Acting

Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – Movie Monologue Monday

This week we’re looking at Spencer Tracy’s remarkable performance in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Joanna (Katharine Houghton) has brought her new fiancee (Sidney Poitier) home to meet her parents (Tracy and Katharine Hepburn). The main conflict of the film is that her fiancee is black. Interracial marriages were almost unheard of at the time this film was made.

This speech is the climax of the film.

It’s important to note the Tracy was deathly ill while making the movie. He was only able to be on set a couple of hours a day and he died just 17 days after production wrapped. It’s remarkable that he was able to deliver such a brilliant performance (a 7+ minute long monologue) under those circumstance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXzT7od_aiI&rel=0&iv_load_policy=3

Class Exercise

  • Watch the video and discuss these questions. Don’t worry about whether or not everyone has seen the whole movie. Fill in the missing details using what you see, hear, and imagine.
  • Most of the camera work in the monologue is very still. How does this choice support the performance?
  • There is no music at all in the scene. Would adding music make the scene better or is the silence important? If you had to choose one song to end the scene with, what would it be?
  • What would you say is the climax of the speech?
  • What statement in the monologue has the greatest impact on you?
  • At around the 6:20 mark the camera begins a long circular move. Why do you think they made this choice?
  • It is often said that acting is reacting. Discuss the importance of the other actors in the scene.
  • This is a very long monologue. It’s over 7 minutes long. But notice how much “space” he gives it. Notice how slowly and deliberately he speaks and how he pauses to let his words resonate. What can be learned from this?

About the author

Craig Mason