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Gentleman's Agreement

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Gentleman's Agreement
200px
original movie poster
Directed by Elia Kazan
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by Laura Z. Hobson (novel)
Moss Hart (screenplay)
Starring Gregory Peck
Dorothy McGuire
John Garfield
Celeste Holm
June Havoc
Anne Revere
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Arthur C. Miller
Editing by Harmon Jones
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date(s) November 11, 1947 (New York City premiere)
Running time 118 min.
Language English
Budget $2,000,000 (estimated)

Gentleman's Agreement is a 1947 drama film about a journalist (played by Gregory Peck) who goes undercover as a Jew to research antisemitism in New York City and the affluent community of Darien, Connecticut. The movie was controversial in its time, as was a similar film on the same subject, Crossfire, which was also released the same year and also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Gentleman's Agreement was based on Laura Z. Hobson's 1947 novel of the same name.

The movie is available on DVD as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.

Plot

Dorothy McGuire and Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement trailer

Dorothy McGuire and Gregory Peck

Philip Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck) is a widowed journalist who has just moved to New York City with his son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) and mother (Anne Revere). Green meets with magazine publisher John Minify (Albert Dekker), who asks Green to write an article on antisemitism. After initially struggling with how to approach the topic in a fresh way, Green is inspired to adopt a Jewish identity ("Phil Greenberg") and write about his own first-hand experiences. Green and Minify agree to keep it secret that Phil is not Jewish; since he and his family are new to New York, it should be easy to hide.

At a dinner party, Phil meets Minify's divorced niece Kathy Lacey (Dorothy McGuire), who turns out to be the person who originally suggested the story idea. Minify provides her with a large apartment and money. Kathy "works" as a pre-school teacher. Phil and Kathy begin dating. Though she seems to have liberal views, when he reveals what he intends to do, she is taken aback and asks if he actually is Jewish. The strain on their relationship due to Kathy's subtle acquiescence to bigotry becomes a key theme in the film.

At the magazine, Phil is assigned a secretary, Elaine Wales (June Havoc), who reveals that she too is Jewish. She changed her name in order to get the job (her application under her real, Jewish-sounding name, Estelle Wilovsky, was rejected). After Phil informs Minify about Wales' experience, Minify orders the magazine to adopt hiring policies that are open to Jews. Wales has reservations about the new policy, fearing that the "wrong Jews" will be hired and ruin things for the few Jews working there now. Phil meets fashion editor Anne Dettrey (Celeste Holm), who becomes a good friend and potentially more, particularly as strains develop between Phil and Kathy.

John Garfield and Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement trailer

John Garfield and Dorothy McGuire

As Phil's assignment proceeds, his childhood friend, Dave Goldman (John Garfield), who is Jewish, moves to New York for a job and lives with the Greens while he looks for a home for his family. Housing is scarce in the city, but it is particularly difficult for Goldman, since not all landlords will rent to a Jewish family. When Phil tells Dave about his project, Dave is supportive, but concerned.

As time goes on, Phil experiences several incidents of bigotry. When his mother becomes ill with a heart condition, the doctor discourages him from consulting a specialist with an obviously Jewish name, suggesting he might be cheated. When Phil reveals that he is himself Jewish, the doctor becomes uncomfortable and leaves. Also, when kids at school learn that Tommy is Jewish, he becomes the target of bullies. Phil is troubled by the way Kathy consoles Tommy, telling him that their taunts of "dirty Jew" are wrong because he isn't Jewish, not that the epithet is wrong in and of itself.

Kathy's attitudes are revealed further when she and Phil announce their engagement. Her sister Jane (Jane Wyatt) invites them to a celebration in her home in Darien, Connecticut, which is known to be a "restricted" community where Jews are not welcome. Fearing an awkward scene, Kathy wants to tell her family and friends that Phil is only pretending to be a Jew, but Phil prevails on Kathy to tell only Jane. At the party, everyone is very friendly to Phil, though many people are "unable" to attend at the last minute.

Dave announces that he will have to quit his job because he cannot find a place for his family. Kathy owns a vacant cottage in Darien, but though Phil sees it as the obvious solution to Dave's problem, Kathy is unwilling to offend her neighbors by renting it to a Jewish family. She and Phil break their engagement. Phil announces that he will be moving away from New York when his article is published. When it comes out, it is very well received by the magazine staff.

Kathy meets with Dave and tells him how sick she felt when a party guest told a bigoted joke. However, she has no answer when Dave repeatedly asks her what she did about it. She comes to realize that remaining silent condones the prejudice.

The next day, Dave tells Phil that he and his family will be moving into the cottage in Darien and Kathy will be moving in with her sister next door to make sure they are treated well by their neighbors. When Phil hears this, he reconciles with Kathy.

Production

Zanuck decided to make a film version of Hobson's novel after being refused membership in the Los Angeles Athletic Club when it was assumed incorrectly that he was Jewish. Before filming commenced, Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish film executives approached Darryl Zanuck and asked him not to make the film, fearing that it would "stir up trouble". They also warned that Hays Code enforcer Joseph Breen might not allow the film to pass the censors as he had been known to make disparaging remarks about Jews. There was also concern that Dorothy McGuire's character being divorced would offend the National Legion of Decency. The role of Phillip Green was first offered to Cary Grant, but he turned it down. Peck decided to accept the role although his agent advised him to refuse, believing he would be endangering his career. Jewish actor John Garfield agreed to play a lesser role in the film in order to be a part of the film.

The film was shot on location in Darien, Connecticut.[1]

Reception

Gentleman's Agreement received a generally favorable reception from influential New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. Crowther said that "every point about prejudice which Miss Hobson had to make in her book has been made with superior illustration and more graphic demonstration in the film, so that the sweep of her moral indignation is not only widened but intensified thereby."

Crowther said that the movie shared the novel's failings in that "explorations are narrowly confined to the upper-class social and professional level to which he is immediately exposed." He also said that the main character's shock at the extent of antisemitism was lacking in credibility "it is, in a careful analysis, an extraordinarily naive role."[2]

In addition to winning Academy Awards for best picture and best director, Gentleman's Agreement was Fox's highest grossing movie of 1947. The political nature of the film, however, upset the House Un-American Activities Committee, with Elia Kazan, Darryl Zanuck, John Garfield, and Anne Revere all being called to testify before the committee. Both Garfield and Revere refused to testify and were placed on the Hollywood Blacklist. Revere did not appear in another movie for twenty years. Garfield remained on the blacklist for one year, was called again to testify against his wife, and died of a heart attack at the age of 39 before his second hearing date.

Main cast and characters

Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement trailer closeup Gregory Peck as Philip Schuyler Green Anne Revere in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped Anne Revere as Mrs. Green
Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped Dorothy McGuire as Kathy Lacey June Havoc in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped June Havoc as Elaine Wales
John Garfield in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped John Garfield as Dave Goldman Albert Dekker in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped Albert Dekker as John Minify
Celeste Holm in Gentleman's Agreement trailer Celeste Holm as Anne DettreyJane Wyatt in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped Jane Wyatt as Jane

Other cast members

Dean Stockwell as Tommy Green
Nicholas Joy as Doctor Craigie
Sam Jaffe as Professor Fred Lieberman

Awards

The film won three Oscars:

It was nominated for another five Oscars:

References


  1. Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life by Lynn Haney (2003). ISBN 0786714735.
  2. Crowther, Bosley (November 11, 1947). "Gentleman's Agreement (1947)". New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E0DE7DE113AE233A25751C1A9679D946693D6CF. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Best Years of Our Lives
Academy Award for Best Picture
1947
Succeeded by
Hamlet

Template:AcademyAwardBestPicture 1941-1960 Template:Elia Kazan Filmshr:Džentlmenski sporazumja:紳士協定 (映画) no:Mellom gentlemennpt:A Luz É para Todos ru:Джентльменское соглашение (фильм) sr:Џентлменски споразум sh:Gentleman's Agreement fi:Hiljainen sopimus tr:Centilmenlik Anlaşması (film, 1947)

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