Mixed Company

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  • PG
  • 1974
  • 5.7  (244)

Mixed Company is a drama-comedy film released in 1974, directed by Melville Shavelson and starred Barbara Harris, Joseph Bologna, and Tom Bosley. The movie takes place in the United States and covers the intricacies of racial differences and family tensions. The plot is focused on the Stevenses, a Caucasian family who lives in Chicago. The patriarch, Harry (Tom Bosley), is a contractor, and his wife, Mary (Barbara Harris), is a housewife. They have three children: high school senior Tom (Todd Lookinland), junior high school student Marianne (Lisa Gerritsen), and 9-year-old Peter (Matthew Tobin).

One day, Harry announces to the family that they will be hosting an African-American family in their house, the Johnsons, for two weeks. The Johnsons consist of the parents, Herb (Joseph Bologna), a teacher, and his wife Terry (Gloria Hendry), and their two children: daughter Joy (Melanie Baker) and son Andrew (Eric Olson). The Stevenses initially hesitate through a discussion about the logistics and possible problems that might occur. They finally accept when the Johnsons arrive at the Stevenses home by bus after a series of unfortunate events.

The movie exhibits many conflicts that arise between the two families due to race, cultural differences, economic status, and personal preferences. In particular, the Stevenses struggle with their own issues regarding interracial relations, addressed explicitly in a heated exchange between Tom Stevens and his father, where Tom's own views are opposite of his father's. Meanwhile, the Johnsons are constantly being reminded of their being "guests" in the Stevenses' house.

During their stay, the Stevenses and the Johnsons learn more about each other, change their attitudes, and develop new bonds. The Johnsons introduce the Stevenses to their culture, including their cooking, dancing, and singing. The Stevenses help the Johnsons with day-to-day problems, such as managing to find necessary clothing for their children or dealing with the authorities after the Johnsons’ car gets towed.

What makes this film unique is how it tackles important sociopolitical issues of its time while acknowledging the characters' personal interrelations with humor, tenderness, and sincerity. The movie showcases how the Stevenses and the Johnsons slowly overcome their initial prejudices and stereotypes to understand each other better.

Furthermore, the discussions and arguments that arise between all members of each family at different times show how complex the issues of race and relationships are, and how difficult it can be for different families to understand each other's struggles. While the film is set in the 1970s, the issues it raises remain extremely relevant, and the contemporary audience will find much to enjoy in it.

In terms of technical aspects, Mixed Company has a relatively simple structure, with a limited number of locations, and minimal scoring. Instead, the focus is on the characters, their interaction, and their development. The acting is top-notch, with some impressive performances by the lead actors. Tom Bosley, in particular, stands out in his role as the Stevenses' patriarch.

Mixed Company is a must-see for anyone interested in social commentary films. It is a movie that is not only relevant but full of hope for a more united society. The film shows how communication and understanding can break down negative stereotypes and build bridges between different cultures. Though not without flaws, the movie’s message about communication far outweighs any limitations. The movie sends a powerful message - it is possible, however challenging and uncomfortable the conversations become, to manifest real change.

Mixed Company is a 1974 comedy. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 5.7.

Mixed Company
Where to Watch Mixed Company
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  • IMDB Rating
    5.7  (244)