Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Columbia Classics – Volume 4 (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Mar 19, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Columbia Classics – Volume 4 (4K UHD Review)


Stanley Kramer

Release Date(s)

1967 (February 13, 2024)


Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B+

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


[Editor’s Note: Though we’re reviewing the films in the set one by one, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is currently only available on physical 4K disc in Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4 box set. It’s available on Amazon by clicking here, or on any of the artwork pictured in this review.]

Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4 (4K UHD)

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a unanimous decision in the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated anti-miscegenation laws across the country. Richard and Mildred Loving had actually married each other in 1958, been prosecuted under Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act in 1959, and served a suspended sentence as long as they agreed not to return to Virginia for 25 years. It ended up only taking eight years for them to move back, once SCOTUS finally heard their appeal and issued a decision in 1967. The majority opinion by Chief Justice Earl Warren held that distinctions drawn according to race were subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14 Amendment, and that anti-miscegenation laws served no legitimate purpose "independent of invidious racial discrimination." Of course, as with the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the reality is that declaring a law unconstitutional doesn’t invalidate the prejudices that led to its creation, so interracial marriage was still a hot topic in 1967 and would remain one for years to come.

That’s the context that led to independent producer/director Stanley Kramer bringing William Rose’s script for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner to Columbia Pictures. Loving v. Virgina wouldn’t be decided until after the production wrapped, although the film wasn’t released until December of 1967. Still, SCOTUS actually accepted the case late in 1966, and oral arguments were held in April of 1967, so the story was as topical as it could possibly be. Yet the only thing that screenplay bears in common with the travails of the real-life Richard and Mildred Loving is the subject of interracial marriage. Rose and Kramer made the crucial decision to move their story out of the working-class milieu of rural Virginia and into the world of wealth and privilege in upper-class San Francisco instead. While they had understandable reasons for doing so at the time, the altered setting and the nature of the characters has complicated the film’s legacy ever since.

Joanna Drayton (Katherine Houghton) returns from vacation in the arms of Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). The two met in Hawaii and after a whirlwind courtship, they decided to get married. When they return to Joanna’s home in San Francisco, her parents Matt (Spencer Tracy) and Christina (Katharine Hepburn) are taken aback at the fact that their daughter wants to marry a black man. Matt is the publisher and editor of a newspaper known for its staunch advocacy of progressive causes, and Christina runs an art gallery, so they’re both wealthy liberals who are uncomfortable having to face the reality of their own ideals. When John’s parents John Sr. (Roy E. Glenn, Sr.) and Mary (Beah Richards) find out, they’re no less concerned that their son wants to marry a white woman. Even the Drayton’s black housekeeper Tillie (Isabel Sandford) is opposed to the marriage. Together with the Drayton’s family friend Monsignor Mike Ryan (Cecil Kellaway), everyone involved meets for dinner at the Drayton’s San Francisco home to try to work out their differences.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner has all the subtlety that you would expect from a Stanley Kramer film, which is to say, none whatsoever. Yet Kramer’s real gift was that he was able to drive his points home with a sledgehammer while still making entertaining, gripping, and even hilarious films. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is no exception, although the nature of the story does sometimes blunt the intentions behind it. Kramer and Rose chose to make John Prentice a successful and internationally renowned medical doctor, which laudably broke with the black stereotypes that were common in film and television at that time. Their idea was that the only possible objections that Joanna’s parents could raise about the impending marriage would be based on John’s race, not on anything else about him. Yet the flip side to that is that it makes him more easily palatable to them. If John was a middle-class postman like his father, or a working-class person like either of the Lovings, and if he wasn’t as dashingly handsome as Sidney Poitier, then the Draytons would be forced to confront their own prejudices far more directly. After all, if it’s wrong to oppose a marriage based on someone’s race, then it’s wrong regardless of the circumstances.

Still, baby steps. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was a step along the journey, not the final destination. Where the film really scores is in terms of the way that it confronts the hypocrisy of middle-class and upper-class white liberalism, and in that respect, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner really nails its target. Mark Drayton may be willing to speak truth to power while safely ensconced within the confines of his newspaper offices or in the comfort and privilege of his home, it’s a different story when issues land in his own backyard. It’s a Stanley Kramer film, so that point is openly verbalized in Rose’s dialogue, but the delightful Cecil Kellaway still manages to sell it no matter how on-the-nose that his lines may be. When Mark tells Monsignor Ryan that the whole situation is impossible, Kellaway really nails his response:

"Oh! You feel that way, do you? Huh. You’re really thrashing about, then. That’s very interesting, indeed. And rather amusing, too, to see a broken-down old phony liberal come face to face with his principles. Of course, I have always believed that in that fighting liberal facade, there must be some sort of reactionary bigot trying to get out."

Of course, it’s Tracy who had to bear the weight of delivering Drayton’s decisive closing speech to everyone else, and he was more than up to the task despite the fact that he was terminally ill at the time. (He passed away days after the production wrapped.) He was greatly aided by the performance of his real-life love Katherine Hepburn, whose tears were quite real as she watched him speak what would end up being his final words on screen. The rest of the cast clearly felt it as well, and in that regard, Beah Richards is one of the unsung heroes of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Her facial reactions while her character processes Drayton processing what she said to him earlier provides the real turning point of the film. Everything ends on a hopeful note, and Richards is as responsible for making that work as Tracy, Hepburn, Poitier, Houghton, or anyone else. Thanks to these fine actors and everyone involved, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner sticks the landing no matter how dated some aspects of it may appear today.

Cinematographer Sam Leavitt shot Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on 35mm film using spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. As Grover Crisp lays out in his detailed restoration notes, the negative for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was reformatted in 1993 from single-strand printing for the fades and dissolves to dual-strand A and B printing, and while the negative was starting to fade, no further work was done to it at that time. In 2022 it was scanned at 4K resolution by Cineric, Inc. in New York, which also handled the initial restoration work. Further restoration and grading were performed at Motion Picture Imaging in Burbank, including the new High Dynamic Range grades in both Dolby Vision and HDR10.

This is going to sound like a broken record by the time that we reach the end of this set, but the results are as impeccable as you would expect given everyone who was involved. Crisp does say that the negative was in relatively good shape, but any minor damage or other blemishes that may have existed on it have been meticulously cleaned up here. Aside from the optical work and a few shots where Leavitt used diffusion filters, everything looks as sharp and clear as it possibly can. The textures are perfectly resolved, and so is the original film grain. Those faded colors have been restored to their full glory here, but without succumbing to the temptation to exaggerate them—the lab work may have been done at Technicolor, but this isn’t a 3-strip Technicolor production, and it shouldn’t look like one. Everything looks natural and filmic instead. It’s an accurate representation of how a film that was shot in 1967 should still appear today, and that’s all anyone could ask for.

Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio. The new Atmos mix that was created at Deluxe Audio Services in Hollywood builds on the work that Chace Audio already did to create the previous 5.1 remix, which is the one that’s included here. The original mono track is also included for anyone who isn’t interested in remixes, but it would be a serious mistake to dismiss this new Atmos mix without giving it a chance first. It’s astonishingly good, or rather it would be astonishing if not for the fact that Sony has already been setting the benchmark for how to update older mixes into newer audio formats without losing the original sonic character. The biggest beneficiary of that is the score by Frank De Vol and the various versions of the Billy Hill classic Glory of Love that are sung throughout the film, which have much greater depth and presence to them in Atmos (especially the opening title track). The original sound effects have been placed naturalistically throughout the listening space to create a fully immersive environment, but not in a way that lets them call too much attention to themselves. It’s easy to get drawn into the environments of the film while you’re being drawn into the story without ever being distracted by what the sound effects are doing, which is the ideal way to update an older mix like this.

Additional audio options include French, German, Italian, Spanish (Spain), and Spanish (Latin America) 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Traditional, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.

Sony’s 4K release of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is the second film in their Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4. The set also includes His Girl Friday, Kramer vs. Kramer, Starman, Sleepless in Seattle, and Punch-Drunk Love. The packaging is similar to the other three volumes, with two wings that open up, each of which houses three films in individual Amaray cases with slipcovers. (The inserts use the original theatrical poster artwork, while the slipcovers offer new artwork.) At the back of the box is a separate compartment that houses a hardbound book featuring essays on each film by different authors (Sarita Cannon, in this case) as well as individual restoration notes by Grover Crisp, Rita Belda, and the late James Owsley, who passed away in 2022.

All of the films in the collection include a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film, most of them based on the same 4K masters as the UHDs (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Kramer vs. Kramer appear to be the exceptions.) There’s also a paper insert tucked inside with Digital codes for each film. The Blu-ray is just a repressing of the 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray from Sony, so it doesn’t offer any new extras, although a different archival extra has been ported over on the UHD:


  • Audio Commentary with Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo
  • Theatrical Teaser (HD – 1:04)

This commentary was originally recorded for the 2015 Limited Edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time. It wasn’t included on the 2017 Sony Blu-ray, probably because Twilight Time was still in business at that point, but thankfully it’s been preserved here after the untimely demise of the company in 2020. It teams up Lee Pfeiffer, founder and editor of Cinema Retro magazine, with video engineer Paul Scrabo and author/historian Eddy Friedfeld. They provide some insight into the historical context surrounding Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and spend some time analyzing the compromises that Kramer had to make to bring the story to the screen. Rose’s script was far more racially charged (and arguably insensitive) than what Kramer ended up shooting, and he was careful about details like keeping the John Prentice character so harmless and inoffensive. Even the sole interracial kiss in the film was handled relatively discretely. While the commenters do disagree on a few points (and even talk over each other occasionally), they all agree that Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a love letter to romance, friendship, and family. They close the track by recommending a few books to anyone who wants to learn more about the film.


  • Introductions:
    • Introduction by Steven Spielberg (HD – 1:08)
    • A Message from Quincy Jones (HD – 2:53)
    • Introduction by Karen Kramer (HD – 2:50)
    • Introduction by Tom Brokaw (HD – 2:47)
  • A Love Story of Today (HD – 29:53)
  • A Special Kind of Love (HD – 17:15)
  • Stanley Kramer: A Man’s Search for Truth (HD – 16:56)
  • Stanley Kramer Accepts the Irving Thalberg Award (HD – 2:03)
  • 2007 Producer’s Guild “Stanley Kramer” Award Presentation to Al Gore (HD – 4:38)
  • Photo Gallery (HD – 4:10)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:37)

The rest of the extras were originally created for the 2007 40th Anniversary DVD, and then carried forward to the 2017 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray that’s the source for this repressed disc. The various Introductions are brief looks at the legacy of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner from a diverse set of perspectives, including that of Stanley Kramer’s widow Karen. They can be played individually or as a group.

A Love Story of Today is a look at the making of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and its cultural impact, featuring new interviews with Katherine Houghton, Will Mead (aka “Skip Martin”), Karen Kramer, editor Robert Jones, script supervisor Marshall Schlom, and Sidney Poitier’s agent Martin Buam, as well as archival interviews with Stanley Kramer. It also includes new analytical interviews with Louis Gossett Jr., Garry Marshall, Norman Jewison, critic Joe Morgenstern, and author/educator Salome Thomas-El. It opens with Kramer being quoted as saying that “love conquers all” is the main theme of the picture, a statement that Gossett echoes. Houghton expands on that to say that while the movie is a love story between Dr. John Prentiss and Joanna Drayton, it’s just as much the love story between Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Since Columbia was nervous about the story, they used the fact that they couldn’t get insurance for Tracy as an excuse to decline producing the film. Yet Kramer and Hepburn ended up forcing their hand by putting up their own salaries as collateral, and Tracy was able to make his final cinematic stand. Love truly does conquer all.

A Special Kind of Love continues on the foundation laid by A Love Story of Today, focusing on that real love story behind the fictional one. In addition to interviews with the same group of participants, it adds archival interviews with Katherine Hepburn (as well as more with Stanley Kramer). Houghton admits that it wasn’t a fun film to make, because they knew right from the beginning that Tracy was dying and he might not even make it to the end of the production. As challenging as every day on the set may have been, shooting the final speech was the most difficult of all, but once it was over, Tracy confidently told Kramer that “if I die going home today, you’ve got it.”

Stanley Kramer: A Man’s Search for the Truth broadens the scope to provide an overview of Stanley Kramer’s entire career and his desire to express universal truths in his work. Karen Kramer, Norman Jewison, Garry Marshall, Marshall Schlom, and Loius Gossett, Jr. all return, joined by actors and filmmakers Dick Van Dyke, Beau Bridges, Dennis Hopper, Alec Baldwin, and Taylor Hackford. They all agree that he broke as much ground in terms of his independence as a producer as he did in the content of his films.

The rest of the extras include archival footage of Kramer receiving the Irving Thalberg Award, Al Gore receiving the Stanley Kramer Award from the Producer’s Guild, a Photo Gallery, and the Theatrical Trailer. (The Theatrical Teaser wasn’t included on Sony’s Blu-ray release of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner but it was on Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, so that’s why it’s added to the UHD instead of being present here.) The only thing that’s missing is an isolated score track that was included on Twilight Time’s disc as well as the 2016 Blu-ray from Powerhouse Films in the U.K.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (4K UHD) Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (4K UHD)

The whole package is interesting, because it mixes fluff pieces like the Introductions with some genuinely valuable material like the three different documentaries, but it all feels like it’s more than enough. New extras are always welcome, but there just doesn’t seem to be the need for any of them in this case. It’s a solid set of extras that still does the job of supporting Sony’s stellar new 4K restoration of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. While some people are inevitably going to be dissatisfied with the selection of titles included in each volume of the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection series, there’s more than enough memorable ones in Vol. 4 to make the set worth the hefty purchase price. As always, though, your own mileage may vary.

- Stephen Bjork

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