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Stanley Kramer: The Legacy Lives on DVD

3 Jan, 2008 By: Kyra Kudick

The Stanley Kramer Film Collection

This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most controversial, socially conscious films about racism, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

To celebrate this anniversary and the work of Stanley Kramer, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release a 40th anniversary edition DVD of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner ($24.95) Feb. 12 (prebook Jan. 10).

Also streeting that day is The Stanley Kramer Film Collection ($59.95), which includes Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Ship of Fools, The Wild One, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and The Member of the Wedding. Extensive bonus materials include featurettes and introductions by Steven Spielberg, Tom Brokaw, Quincy Jones and Stanley Kramer's widow, Karen Sharpe Kramer.

The collection was chosen to show the diversity of Stanley's work, Sharpe Kramer said. And the stories surely do — running the gamut from racism, to Nazism, to rabble-rousing biker gangs, to the woes of adolescence, with a little Dr. Seuss musical thrown in for good measure.

Although Stanley Kramer's work is diverse, his legacy is a repeating theme that Sharpe Kramer said can best be described by quoting one of his own films, Judgment at Nuremburg: “[Stanley stood] for justice, truth ... and the value of a single human being.”

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is one of his films that illustrates just that. The movie stars Katharine Houghton, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Yet, with all that talent, the film was almost never made.

According to Sharpe Kramer, when representatives at Columbia Pictures asked Stanley what his new film was about, he vaguely replied, “It's a love story.” He knew the studio heads would balk at the contentious idea of romance between a black man and a white woman in 1967.

But once the film was in production Stanley had to send a complete script to Columbia, Sharpe Kramer said. And the studio promptly canceled the film, citing Spencer Tracy's poor health as an excuse; they said the studio could not afford to insure the picture.

“So Stanley came home and put me in the car and said ‘we're going to see Kate (Katharine Hepburn),’ Sharpe Kramer said. They drove to Hepburn's home, where Stanley told her that Columbia had canceled the film “because of Spence (Spencer Tracy).” Stanley said he was going to put up his salary as collateral so the studio wouldn't have any more excuses, and asked Hepburn if she would do the same. She did. And Guess Who's Coming to Dinner took its place in cinematic history.

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