Directed by Elia Kazan
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 3
Up Against: The Bishop's Wife, Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street
The Gentleman's Agreement is the story of a widowed father, who goes "undercover" as a Jew for research on an article he's writing on Antisemitism. I was really interested in this movie when I picked it up from the library and read the back cover (yes, I order them, not knowing anything about them), and hoped it was going to be a good one! And I was not disappointed.
Gregory Peck plays Phillip Skyler Green (Skyler Green is his writing name, Phil Green his normal name), the writer and widowed father living with his son and grandmother, having just arrived in New York City. Upon arriving he meets his new boss's (and head of the magazine) niece, Kathy. Kathy is a lovely girl, beautiful, and smart, and she and Phil are instantly attracted to each other, and find themselves quickly engaged. But when Phil's boss tells him he wants him to write a piece on antisemitism, Phil is hesitant, but takes the piece on. While mulling over how to go about it, he realizes he must declare himself as a Jew and see the results for himself. Nobody knows him in New York, he's only just arrived. And he quickly starts to see things he didn't quite imagine.
The story gets more complicated as Phil starts to realize what he can and can't do. He can't go to the hotel he wants for his Honeymoon because it's "restricted", he see's the way people react when he mentions he's Jewish, and the assumptions people make of him. All of this seems a little naive of Phil, considering his best friend growing up was a Jew, and antisemitism seems to be everywhere. Eventually, even Phil's son Tom gets targeted with name-calling.
The story is well told, a double plot concerning Phil and Kathy, and Phil's research on antisemitism. And what I really appreciated about the movie is that it didn't focus on the outwardly antisemitics and how horrible they are, but how the people who dislike it so much but don't do anything to change anything, let comments and jokes slip by, etc, are just as bad. And they're the ones who could make a difference if they spoke up. You can't change the world by hating something and knowing what's wrong. It's knowing what's wrong and doing something about it. It was a well-told message, and something most people forget. About any issue.
Gregory Peck is great as Phil. He's serious, he's troubled, he's a caring father, and a romantic lover, and he's a serious writer. While the topic of antisemitism stays within the upper-class only (would've been more interesting to expand it wider than that), it was an interesting insight. Whether it's because it doesn't happen much anymore, or because it just doesn't happen here in Canada, I thought this film was interesting and I learned a lot. Sure, I knew about the goings on in the States, but not really to the extent of this movie showed.
In general the acting was very good. It scored 3 nominations, with Celeste Holm, who played Phil's flirty friend Anne, taking home the Supporting Actress Oscar. The pacing was really good, the music good, and it was just a really interesting and intriguing film. I can imagine it was quite controversial when it came out, being released in the 40s, right after WWII.
Overall, I liked it, learned a lot, and appreciated the strong message it gave. The only way to change the world is to get up and do something about it.
Music – 8/10
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10
Overall Package- 8/10