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
In the scene where Phil (Gregory Peck) goes to check on his mother (Anne Revere) after she suffers a mild heart attack, she says, "No need to look like 'Hamlet,' I feel wonderful." The picture won the Best Picture Oscar of 1947, and Sir Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet (1948)" won the Best Picture Oscar of 1948. See more »
When the family are having breakfast at the start of the film, at one point Tommy is about to bring a spoonful of cereal to his mouth. However, in the shot right afterwards he dips it into the bowl again. See more »
What makes you say that?
Oh, I don't know. You just seem like... a clever sort of guy.
What makes you think I wasn't a G.I.?
What? Now, Green, don't get me wrong. Why, some of my best friends are Jews.
And some of your other best friends are Methodists, but you never bother to say that.
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The main title theme begins with the Fox logo, replacing the usual Alfred Newman fanfare. See more »
Very solid, preachy yes, but important stuff to continually face
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
A "gentleman's agreement" is a euphemism for a polite, unspoken act of racial bigotry. Yes, a sort of wink to not allow blacks or hispanics or Jews into a certain resort or club or restaurant.
That's the real point of the movie. Not hard core racism or prejudice, but that subtle stuff, the stuff that goes on every day even now. And ultimately, it is aimed at the people who say, "I'm not prejudiced," and yet who let other people wink and act like polite bigots.
There is a lot of background to the movie, in the making and acceptance of it in the industry and in the country (in short, Hollywood insiders avoided the idea and the public liked it). But the main point is how the movie works and plays out as a story, then (in our heads) and now (on the screen).
The answer? Very well. Yes, it's "preachy" of course. Of course! That's what a message movie does. But does it do it well? Yes, but it does mean there is a lot of talking. The key talker and thinker is main character, goy journalist Phil Green, played by Gregory Peck. He struggles out loud through how to approach an article he has to do on anti-Semitism with his mom, and then struggles through the actual highly veiled anti-Semitism of his potential wife, played by Dorothy McGuire. We know they are made for each other, but McGuire's character just can't quite get how her "looking the other way" or "feeling outrage" isn't enough.
The real acting gem is by Celeste Holm, who plays a sidekick, another writer, and someone who audiences probably want to see with Mr. Green because she has innate principles and the guts to show them. (She won an Oscar, too!) John Garfield, who was Jewish, plays an openly Jewish character in a deliberately restrained role as a returning G.I. It's 1947, and the country that has helped to save the remaining Jews in concentration camps is now wondering how to "save" them at home from internal barriers.
It might have been a mistake to set the movie in New York City, which was over a quarter Jewish at the time and probably had more familiarity with assimilation and difference than the movie implies (especially at the publisher's). But the scenes in stuff Connecticut make more sense. There is the love plot pushed on the whole thing, and the weirdly perfect house that was built and decorated but never lived in as if that's the future, waiting and ready. And yes, there is all the talking and moralizing.
But give director Elia Kazan credit for making this as fluid and involving as he has, and cinematographer Arthur Miller's beautiful post-War visuals hold up that end of the experience really well. And you know what, the "lessons" built into this kind of "message" film are worth sitting through because we all need reminders of how insidious our own prejudices can be, and how we need to constantly address them, openly.
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