#497) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

#497) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

OR “A Heavy Meal”

Directed by Stanley Kramer

Written by William Rose

Class of 2017

The Plot: San Francisco liberals Matt & Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn) are surprised when their adult daughter Joanna (Katharine Houghton) returns home unannounced. There’s an even bigger surprise when she brings home her fiancé, African-American doctor John Wade Prentice (Sidney Poitier). Despite their outspoken support of Civil Rights, Matt & Christina must now acknowledge their hypocritical discomfort with their daughter’s interracial relationship. An invitation to dinner is extended to not only John, but also his parents visiting from Los Angeles (Roy Glenn & Beah Richards) and family friend Monsignor Ryan (Cecil Kellaway). Looks like the appetizer for this meal is an extended dialogue on racial tolerance.

Why It Matters: The NFR mentions the film’s “movie milestones” as well as its “then-novel plot”, but the only superlatives go to Sidney Poitier for “his customary on-screen charisma, fire and grace.”

But Does It Really?: Like most of Stanley Kramer’s filmography, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is an Important Movie of its time. While the premise was controversial in 1967, the film has become almost quaint, and not without its own insensitive viewpoints. Regardless, “Dinner” is a time capsule of an important issue in the ’60s political landscape, as well as the final pairing of Tracy & Hepburn before Tracy’s passing. “Dinner” is worthy of NFR recognition, but if you’re looking for a more relevant representation of ’60s race relations, stick with “In the Heat of the Night“.

Everybody Gets One: After a string of New York theater productions, Katharine Houghton landed the role of Joanna Drayton thanks to her aunt: Katharine Hepburn (Houghton’s mother is Kate’s sister Marion). Although her film career never took off, Houghton still works as an actor and playwright, and often reflects on “Dinner” and her aunt in interviews.

Wow, That’s Dated: We will discuss the film’s stance on miscegenation in ’60s America as we go. Among the other dated items are references to Governor Lurleen Wallace, the Watusi, “We Can Work It Out“, and Arnold Palmer (the golfer, not the drink).

Seriously, Oscars?: Second only to “The Graduate” at the box office, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” received 10 Oscar nominations, tied with “Bonnie and Clyde” for the most nominations. “Dinner” screenwriter William Rose took home Original Screenplay, and Katharine Hepburn received her second Best Actress Oscar. Hepburn did not attend the ceremony out of respect for Louise Tracy, present in the event of a win for her late husband.

Other notes 

  • By 1967, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn had made eight films together, and had been romantically involved for over 25 years. Tracy’s health was in sharp decline, ailing from both hypertensive heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In order to make “Dinner”, Hepburn and Stanley Kramer put their salaries in escrow to cover Tracy’s insurance risk (Columbia wouldn’t insure him), and Tracy only filmed for three hours a day.
  • You’re all lucky Sidney Poitier is so damn charming. Poitier successfully balances John’s polite and respectful attitude towards Joanna’s parent, with his steadfast personal convictions. It helps that Poitier was genuinely intimidated by Tracy and Hepburn, opting to perform his closeups to two empty chairs.
  • There is a 14 year age gap between John and Joanna, and an 18 year age gap between Poitier and Houghton! This is certainly the most progressive readout on the Michael Douglas Scale. I’m sure someone will bring up this concern in the movie. Any minute now…. Wait for it…
  • While Hepburn’s Oscar win may have been the result of sympathy for Tracy’s death, she is quite good in this. It’s fun to watch the openly progressive Kate play a woman forced to confront her inherent hypocrisy, and with Kate we see Christina’s inner struggle. Who knows if Hepburn’s performance is better than Anne Bancroft’s or Faye Dunaway’s, but it is certainly worthy of a trophy.
  • The film makes an effort to address every possible argument regarding interracial marriage, but no mention is made of the violent hate crimes against African-Americans throughout the ’60s. The film’s “love conquers all” thesis is optimistic and romantic, but given all that has transpired since (especially in recents years), it seems shallow to an almost dangerous degree. Keep in mind that this movie was directed and written by white people, which would no doubt be met with outcry today.
  • I’m enjoying Cecil Kellaway’s enthusiastic performance as Monsignor O’Stereotype. Fun Fact: Kellaway’s cousin was Edmund Gwenn, aka Kris Kringle from “Miracle on 34th Street“.
  • Christina telling her racist co-worker Hillary to “get permanently lost” is a highlight, though the moment has been repeated to death in every white savior movie of the last 50 years.
  • The Mel’s Drive-In that Tracy and Hepburn visit is still open! Side note: The man whose car Matt hits in the parking lot is played by D’Urville Martin, future “Dolemite” director.
  • Shoutout to Isabel Sanford, TV’s Louise Jefferson, as the Drayton’s maid Tillie. Sanford still has to play the stereotypical sassy domestic, but Tillie is a little more dimensional. Plus she gets that great monologue where she tells off John.
  • Despite this movie being an original script, it feels like an adaptation of a stage play. Kramer tries to spice it up with dolly shots and vistas of San Francisco, but it’s ultimately two hours of good actors talking on the same set.
  • The second half of the movie parallels “12 Angry Men” as various characters make their arguments and try to convince the others to “vote” their way. Good stuff, but it doesn’t help the “filmed play” vibe.
  • Roy Glenn and Beah Richards are just a tad too young to be Sidney Poitier’s parents, but they help elevate the material and bring some extra energy to the proceedings. Richards in particular nails her one monologue.
  • Already dated by the time the film came out: Mr. Prentice mentions that interracial marriage is illegal “in 16 or 17 states”. While true during production, the Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in the landmark case of “Loving v. Virginia” in June 1967. Kramer opted not to cut the line, though he did delete a joke about Martin Luther King following King’s assassination in April 1968.
  • Spencer Tracy’s climactic summation is worth the wait, though it is hard to separate Matt’s final speech from Tracy’s final performance. Katharine Hepburn is genuinely tearing up in the background.

Legacy 

  • Seventeen days after filming was completed on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Spencer Tracy died of a heart attack in his home at the age of 67. “Dinner”, his final film, would be released six months later.
  • “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was a hit across America, including the south, which prompted studios to reconsider how they market films with BIPOC leads.
  • “Dinner” is still referenced throughout pop culture, primarily for its title. At least seven sitcoms have named an episode “Guess Who’s NOT Coming to Dinner”, but the best variation goes to the 1973 adult film “Guess Who’s Coming”.
  • Why mention the 2005 Bernie Mac/Ashton Kutcher remake “Guess Who” when I could bring up Jordan Peele’s spiritual remake “Get Out” instead?
  • And finally, Carl Fredricksen from “Up” was partially modeled after Spencer Tracy from this movie, complete with glasses.

#496) Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

#496) Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

OR “Papa, Can You Steer Me?”

Directed by Charles Reisner (and an uncredited Buster Keaton)

Written by Carl Harbaugh (again, with an uncredited Buster Keaton)

Class of 2016 

The Plot: William Canfield Sr. aka “Steamboat Bill” (Ernest Torrence) is a Mississippi steamboat captain whose ship is being overshadowed by the bigger, more luxurious steamer of rival John James King (Tom McGuire). Canfield is delighted to learn that his son William Jr. (Buster Keaton) will be paying him a visit for the first time since he was born. Expecting a big, burly seaman, Junior is a skinny “dandy” with ukulele and beret, much to Bill’s dismay. Bill attempts to teach Junior the ways of steamboats, but Junior is more interested in the affections of Kitty (Marion Byron), the daughter of John James King. This all comes to a head when a cyclone strikes the river, with a climactic sight gag that always brings the house down.

Why It Matters: The NFR gives an extensive tribute to Keaton as the “everyman” of silent film comedy, and gives an overview of his career. While Keaton himself gets superlatives like “ingenious”, the only “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” specific shoutout is for the film’s “breath-stopping stunts and cyclone finale.”

But Does It Really?: Amazingly, I don’t have a lot to say about “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” The scene of the house falling around Keaton is remembered for a reason, and the rest of the film holds up well with plenty of LOL moments. I think it’s the plethora of Keaton films on the list that gives me a feeling of sameness with “Steamboat”. Regardless, “Steamboat” is a fun and funny silent movie that is still worth a watch, with an iconic gag that pushes it into NFR inclusion.

Wow, That’s Dated: Steamboats, that’s the big one. 1928 was the tail end of the steamboat’s reign on the Mississippi, ultimately giving way to trains and diesel tugboats.

Title Track: The title comes from the popular song “Steamboat Bill”, immortalized in “Steamboat Willie” (see “Legacy”). And it has lyrics!

Other notes 

  • “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” was filmed on location in Sacramento, California, with the Sacramento River doubling for the Mississippi. I think you’d have to wait until “Lady Bird” to see another movie so prominently shot in California’s capital.
  • If Ernest Torrence looks familiar, you may have seen his other nautical-themed NFR performance as Captain Hook in “Peter Pan“.
  • The beginning of the film is heavy on setup and light on laughs, but once Keaton arrives, things definitely pick up. My main takeaway from “Steamboat” (or any Keaton film really) is that no stone is left unturned. Keaton has clearly thought of every possible gag idea for each scene, and you are seeing the funniest, best staged version in the final print.
  • During the scene where Bill tries to buy Junior a new hat, one of the rejected hats is Keaton’s trademark pork pie, which he had already donned in several earlier films.
  • The Michael Douglas Scale returns! Buster Keaton was 32 during production, Marion Byron was 16! He was literally twice her age!
  • Best line (intertitle) in the movie: “No jury would convict you.”
  • When Junior learns to steer the steamboat, the entire cast shows off their status as “Star Trek Academy of Stumbling for the Camera” graduates.
  • The key to any good physical comedy in film: tell the audience what you’re going to do, and then do it. If Keaton is straddling between two boats, you know he’s going to fall into the water and it’s going to be hilarious. Keaton also excels at subverting your comedy expectations. There are several unexpected pratfalls that spring up organically throughout the film.
  • The film’s original third act was going to take place during a flood, but the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 made the producers insist on a re-write. The film’s cyclone/rainstorm finale is an acceptable workaround, with every conceivable wind and rain gag thrown in for good measure.
  • Keaton had attempted the “house falls around a person” gag in some of his earlier films (you can see it in Keaton’s fellow NFR short “One Week“), but “Steamboat” is unquestionably the definitive version. Stories of the scene’s production (including tales of a suicidal Keaton) are lacking in reliable sources.
  • Despite the massive age gap between Bill and Kitty, the romance plot-line is minimal to the point of being unintrusive. It also lead to the last gag of the movie, which kept me laughing through the final intertitles.

Legacy 

  • “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” was a critical and commercial disappointment when first released, and a despondent Buster Keaton jumped ship (if you will) from United Artists to MGM. Although his first film with his new studio (1929’s “The Cameraman“) would later make the NFR, Keaton called this move the biggest mistake of his career.
  • The main takeaway from “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” is the shot of the house falling around Keaton. It has been recreated time and again, most notably in “Arrested Development”.
  • Six months after the release of “Bill”, the similarly titled “Steamboat Willie” premiered, marking the film debut of Mickey Mouse. The title and profession of the main characters are the only parallels between “Bill, Jr.” and “Willie”. I don’t remember Buster Keaton swinging a cat around while playing “Turkey in the Straw”.

#495) Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)

#495) Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)

OR “Industrial Light & Rabbit”

Directed & Written by Wallace McCutcheon and Edwin S. Porter. Based on the comic strip “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” by Winsor McCay.

Class of 2015

The Plot: An unnamed man (Jack Brawn) feats on Welsh rabbit (or rarebit, if you will), and promptly goes to bed. Unfortunately the rarebit seems to disagree with him, and his indigestion leads to nightmares about a flying bed and little devils poking at him with pitchforks. It’s crazy, but the man is also dreaming about some noteworthy early movie effects.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the film’s “groundbreaking trick photography”, comparing it to the work of Georges Méliès. There’s also an informative essay by author and film Professor Lauren Rabinovitz.

But Does It Really?: Oh, sure. “Rarebit” stands out from other shorts of the era thanks to its impressive undertaking of early film special effects. It’s short, it’s visually engaging, and a perfect harbinger of all the movie magic we’ve gotten since 1906. No argument here for NFR inclusion.

Everybody Gets One: Co-director Wallace McCutcheon got his start in the film industry making films for American Biograph. He moved over to Edison and collaborated with Edwin S. Porter on a number of shorts, including “Rarebit”. When McCutcheon was denied a raise at Edison, he returned to Biograph, but was eventually replaced by a young up-and-comer named D.W. Griffith.

Title Track: I’m confused: is the title referring to a dream being had by someone fond of rarebit, or is it a man’s dream of demons caused by the rarebit? I guess it all depends on which definition of the word “fiend” you’re choosing to apply here.

Other notes 

  • Like his later strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland”, McCay’s “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” was based around people’s dreams. Each strip began with a character eating Welsh rabbit and, after falling asleep, dreaming the kind of surreal abstractions that were McCay’s trademark. I feel like you need to know the basic premise in order to understand why this film begins with a lengthy shot of Jack Brawn eating.
  • The best part of the NFR’s write-up for “Rarebit” is when they describe Jack Brawn’s character as “a top-hatted swell”. Someone had fun with that.
  • Once we hit the dream part of the title, the special effects take front and center. They are quite rudimentary by today’s standards, but they are still a wonder to behold over 100 years later. And the variety of effects are impressive as well: stop-motion, optical effects, models, double exposure; this film gives you everything.
  • The little devils at the beginning of the dream remind me of Happy Hotpoint. And THAT is the most obscure reference I’ve ever made on this blog.
  • The effects are such a mix of impressive and archaic that I found myself laughing while watching them, but I genuinely don’t know if I was laughing with them or at them.

Legacy 

  • Other than writing the comic that served as inspiration, Winsor McCay was not involved in the film of “Rarebit Fiend”. But don’t worry, McCay would get into innovative film work soon enough.
  • In addition to being one of the earliest narrative films on the NFR, “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” is the first to prominently feature special effects, so let’s go ahead and label this film the forebearer to all visual effects in American movies. And no, I am not forgetting about Georges Méliès, but the very nature of this blog forces me to focus on his American disciples. We’ll get to Méliès when “Hugo” inevitably makes this list. Speaking of great effects…

#494) The Gang’s All Here (1943)

#494) The Gang’s All Here (1943)

OR “Bananas”

Directed by Busby Berkeley

Written by Walter Bullock. Original Songs by Leo Robin and Harry Warren.

Class of 2014 

The Plot: The night before he reports for duty in the Army, Andy Mason Jr. (James Ellison) meets nightclub singer Eadie Allen (Alice Faye). The two hit it off, but Andy is already involved with Vivian (Sheila Ryan), so he gives Eadie the fake name “Sgt. Pat Casey”. But no one actually cares about the love triangle; this movie is all about Busby Berkeley’s trademark dance numbers, and performances by Carmen Miranda, Phil Baker, Tony DeMarco, and Benny Goodman and his Orchestra!

Why It Matters: The NFR gives mention to Berkeley and Miranda, as well as the “Tutti-Frutti Hat” number, though admits that the musical is “not remembered as well today as those put out by MGM”.

But Does It Really?: Longtime readers know that I will give a slight pass to any NFR film with even the flimsiest justification, but I don’t see how “The Gang’s All Here” made the cut. There are other Busby Berkeley musicals on the list, other WWII propaganda; heck there’s even another Carmen Miranda movie (also inducted in 2014, weirdly enough). “Gang’s” is by no means a bad movie, it’s just not essential to the history of American film. There’s some visually interesting production numbers, but the whole film has a sameness to it that constantly reminds you of all the better movie musicals you could be watching instead. “Gang’s” is another movie I would reserve for pure film buffs only, and its NFR designation is still a head-scratcher.

Everybody Gets One: Dubbed “The Queen of Fox”, Alice Faye was one of the studio’s biggest stars in the ’30s and ’40s. Although primarily successful in big splashy musicals, Faye was able to turn in the occasional dramatic role, such as “In Old Chicago”. “The Gang’s All Here” was Faye’s last big musical for Fox before ending her film career to focus on her family (she was pregnant with her second daughter Phyllis during production). Faye was married for 54 years to singer/comedian Phil Harris, and theirs is still considered one of the most successful marriages in show business history.

Wow, That’s Dated: This has all the dated hallmarks of your standard WWII movie (“Buy your war bonds in this theatre”), plus the added racial insensitivity of a ’40s “Good Neighbor” movie. Side note: With Disney’s Fox acquisition, I guess the name 20th Century Fox is now dated as well.

Title Track: Even this movie’s title is unnecessarily weird! The original title was “The Girls He Left Behind” but was inexplicably changed. The song “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” plays in the first moments of the opening credits, and is never heard or referenced in the film proper.

Seriously, Oscars?: Despite some critical misgivings, “The Gang’s All Here” was a hit with audiences, and received an Oscar nomination for its Art Direction. Despite some genuinely impressive set pieces, the production design team lost to Universal’s color remake of “Phantom of the Opera“.

Other notes 

  • The one thing that this movie has over other NFR films is that it was solely directed by Busby Berkeley (he choreographed, but not direct, “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade”). This is a point in “Gang’s” favor, but if that’s your criteria, why not induct “Babes in Arms” or “For Me and My Gal” instead?
  • This all being said, Berkeley is definitely cutting loose with the camera on this movie. We get his trademark overhead dance formations, plus all kinds of crazy angles and dolly shots. Shoutout to cinematographer Edward Cronjager for going along for the ride. Side Note: Cronjager was Oscar-nominated that year for his work on Ernst Lubitsch’s “Heaven Can Wait” (no relation to the 1941 or 1978 films).
  • After being nightclub-bound in “Down Argentine Way”, Carmen Miranda actually gets to interact with people in this movie! She’s having fun, but Carmen is clearly no actor, and her dialogue consists entirely of broken English and malapropisms. There’s something unjust about the likes of Lauren Bacall, Shirley Temple, and Gloria Swanson each having one NFR entry apiece, yet Carmen Miranda is on here twice.
  • Ah yes, back when the hippest musician on the scene was a 34-year-old clarinetist named Benny. Goodman must have been pissed when rock ‘n’ roll became a thing.
  • “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat” is fun, and features Miranda in a hat made of bananas, but it never quite matches the big musical numbers of other ’40s movies. Although this is the first film in which Miranda is wearing a banana hat, she had previously donned a fruit hat in 1941’s “That Night in Rio“.
  • Most meta-moment: Alice Faye tells James Ellison to “Stop acting like Don Ameche”. I’m sure Ellison was well aware he was not anyone’s first choice for this movie.
  • I know the Andy/Eadie love story is supposed to be cute, but HE HAS A GIRLFRIEND. It all works out in the end, but he is definitely two-timing Vivien.
  • Alice Faye is more of a sultry leading lady than her ingenue contemporaries, a little more jaded. Plus she’s a contralto! I can sing along with her!
  • Even the reliable comedy and high-kicking of Charlotte Greenwood can’t save this movie. I enjoyed the pairing of her with the always funny Edward Everett Horton, but this movie’s weirdness overshadows any positive qualities.
  • Speaking of character actors, this movie features Eugene Pallette, who has popped up quite a bit on this list. Most remember him for his unique bullfrog voice, but I always remember him as a Nazi sympathizer who got fired from Otto Preminger’s “In the Meantime, Darling” because he refused to do a scene with African-American actor Clarence Muse where they were treated as equals. Fuck you, Pallette!
  • Weirdly enough, the camera gets very static during the “book” scenes. It’s like Busby can only be creative during the musicals numbers.
  • The “Polka-Dot Polka” finale is quite the trip. We get kids dubbed by adults, women dressed like they’re in “TRON” holding neon rings, and the floating, singing heads of our main cast members. Oh, and the resolution of the main plot is implied, and not actually addressed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: WHAT IS HAPPENING!?

Legacy 

  • The film’s only lasting point of reference is Carmen Miranda’s banana hat. It’s no coincidence that less than a year after “Gang’s” release, The United Fruit company unveiled their new mascot: Chiquita Banana.

Listen to This: The two biggest names in the movie also have tracks in the National Recording Registry: Carmen Miranda with “O Que É Que A Baiana Tem?” and Benny Goodman with his album “Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert”.

#493) Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)

#493) Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)

OR “Saving Mr. Banks”

Directed by Billy Woodberry

Written by Charles Burnett

Class of 2013 

The Plot: “Bless Their Little Hearts” chronicles Charlie Banks (Nate Hardman) and his wife Andais (Kaycee Moore) as they struggle to raise a family and make ends meet in Watts, Los Angeles. The chronically unemployed Charlie tries to find day labor, while Andais manages to work while raising their three kids (Angela, Ronald, and Kimberly Burnett). The daily frustrations of the Banks’ life reaches a boiling point in this representation of an under appreciated group of influential filmmakers.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film a “spare, emotionally resonant portrait of family life during times of struggle” and calls Woodberry “a key figure” in the L.A. Rebellion movement of the late ’70s/early ’80s. The NFR blurb also quotes Jim Ridley’s review from the “Village Voice”: “Its poetry lies in the exaltation of ordinary detail”.

But Does It Really?: “Bless Their Little Hearts” holds up remarkably well, and while not an essential American film, represents an important generation of African-American filmmakers on a mission to tell their stories as honestly as possible. “Bless” can be a bit difficult to track down (Thanks, Criterion Channel!), but thanks to the dedicated vision of Billy Woodberry and Charles Burnett, it is well worth seeking out.

Everybody Gets One: While studying at UCLA, Billy Woodberry became part of the L.A. Rebellion, a film movement consisting of such notable African-American filmmakers as Woodberry, Charles Burnett, and Julie Dash. These filmmakers were influenced by the turbulent politics of 1960s America, and sought to make films that more accurately portrayed the struggles of African-Americans. Burnett strongly encouraged Woodberry to become a film director, and offered him his screenplay for “Bless”. Burnett even went as far as connecting Woodberry with cast members from his previous film “Killer of Sheep”, including this film’s leading lady Kaycee Moore.

Wow, That’s Dated: Besides the kids using knobs to change the TV channel, this movie is not very dated. This, of course, means that the film’s dissection of socio-economic hardships for people of color hasn’t aged either.

Seriously, Oscars?: No Oscar love for “Bless Their Little Hearts” or Billy Woodberry. The film did, however, take home some prizes from the Berlin and Amiens International Film Festivals.

Other notes

  • “Bless Their Little Hearts” was Woodberry’s master thesis at UCLA, a fact that a surprisingly large number of NFR entries have in common. This always begs the question: What grade did Woodberry get on this? Anything short of an A- and I will need to speak to his professor.
  • Many of the L.A. Movement filmmakers helped each other make their movies at UCLA. Here, Charles Burnett is both screenwriter and cameraman. On the flip side, Woodberry acted in 1982’s “Ashes and Embers” by Haile Gerima.
  • Though never mentioned by any of the characters, “Bless Their Little Hearts” is set and filmed in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles. Charles Burnett grew up in Watts, and this (as well as his directorial debut “Killer of Sheep”) is set in Watts. Did he ever cross paths with the kids from “Felicia“?
  • One thing “Bless” does really well is capture the sort of meaningless meandering that life seems to consist of when one has no real prospects on the horizon. On the surface, this is a movie where “nothing happens”, but Woodberry is setting his scenes very carefully for Charlie’s inevitable breakdown. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, these early scenes would be quite boring, but Woodberry manages to hold your interest.
  • The $125 Charlie makes every week is about $320 today. This has been an episode of “We Suck at Inflation”, as well as an episode of “We Suck at Financially Supporting our Working Class Citizens”.
  • Like many a great filmmaker, Woodberry knows the power of the close-up. Andais’ breakdown scene is played out in a wide shot of her and the kids, saving the crucial close-up for the exact moment when she snaps. It’s riveting.
  • Equally riveting is the major argument between Charlie and Andais, covered in one uninterrupted take. It’s a testament to Woodberry’s direction, Nate Hardman and Kaycee Moore’s committed performances, and Charles Burnett’s cinematography.
  • Another brilliant piece of camerawork from Woodberry and Burnett: After their argument, Charlie and Andais are only shown in separate close-ups when they share a scene. They do not occupy the same shot until they reconcile.
  • “Bless Their Little Hearts” was restored in 2017 by UCLA. Billy Woodberry took the opportunity to credit some cast and crew members who went uncredited for their work in the original print. There is also a special thanks section that acknowledges, among others, Julie Dash and Edward Olmos.

Legacy 

  • Although Billy Woodberry’s film career never rose to the same heights as his contemporaries Charles Burnett and Julie Dash, he is still making movies; his most recent being 2015’s “And when I die, I won’t stay dead”, a documentary about poet and activist Bob Kaufman. Woodberry has also narrated films from fellow NFR directors Thom Andersen (“Red Hollywood”) and James Benning (“Four Corners”).
  • In addition to his film work, Billy Woodberry has been teaching film at CalArts since 1989.
  • Charles Burnett has also continued directing. In addition to the aforementioned “Killer of Sheep”, Burnett would go on to helm another NFR entry: 1990’s “To Sleep with Anger”.