Philip Green is a highly respected writer who is recruited by a national magazine to write a series of articles on anti-Semitism in America. He's not too keen on the series, mostly because he's not sure how to tackle the subject. Then it dawns on him: if he was to pretend to all and sundry that he was Jewish, he could then experience the degree of racism and prejudice that exists and write his story from that perspective. It takes little time for him to experience bigotry. His anger at the way he is treated also affects his relationship with Kathy Lacy, his publisher's niece and the person who suggested the series in the first place. Written by
Laura Z. Hobson wrote her novel after vitriolic ant-Semitic comments by Mississippi Senator John Rankin were applauded on he floor of Congress. The novel was then serialized in "Cosmopolitan" magazine from November 1946 to February 1947, immediately causing quite a stir. This prompted Fox studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck (one of the few studio heads who was not Jewish) to snap up the novel's rights. See more »
When Phil is taking Tommy to meet his (Phil's) mother at Saks Fifth Avenue, they stop in front of the statue of Atlas outside Rockefeller Center. In the shot of the two of them talking, with Fifth Avenue in the background, Saks is directly behind them, diagonally across the street on the right, with St. Patrick's Cathedral on the left. But when Phil looks at his watch and tells Tommy they'd better leave to meet grandma, the two hurry off back north along Fifth Avenue - in the completely opposite direction of the plainly visible Saks. See more »
I've been saying I'm Jewish, and it works.
Why, you crazy fool! It's working?
It works too well. I've been having my nose rubbed in it, and I don't like the smell.
You're not insulated yet, Phil. The impact must be quite a business on you.
You mean you get indifferent to it in time?
No, but you're concentrating a lifetime into a few weeks. You're not changing the facts, you're just making them hurt more.
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Certainly the preachiest film ever to win Best Picture, and almost the preachiest film ever to be made, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Gentleman's Agreement isn't a good movie. In fact, I thought it was a fine film and an important one. It's heavy-handedness is mostly evened out by a lot of good dialogue, good filmmaking, and exceptional performances. I'll start there. I thought every principal actor succeeded with flying colors; even when they have to deliver awful and obvious message speeches, they almost always ended up making that writing sound a lot better than it was. Gregory Peck gives one of his very best performances. I'm glad to see him give this performance, too, after being stupefied by that wooden performance in the same year's The Paradine Case. The script does well with the character of Phil Green. When he begins his quest to discover the anti-semitism around him, he is involved very impersonally. It's a job, a job he doesn't really want to do, a job he doesn't even know how to do. And when he gets his big idea, to pretend he's Jewish himself, it seems almost arrogant. How dare he, I thought. But, through the film, he does get personally involved, so deeply involved that the insults and jokes and so forth become personal attacks. I doubt he ever expected that it would hurt so much. In comparison to the other film about anti-Semitism in 1947, Crossfire, also nominated for Best Picture, Gentleman's Agreement certainly does not hold up in terms of filmmaking and artistry. However, which film do you think had more of a chance to make a difference? Where Gentleman's Agreement succeeds, and Crossfire fails, is its ability to make the audience look inside themselves. Sure, it has to hit its audience with a sledgehammer before they look inside themselves to find their own prejudices and shortcomings, but I really think it works.
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