How do you find yourself playing comedy in front of anyone? Sidney Poitier experienced this on the set of Devine Coming to Dinner … signed by Stanley Kramer. Explanations.
In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, actor Sidney Poitier plays a doctor engaged to a young white girl. When the time comes for her to introduce her lover to her parents at a dinner party, her skin color seems like a big obstacle.
At the start of 1967, Sidney Poitier was 40, with little box-office success but an Oscar for his performance in Le Lys des champs (1963), becoming the first African-American actor to win the Oscar for Best actor. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, he plays the second role in the credits behind Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, who play the parents of his fiancée (played by Katharine Houghton).
It should be remembered that at the time, Hepburn and Tracy were legends of the cinema. The first is a great lady of the theater, nine times nominated for the Oscar and awarded in 1933 for the statuette of Best Actress for Ephemeral Glory. As for Tracy, he has been touring since 1930 (John Ford’s Up The River), has already been nominated eight times for the Oscar and is the proud holder of two Best Actor awards for Captains Courageous and Men are Born.
Suffice to say that on the set of Devine who comes to dinner, Poitier is extremely impressed by these two stars. The actor rubs shoulders with two legends of the cinema and sometimes loses his means, as he tells in his autobiography This Life, published in 1981:
[Face à eux], I couldn’t remember a word. Finally, director Stanley Kramer asked me what we could do about it and I said, “Stanley, send them home. I’m going to play the scene in front of two empty chairs. I don’t want them here because I can’t manage such a presence “. And he sent them home.
How did the scene unfold then? Poitier performed the close-up scene in front of two empty chairs while dialogue repeaters read out lines from Tracy and Hepburn. In the film, if wide shots testify to the fact that the actors were at one point on the set at the same time, Poitier’s tirade is indeed done with him alone in the frame:
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a box office success that the career of Spencer Tracy, seriously ill during the filming, does not benefit: the actor having died 17 days after the filming of the film. The same year in the United States, Poitier is on the bill of Angels with tight fists and In the heat of the night, which will also make good entries in theaters.
Anyone who was looking to enter a little more into the big leagues made a sensational entry.
Like Sidney Poitier, these African-American TV and film personalities were pioneers: