And the Winner Is ... Milk

When director Stanley Kramer made Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, interracial marriage was still illegal in 16 states. Now his widow explains why she chose the similarly influential Milk to receive this year's Stanley Kramer Award.   

BY Greg Fieser

January 13 2009 12:00 AM ET

 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner still x390 (publicity) | Advocate.com

Why do you think the vote didn’t turn out the way
we wanted?
I think people were confused by the wording. I
think the whole thing was designed to confuse and
separate people.

Do you think that was intentional? Possibly. We always have problems when
Republicans are in office. It’s their way.

I’ve heard that you liken Milk to Stanley
Kramer’s very controversial and socially
altering Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Oh yes. When Guess Who’s Coming to
Dinner
was made, interracial marriage was still
illegal in 16 states. No one wanted to make that film.
People were scared of it. Our lives were threatened
[because of it]. But we knew it had to be made. It was the
issue of our times, and I truly believe that it helped
soften the blow that Americans were feeling around
interracial marriage. Fortunately, by the time it was
released, [a U.S. Supreme Court decision had come down]
legalizing interracial marriage in all the states.
Still the studio tried to hide it. We only opened in
one little theater in Westwood. But you know what?
When it opened, there was a line 15 blocks long just to get
into that one theater. People wanted to see it. They
needed to see it. You have to fight for change. It
doesn’t come easy. People are resistant to change.
But I’m a fighter. I’m a Kramer. That’s
what we do. I stand up because if you don’t,
things happen that you don’t want to happen. I
couldn’t be married to Stanley for 35 years if
I wasn’t like that.

Did you run into opposition when you chose
Milk for the award?
Yes, but I never wavered. People have told me
for years, “I’ll do your next film if
you give me the award,” but I can’t be bought.
The film has to be worthy. You know, Stanley was the
first person to break the blacklist. In 1957 he made
The Defiant Ones and hired two blacklist
writers and used their real names. At the time the
poor blacklisted writers were working under aliases for
practically nothing, but Stanley paid those two more
money than anybody had been paid in 17 years. He put
them in an office right next to him. He even hired
them as actors. And when the credits rolled, he put their
names right under their faces as if to say “not
on my watch, you don’t.” That’s the
kind of man he was, and that’s the kind of spirit
this award has to carry.

Tags: film

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