Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Directed by Stanley Kramer, a liberal couple learn that their daughter wants to marry and African-American doctor, and they invite his parents for dinner.
An airplane lands in San Francisco to the song, “Glory of Love.” John Prentice (Sidney Poitier) and Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) walk through the airport and get their baggage. They get in a taxi, and the cab driver notices they are kissing. John suggests he check into a hotel while she goes home, but she wants him to go with her and get it over with. He says she may be in for a big surprise, but she says there is no problem.
Joey tells the cab driver they will only be a minute. She and John go into an art gallery, but her mother is not there. Joey introduces John to Hilary St. George (Virginia Christine). They go back to the cab. Joey says Hilary runs the gallery, but her mother has the good ideas and makes good commissions. The taxi takes them to a beautiful home, and the driver takes the luggage in the house. John pays the cab driver $12 for a $10.50 fare. They go inside, and Joey introduces John to the black maid Tillie (Isabel Sanford). John says not to take his bags upstairs because he is not staying. Joey says they will have lunch on the terrace. John looks around and says it is beautiful. John sees an attractive black woman and asks who that it is. Joey says Dorothy subs when Tillie is off. John says he is calling his parents but is not going to tell them on the phone.
In her bedroom Joey is arguing with Tillie about her objection to the mixed relationship. Joey says she did not expect her to have that attitude because they are good friends too.
Christina Drayton (Katharine Hepburn) comes and tells Joey that Hilary said she had a surprise coming. Joey is excited and says she met a man ten days ago who is wonderful. She fell in love with him in twenty minutes.
John is talking with his dad on the phone and is explaining why he did not stop to see his parents on the way because he met a girl. He says he wanted to meet her folks. He says she is pretty and is only 23. His father asks if he is going to marry the girl. John says there is one or two problems that he will write to him about on the plane tonight.
Joey tells her mother that he was married before, but his wife and child were killed eight years ago. She tells him his name. Her mother sees John come into the room as Joey starts to tell her about his being black. John clears his throat, and Joey gets up and takes his arm, introducing him to her mother. Christina is shocked, but she manages to say that she is pleased to meet him. They shake hands, and he says Joey must have busted out with the big news. Christina says she told her about it very quickly. He says she can’t tell when he is blushing, and they laugh. He indicates he is a doctor and advises Christina to sit down before she falls down. Joey says he means he thinks she might faint. Christina does not think she is going to faint, and she invites them all to sit down. She laughs nervously and says, “My goodness.” Joey asks John what he told his parents. She asks what they said when he told them she was not a colored girl, and he says he did not want to shock them with that news yet. Christina says she knows what he means. Joey suggests they go outside for the sandwiches. As they walk out there Joey says she can explain the whole situation. She says John was lecturing, and she met him there. Since then they have been seeing each other every day. Christina thanks Tillie, and she walks away. Christina says that her husband is coming home early because he is playing golf with Monsignor Ryan. Joey says that John is flying to New York tonight to see a friend at Columbia University. Then he is flying to Geneva to work for three months for the World Health Organization. Joey says she intends to go to Geneva next week so that they can be married. She says that is the whole situation. Joey says that John thinks that his being a Negro and that she is not creates a serious problem. She says she told him 97 times that it would not make a difference to her parents, and that is why they are there. He says that he wanted her to break the news more slowly, but Joey says her father still has to be told. Christine hears the car and tells them to make up their minds.
Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) comes in the house and says hello to Tillie who tells him all hell has broken loose. She says Joey is on the terrace with someone called Dr. Prentice. He asks what is wrong and walks to the terrace. Joey gives him a hug and introduces him to Dr. John Wade Prentice. They shake hands, and Matt asks if something is wrong. Joey says no; she only decided to come home early. She says she and John met in Hawaii, and they flew back on the same plane. They sit down. Matt thought something was wrong because of what Tillie said. Joey says nothing is wrong. Matt says he has a date to play golf. He asks Christina how she is. Matt asks John if he practices in San Francisco or Hawaii. John says he is not in one place but in tropical medicines for the past few years. Matt says that is interesting, and Joey says everything about him is interested. Matt says he has to go, and Joey asks him to stay and talk with them. He says he is late, and Christina says that John will be there for dinner. Joey says there is a great deal to talk about. Matt says he will see them all later and walks away. Then he stops and comes back and asks what is going on. John says it does not make sense. Matt asks Chris to explain, and John says he can explain. Matt asks him what it is. John says it is his fault. He says he and Joey spent a lot of time together, and they have this problem. He fell in love with their daughter, and she fell in love with him. They flew to San Francisco to see if he or her mother would have any objections to their getting married. He says Joanna told her mother right away, but he was hoping there was a way to break it gently. Matt looks at him and sits down. Then he looks at Christina. Joey says her father is making them nervous. Matt tells “Doc” to sit down. Matt asks if his wife raised any objections, and John says there has not been much time. Joey says she did not know she was going to fall in love with a Negro, but she did. Even if they had objections, she would not let him go now even if one of them were the governor of Alabama. She asks her father to tell John if he has any objections, and then he can go play golf. Matt says he needs time to think about this. He says the doctor said they have a problem. He asks if that is reasonable. John agrees it is reasonable; but it is not practical because they are flying to New York tonight. Christina says that Joey wants to marry John in Geneva in the next couple of weeks. Matt asks what is the rush. Joey says they know they want to get married. Unless someone has objections, why should they waste time. She says that John and she are not going to change their minds. Matt asks if they want an answer today about how he and her mother feel, and Joey says of course they do. She says that they want them to say clearly that they have no objections and to give their blessing to their marriage. Matt and Christina both look shocked and worried. Joey asks if he is going to play golf or not, and Matt says no; he will call it off. He excuses himself from the table and walks away. Joey says that is her dad, and she asks John if he likes him. John says he does not know and asks if he likes him. Joey says when he puts on his American eagle face, nobody can tell what he is thinking except her mom. Christina thinks he does not like any of them after the silly way they began. She tells Joey to give John more coffee, and she walks into the house. John tells Joey that her mother is beautiful, even better looking than she is. Joey laughs nervously.
At his desk Matt is calling and motions for Christina to come in. He tells his secretary to cancel his golf game with Ryan because of something personal that came up. Then he wants her to contact the library and ask for information on Dr. John Wade Prentice who is a medical doctor about 35 and is a colored fellow. If they don’t have anything, she should call the medical association and call him back. Christina says there can’t be a need for that, and he says it can’t do any harm. Christina says he was lecturing at the University of Hawaii. He asks her if she ever thought that that might happen, and she says no. He agrees and asks her reaction. She says she was shaken at first and still is. She says they are serious; they mean what they say; and they know what they are doing. He does not agree that they know what they are doing. John knocks on the glass door, and Christina invites him in. He asks for a couple minutes to talk with the two of them. Matt says sure. John says he made a decision, and he does not want Joanna to know about it. He says she thinks she is committed and that their future is settled; but he says there is no real commitment yet. Matt says that Joanna said they were going to be married no matter what her parents think about it. He says that is not the case. Unless they both approve without any reservations, there will not be a marriage. Christina asks why he decided that. He says this has happened so quickly that he is as startled as they are. Two weeks ago he would not have expected this. He says Joanna does not think there is any difference between them. He feels he has all the problems he needs. He could not afford to get married if he had to take on special problems in addition to those they obviously will have. Matt asks what he means by “special problems.” John says their attitudes. She is very close to them. If she damaged those relationships by marrying him, he believes the pain would be too much for her. He would not want to try to deal with that kind of a situation. Matt says he is glad he told them this. John does not want him to misunderstand. He loves his daughter, and he would do anything to keep her happy; but without their approval they would make no sense at all. That is why he is asking for the clearest statement of what their attitude will be. Matt says he appreciates that and that it is almost an ultimatum. John says not quite because all he has to say is goodbye. He thanks them for the opportunity to tell them this and goes out.
Christina asks Matt if she still feels he needs to check on him, and he says no. She says he is right about Joey, and he agrees. She says Joey is the way they brought her up to be. They answered her questions. They told her it was wrong for white people to believe they are superior to black people or any other people. She says they never added that she should not fall in love with a colored man. Matt answers the phone and learns that John is an important guy with an impressive résumé. He was married and had one son, but both were killed in an accident in 1959. Matt says that is enough information and hangs up. Matt finds $2.20 and asks what it is. Christina says he made a phone call to his parents in Los Angeles. Matt says he understands why he does not talk about himself because he wonders who would believe him.
Joey puts a daisy behind John’s ear and laughs. She sits down and asks what he thinks of her parents. He admits they are special people. She says she has been nervous for a whole week about their first reaction. She thought they might let her down for the first time in her life, and they laugh. He calls her a phony.
Christina and Matt look at them through the window. Christina says that Joey was always happy from the time she was a baby, but she has never seen her as happy as she is right now. Christina says she is happy for her and proud that that they made her. She is glad that Joey is Joey.
A van arrives, and a young man delivers a steak fry to Tillie. Dorothy dances to his music and goes outside with him.
Tillie brings the steak into the kitchen and sees through the window that John is talking with Matt. She says civil rights is one thing, but this is something else.
Joey is ironing telling her mother how she first met John on a terrace in the moonlight. She said hello to him, and he asked who she is. Christina notices she is ignoring the ironing and takes over. Joey says he asked her if it would matter, and she realized that she was already in love with him. She asks her mother how long it took her to fall in love with dad, but she says it took longer than twenty minutes. Christina asks how deeply in love they are, and Joey says they have not been in bed together. She says he would not do that because he does not want her to get hurt.
Matt asks John if he thinks they don’t have a better sense of rhythm. John says it is their music they brought here. Matt says his sports editor said Negroes would never be able to play baseball. Now Willie Mays could be elected mayor of San Francisco, but Matt couldn’t get elected dog catcher. He asks John if he has thought about the problems their children will have. John says yes, and they will have children, or it is not really a marriage. Matt asks if Joey feels that way, and John says she thinks their children will be president of the United States. Matt asks how John feels about that problem, and John says he is not as optimistic as Joey; he would settle for secretary of state. Matt admits to him that despite their confidence he is scared. John understands that but suggests that things are changing. Matt feels they are changing much faster in his own backyard. He asks if this quick decision is a little unfair, and John says in a way. He says it was not his idea to settle everything so quickly. His daughter said there is no problem. She told him that her father is a life-long liberal who loathes racial prejudice and has spent his whole life fighting against discrimination. She told him that her parents would welcome him with open arms, and he said he would like to meet them. Joey tells John that he has a phone call from Los Angeles, and Matt tells him to take it in his study. John thanks him and walks into the study.
John is talking to his father, and Joey comes into the room. His father asks him how he feels about the idea of he and his mother flying up there to spend the evening. He says they could take him and his lady-friend out to dinner. Joey says to invite them to dinner. John hesitates, and Joey takes the phone and invites them. John gets the phone back. His father says that she obviously wants to meet them, and so they will see them about six. He says his mother says she is pleased. Before John can say anything more, his father hangs up. Joey laughs and asks John what is the matter with him. She tells her mother that John’s mother and father are coming to dinner. She says, “Oh, good.” Joey says they will meet their plane at 6:30, and Christina tells Joey to tell Tillie. John tells Joey that his parents think she is a colored girl. She asks why he did not tell them, and he says he was going to write to them. She asks what difference it makes and asks if he thinks they wouldn’t come. She tells him to call them back and tell them. She says they will know at 6:30 because she will go with him to meet them. He says that is not a good idea, and it will give him a chance to explain to them. She wants him to meet her best and oldest friend for drinks at 5:30, and he has to let them meet him.
Outside Matt asks Christina if he told her his medical plan, and she says no. He says they put an entire medical school in twenty trucks and go into an African country and teach the brightest kids to be specialists. He says they go where people have never heard of a doctor. He asks if she knows what that means and says that for every thousand kids they train they can save a million lives a year. She puts a rose in his lapel and says he made quite an impression on him. He says how he got so far, and he says he got the best breaks because everybody he met didn’t want him to think they were prejudiced against him. She laughs. Matt admits he made an impression, and he would not know to fault him. She asks if he is trying to fault him, and he says of course not. He says his father is a mailman and is retired now. Matt asks how he could produce such a man, and she says he will find out this evening. She asks him to guess who is coming to dinner, and with surprise he asks if it is his parents. He asks whose idea was that, and she says Joey invited them. He says they are being “pressurized.” First there would be no marriage unless they approved. Then they had one day to decide. Now they have to meet people they never heard of. He is upset and takes the rose out of his lapel and gives it back to her.
Joey is showing John an album of photographs. She gets up to answer the doorbell, and Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway) comes in. She introduces him to Dr. John Prentice, and she says they are going to be married. Ryan says he is the problem then, and John laughs and says he is. He asks why her parents did not inform him, and she says they didn’t know either until today. She says she forgot to tell Tillie something and excuses herself. Ryan asks John if they have had time to consider what they are doing, and he says no, they have not.
Joey goes to the kitchen and says there will be two more for dinner. Tillie says she got four steaks. Joey tells her to get two more because his parents are coming for dinner. Joey goes out, and Tillie says it is getting more like a holy rollers meeting every minute.
Ryan tells John that he read about him, and he asks Joey if she knows that John is an important man. She is aware of that and says when she is married to him, she will be important too. Ryan agrees with her and asks where Arnold Palmer is. She says her parents are in the garden, and he goes out to see them. Joey tells John that Ryan is their closest friend even though they are not Catholics. His parents and he have done things and been on committees together. She says he is a wonderful man, and they love him.
Outside Christina tells Mike Ryan that he is a remarkable man, and Matt asks if he met John. Ryan says he is a handsome fellow and that Joey is absolutely radiant and is warming his heart. Matt asks if he is a little shocked, but Ryan says he has known many cases of inter-racial marriages. He says they usually work out quite well, maybe because it requires special efforts with consideration and compassion than in most marriages. Christina says that is a beautiful thought. He says it is his trade, and she laughs. He looks at Matt and says he is making heavy weather of it. He says that John is famous and has done incredible work in Asia and Africa. Joey calls her mother and says Hilary is there to see her. Christina excuses herself and tells Ryan to express more beautiful thoughts to Matt.
Hilary tells Joey and John that she is curious, and Joey says they are going to be married. Hilary is surprised and tells Christina that congratulations are in order and that she didn’t even know. Christina smiles and asks Hilary what the problem is that she came all the way up here. She says Mr. Caslet called, and Christina excuses them and says she will walk her to her car. Hilary wishes them happiness as Christina takes her out.
Out front Hilary says this is shocking, and she asks Christina what she is going to do about it. Hilary admits that she was curious, and she says Joey has done something appallingly stupid. Christina tells her not to worry about it and opens the car door for her. She instructs Hilary to go back to the gallery and tell Jennifer to look after things for a while. She is to make out a check for $5,000 and carefully remove everything that would remind her of herself and then take the check, which she feels she deserves, and get permanently lost. She does not want to know her because they are not the sort of people she could afford to be associated with. She tells Hilary not to say anything but just go. Hilary drives off.
Joey points out a tall boy in the photo album she might have married, but he fell for some girl from Pomona. Christina comes back. Joey tells her that Hilary was being a bitch, and she wishes she would fire her. Christina asks how she can be so hard, and she warns John that she has a ruthless streak that she gets from her father. She leaves the room.
Ryan is telling Matt that they will have special problems and will need all the help they can get. Christina returns and tells him to continue. He says they know all that. If they still accept it, then they must love each other very much. Any two people who love each other that much deserve all the best luck in the world. Matt says he does not know, and he feels they will never make it, that the whole thing is impossible. Ryan realizes that he is really disturbed by it. He says it is amusing to see a broken-down phony liberal coming face to face with his principles. He smirks and says he believes in that revolutionary façade there must be a reactionary bigot fighting to get out. Matt tells him to go to hell, if he and his crowd are still preaching hell. Ryan gets up and says he is off even though he is enjoying his discomfort. He hopes to save a few souls before supper. He says he is free for dinner, and Christina invites him for dinner at 7:30 with John’s parents from Los Angeles. He says then they will need him; otherwise their side will not outnumber the blacks. He kisses Christina and begins to leave, stopping to quote the Beatles, saying “We can work it out” and laughing.
Ryan tells Joey and John that he wangled an invitation to dinner, and Joey is delighted. He shakes hands with John and says they make him feel extraordinarily happy. He leaves, and Joey says she has to tell Tillie.
Tillie is trimming the crust of a pie as Joey comes in and asks her to guess who is coming to dinner now. Tillie says the reverend Martin Luther King, and Joey laughs. Joey says Monsignor Ryan is coming, and she asks for a bedroom be prepared so that Mr. Prentice can shower and change.
In the rose garden Matt asks Christina if they can get out of there for a while and take a ride, and she says sure. Christina says that Joey and John are visiting her friends before going to the airport. Matt tells Christina to come on.
Matt is driving the car and asks Christina whatever happened to Homer. He suggests they get some ice cream, and they stop. He orders Oregon blackberry sherbet, and Christina asks for black coffee. She says Joey is lucky because of the good work John is doing. She remembers when she was a help to Matt and felt that was the best time for her. The waitress brings the ice cream and coffee. He says he never had that kind, but he likes it.
John has his shirt off in a bedroom, and Tillie comes in and asks him what he is trying to pull there. He says he is not trying to pull anything, but he is looking to find him a wife. She asks what kind of a doctor he is, and he asks her if she would believe “horse” and laughs. She says he is not fooling her because she knows he is one of those “smooth-talking, smart-ass niggers” out for all you can get with your black power and all that other trouble-making nonsense. She says she brought up that girl from her cradle, and nobody is going to harm her while she is there watching. She asks if he reads her and says he is not that good-looking. She goes out and slams the door.
Matt thanks the waitress for the ice cream and backs up the car into a newly painted jalopy. He gets out of the car, and a black man calls him “a stupid idiot.” Matt says he has insurance and asks how much it will cost to fix it. The man says it will cost $30 or $40, and Matt gives him $50 and tells him to buy a new one. Matt drives the car and complains that he ran into one of them.
In a bar a woman is singing “Glory of Love.” Joey and John at a table are talking with Frankie and Peter. Frankie says they lived together for two years before they got married. Joey proposes a toast and says John only calls her Joanna, and she is getting to like it. They drink. Peter says that Matt Drayton stands for something, and his newspaper is great. Frankie asks Joey why she is not flying to Geneva with John. Joey suggests they leave tonight, and John laughs.
Christina and Matt come in the house, and she tells him he has to tell them how he feels. He says he needs more than one day. He is not going to pretend that he is happy about the whole thing because he is not. He is only thinking of Joey’s welfare. He thinks they both are going to get their brains knocked out. He says Christina is not acting in her best interest. He goes upstairs, and Christina walks outside at sunset and looks at the Golden Gate bridge.
At night at the airport a plane has landed, and Joey on the phone tells her mother they could go to Geneva tonight. John tells Mr. Prentice (Roy Glenn) and Mrs. Prentice (Beah Richards) that there is one thing he did not explain. He says it is going to be kind of a shock as Joey walks toward them. They see her, and they are dumbfounded. John introduces her to them, and she shakes hands with them. John says they can explain. He suggests they go get their bags. He asks Joey what her folks said, and she says all is well; but she only talked with her mom.
In the bathroom Matt is shaving, and Christina tells him he can’t break their hearts during drinks and then expect them to sit down to dinner. He says he realizes that. He says after dinner he will tell the doctor how he feels. She wants him to understand how wrong he is. She thinks it is the greatest mistake he ever made. He says she is as wrong as she could be. She says that the doctor will accept what he says because he said he would; but she says Joey won’t. He is under-estimating her, and she will fight him. Christina says that she never thought she would say it; but she will be on her side. Matt does not believe she would say that either. She offers to get him another drink, but he says he will get it himself.
In the car Joey is driving, and John’s parents are in the back seat. Mrs. and Mr. Prentice want to know how her parents have reacted. Joey asks them to call her Joanna, and she says they were shaken. They were stunned because she wanted to marry someone they never heard of. Mr. Prentice says they are behaving like escaped lunatics. John says it happened quickly, and it is like trying to ride a rocket. He realizes it is hard on her parents and on them. He says if they have objections, they should hurry because in four hours they are getting on a plane to Geneva. Mr. Prentice says he could not list all his objections in four hours, and John says he will have to talk fast.
Christina comes downstairs and answers the door, welcoming Ryan who kisses her. He says she is the loveliest woman he has ever known. She offers him a drink, and he asks for Scotch. She starts to cry, and he asks her what is the matter. She says they are in terrible trouble. John told them that he would not marry Joey unless they both approved the marriage; but he did not tell Joey that. She says neither knows that Matt has said that he cannot approve. She says he is upstairs changing, and he is not himself. Ryan says that is incredible and leaves the room. Tillie asks Christina if they are going to stop the nonsense and foolishness.
Matt is dressing and tells Ryan that he has been boxed into a corner. He is not going to tell them they cannot marry; he does not have the right to do that. Ryan warns him that he is about to destroy all the happiness in one of the happiest families he knows. They talk about how Christina is in favor of the marriage as if there were no problems. Ryan says that they know about the problems. Christina has more respect for Joey’s judgment than he does. Matt gets angry, and Ryan says he is angry with himself because in a single day he has been thrown off balance. He has gone back on himself, and in his heart he knows it. Ryan says for thirty years he has admired no man more than Matt, but for the first time he feels sorry for him. Matt asks if he is capable of being in his position. He asks how he could know how a father feels. He says they have not even a dog’s chance, not in this country. Ryan says they are this country, and they will change this stinking world. Matt disagrees, and Ryan wishes he could wrestle him to the floor. They hear the car.
Christina opens the door and welcomes Mr. and Mrs. Prentice, and she takes their coats and hats. Joey asks Christina if she told Matt about the flight, and she says he was surprised. John asks if he wants to talk to him, and she says he does later. The Prentices admire the view, and they all sit down. Christina asks John to be bartender, and he gets the drinks. They talk about the flight, and Mr. Prentice says it only took forty minutes. Mr. Prentice asks if they are Catholics, and Christina says they are not, though the Monsignor is an old friend. Matt and Ryan come in, and meet them. Joey suggests they could talk about flying over to Geneva for the wedding. Matt assumes they told them about their plans, and Joey says only when eloping is it kept a secret. Matt says they are rushing it, and Mr. Prentice agrees with him. Christina asks Mrs. Prentice to see the view from the terrace, and they go outside.
Christina asks Mrs. Prentice if she has had a chance to speak privately to John. Christina asks if she is shocked that her son is involved with a white girl. She admits she is surprised but not shocked. Christina admits she was shocked at first, but now she understands they love each other deeply. Mrs. Prentice asks if she is going to tell her that she approves the marriage, but her husband won’t. Mrs. Prentice says her husband won’t approve either. She says they have to trust that John and Joey know what they are doing, but her husband will not do that.
Matt says they are having quite a conversation out there. Mr. Prentice asks Matt if they can have a few words, and they go into his study. Ryan asks for another drink with the doctor, but Joey says no and says she is going up to pack.
In the study Mr. Prentice asks Matt if he approves of this. If he does, he thinks he is out of his mind.
John tells Ryan he knows what his father will say, but he asks Ryan if he knows what Matt might be saying. Ryan says he was sorry to hear that John said he would withdraw if he encountered any opposition. John stands up, and Christina tells him that his mother wants to talk to him. He goes outside. Tillie says dinner is ready when they are, but Christina says they are not ready.
Mr. Prentice has learned that Matt agrees with him. Matt advises him to talk to John himself.
Outside John tells his mother that if they didn’t approve, there would be no marriage. His mother says Christina does approve and said she would even drive them to the airport. She says she feels the same way. Mrs. Drayton said that Joanna would not give him up. Mrs. Prentice says it depends on how much John wants her. He says he wants her. He says she knows how it was for him for the past eight years. He says in the past few days it is like he is alive again. Matt comes out and tells John that his father wants to talk to him. John goes into the study. Matt tells Mrs. Prentice that her husband is very upset by all this, and she understands that Matt is too. He says it is a difficult problem. She asks for whom, he and her husband? She says they can solve the problem by telling them they are against them, and then there will be no problem. He asks if she is happy about the situation. She says it is not a night for talking about happiness because it is an unhappy situation. He asks her if he wants either one of them to be hurt, and she says no, no more than her husband; but she says they will be hurt worse than her husband or he knows.
In the study Mr. Prentice tells his son that Matt is as much against it as he is, maybe more. He asks John to listen to him. He does not want to run his life, but he says he never made a mistake like this before. He has only been a source of pride all his life; but he does not know what he is doing. It happened so fast, and he admitted that. He has to stop and think. He says in sixteen states it is against the law, and they would criminals. Even if they change the law, people’s feelings would not change. Suddenly he is way out of line. John says that is for him to decide and not to tell him that. Mr. Prentice tells him not to say that to him. He says how hard he worked to get him the opportunities he had. His mother did without things, like a coat. He asks if he is going to break his mother’s heart.
Outside Mrs. Prentice asks Matt what happens to men when they grow old. She says those young people need each other. She says he and her husband are blind because they can only see that they have a problem. Have they asked how they feel about each other? She believes that when men get old and sex becomes less important, they forget what true passion is. She says they knew once, but now they don’t know. For her and his wife it is strange that they don’t even remember, or they would not be doing what they are doing.
Mr. Prentice says maybe his wife has gone haywire too, but this is between the two of them. John agrees with that. John tells his father to listen to him. He says he has been telling him how to live his life. He says he owes him nothing because he did what he was supposed to do, like he will for his son if he has another. He does not own him because he does not know him and how he feels and what he thinks. He says his father is thirty years older than he is. His generation believes that things have to be the way they were for them. He says he and that generation has to get off his back. John looks at his father and says he loves him, and he always will. He says he thinks of himself as a “colored man” while he thinks of himself as a man. He has to make a decision alone and in a hurry. He asks him to go out and see after his mother. Mr. Prentice leaves the study.
Matt is alone thinking outside.
Joey whirls in her bedroom and hugs her mother. She hopes she will talk John’s parents into flying over with her, and she knows they can afford it. Joey says John’s father may make it tough for him, but she says his mother is lovely. They both like her already. Christina asks about her own father, and Joey hugs her again.
Matt paces on the porch thinking.
Ryan tells the Prentices that in the midst of this heartbreaking distress he is stumped. Mr. Prentice starts to say what they need to understand, but his wife tells him not to say anymore.
Matt swears at himself and goes into the study. John tells him to close the door. John says he didn’t have the guts to tell him face to face; but Matt says he has something to say, and he is ready to say it. He asks if he is going to stay in there. Matt leaves the study.
Christina tells Joey that she is completely sympathetic, but she has to tell her something about this situation. Then they hear Matt telling them to come down.
They all gather in the living-room. Matt says it has been an extraordinary day, and now he has to make some personal statements. He reviews the day and says it began when Tillie said something to him. He goes and brings her in and has her sit down. He says he responded to the news as any father might. His daughter said the marriage was on no matter what they said. Then John told them that he would not marry her unless they approved. Joey is surprised and asks John if he said that. Matt tells his daughter to shut up. He says his wife ignored the practical aspects of the situation and was carried away in a romantic haze. His reverence forced his way into the situation and filled his ears with platitudes before challenging him to a wrestling match. He asks John when his plane leaves, and he says 10:45. Matt says that Mr. Prentice asked if he was a nut, and Mrs. Prentice told him he could not even remember what it is like to love a woman the way her son loves his daughter. He says he disagrees with that statement. He admits he did not think about it, but there is nothing John feels for his daughter that he did not feel for Christina. He says the memories are still there. He says John’s mistake was attaching so much importance to what he and his wife think. The only thing that matters is what they feel for each other. If it is half of what they felt, it is enough. He says the problems they will have seem unimaginable, but they will have no problem with him. When they get a chance to work on his father, he is sure they will not have a problem with him either. Matt says 100 million people in this country will be shocked and appalled, and they will have to ride it out every day for the rest of their lives. He says they can ignore them or feel sorry for them, but they will have to cling to each other. He says the arguments against their marriage are obvious, but they are two wonderful people who have fallen in love with a “pigmentation problem.” He thinks that now the worse thing would be if they didn’t get married. After a pause he asks Tillie when they are getting dinner. They all stand up and go into the dining-room and sit down at the table.
This drama depicts the changes in race relations happening during this era when blacks and liberals are working for civil rights and racial integration. In this most personal of situations the liberal parents have to come to terms with the consequences resulting from the way they brought up their daughter to see Negroes as equals. In this case the women are more immediately sympathetic because they are more feeling oriented and understand the love more quickly than the men who think about the practical problems. Yet the message comes across that love is more powerful than hatred and fear.