Stanley Kramer was a genius in the film industry where he was both producer and director. In this collection, his widow Karen Kramer did a fantastic job in choosing five distinct films such as the following:
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" is a film classic which earned a third Academy Award for Best Actress to the amazing Katharine Hepburn and a final performance by the dazzling unforgettable Spencer Tracy. He died two weeks after the film's premiere. The film had an all-star cast such as Sidney Poitier as Dr. John Ward Prentice; Isabell Sanford as Tillie; Cecil Kellaway as Monsignor: and Beah Richards as Mrs. Prentice. Katharine Hepburn's actual maternal niece, Katharine Houghton, plays her daughter, Joanna, in the film.
The film takes place in the course of the day when Joanna and Dr. Prentice return from Hawaii to San Francisco, California to announce their wedding plans to Hepburn and Tracy. Everybody including the liberal mother and father are stunned of course. The film was so controversial about interracial marriage that it caused threats against everybody involved. Some might say the film is dated by today's standards but not necessarily so. Unbeknownst to the audience, Spencer Tracy who was married in real life to another woman had a long-term intimate relationship with Katharine Hepburn. Watching Tracy and Hepburn together is amazing. If Tracy could have divorced his wife despite his Irish Catholic religion, perhaps Hepburn and Tracy would have married. Regardless they show a romance onscreen to be genuine and real. They also know of Tracy's ailing health at the time of the film.
The disc features introductions by Karen Kramer; Tom Brokaw; and Quincy Jones. There is a second bonus disc which includes "A Love Story of Today" about the making of the film; "A Special Kind of Love" about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn; "Stanley Kramer: A Man's Search for the Truth" which is about film director and producer's film history; the 2007 Producers Guild "Stanley Kramer" Award Presentation to former Vice President Al Gore; and Stanley Kramer receiving the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award at the Academy Awards.
The second film was "Ship of Fools" with an all-star cast including Lee Marvin, Vivien Leigh, BarBara Luna, Elizabeth Ashley, George Segal, Oscar Werner, Jose Ferrer, Michael Dunn, Simone Signoret, Michael Corwin, and Werner Kemperer to name a few. The film is about transatlantic cruise from Veracruz, Mexico to Germany and takes place in 1933 when the Nazis rise to power. The film is a classic and earned eight Academy Award nominations. The DVD features Karen Kramer's introduction; "The Voyage on A Soundstage" about the making of the film; and "On Board of Ship of Fools" with Elizabeth Ashley and George Segal as well.
The third film in this collection is Carson McCuller's novel turned play to film entitled "A Member of the Wedding" which stars Julie Harris as Frances "Frankie" Adams whom she played onstage on Broadway for 501 performances with Ethel Waters and Brandon De Wilde. The film is about tomboyish Frankie Adams who wants to run away with her older married brother Jarvis and his bride Janice. The DVD also includes a documentary by author and biographer Virginia Spencer Carr about Carson McCullers; The Journey from Stage to Film with Kevin Spacey, Virginia Carr, and Karen Kramer; and "The World of Carson McCullers" the author of the story; and a brief note from Julie Harris.
The fourth film is a classic entitled "The Wild One" influenced by the actual events in Hollister, California in 1947. The film starred Marlon Brando in an unforgettable performance. The disc also features a Karen Kramer introduction. There is a segment about "Hollister, California: Bikers, Booze, and the Big Picture." There are unforgettable scenes of Brando in the role especially on the bike. Lee Marvin has a supporting role. There is a brief segment entitled "Brando: An Icon is Born" which includes Taylor Hackord, Dennis Hopper, and Karen Kramer, and Elizabeth Ashley.
The final film is entitled "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," based on a Dr. Seuss story. The film is as distanct and unique like all the others. For a children's film, it seems a little dark at times. Tommy Rettig plays Bart Collins who hates his piano teacher, Dr. Tutwiler (played by the fabulous Hans Conried) in the role. Bart dreams about Dr. T imprisoning him and other children in a diabolical plan to have 5,000 fingers play an enormous piano. The art direction and scenery is surreal and unbelievable and advance at the time. Mary Healy plays Mrs. Collins, Bart's widowed mom, who is a victim of Dr. T's crime. He enlists the help of the plumber (played by Peter Lind Hayes). Healy and Hayes were a real life couple and performed onstage together in Los Angeles. The DVD includes a Karen Kramer introduction. "Dr. T on Screen" includes interviews with Cathy Lind Hayes, Peter and Mary's daughter; Karen Kramer; George Chakiris, and others about the film. Then there is a segment entitled "A Little Nightmare Music" which included Michael Feinstein interview.
The DVDs are all high quality and worth watching for any movie fan. The special features are worth noting Stanley Kramer's film legacy and his contributions to discovering new talents and nurturing them to perform onscreen. The films' history and background are just as fascinating as the stories told onscreen.