sweet. It is unrealistic that the black guy in question is such a moral superman and so terminally handsome. Never mind; the movie’s heart was in the right place and it probably did some good. And it was 1967, after all.
But there’s something else to be learned from this movie beyond what the producer intended. The next time you see it, take a look at Dorothy (no last name, played by Barbara Randolph), a minor character, assistant housekeeper and a drop-dead gorgeous black girl.
Or is she? Stand her up in your imagination half way between Poitier and Houghton. She is half as black as he is, and half as white as she is. How did that happen! And why do we accept her as black without even thinking about it?
The whole movie is based on the shock that everyone feels when Poitier and Houghton decide to marry, but no one even takes notice of the obvious product of four hundred years of interracial sex, married or otherwise, strutting her stuff in the background.