"The world is stirring in very strange ways. Maybe this is the century for it. Maybe that's why it's so troubled. Other centuries had their driving forces. What will ours have been when men look back? Maybe it won't be the American century after all... or the Russian century or the atomic century. Wouldn't it be wonderful... if it turned out to be everybody's century... when people all over the world - free people - found a way to live together? I'd like to be around to see some of that... even the beginning."---Mrs. Green to Phil (Gentleman's Agreement, 1947)I was reluctant to see this film, as I have never been one to enjoy a film of moralizing and platitudes. I knew that the purpose of this film was to expose anti-semitism, and I was afraid this would turn into another "The Life of Emile Zola." Much pontificating without plot or purpose. But I didn't give credit to the fact that ten years have passed since that film, and therefore Darryl Zanuck was able to craft a much subtler, worthier film. This film is a story about average people first, and a political piece second. It's why the message manages to be heard. Zanuck doesn't hit you over the head with his point, but he sneaks it into the lives of his characters. Though sometimes redundant and choppy, I appreciated this film--especially when I discovered the interesting
historical ramifications that occurred years later.
|Mrs. Green speak to her son, Phil|
Philip Schuyler Green, played by Gregory Peck, is a widowed journalist of some success, who has just moved to New York City with his mother and young son to pursue a new job with a liberal magazine, Smith's Weekly. His publisher, John Minify, wants him to do a story on anti-semitism that will "blow the lid off it." Phil is disappointed, and feels that it has been done before, but he allows Minify to bring him to his home for a party where he meets Minify's niece, Kathy, a young socialite and divorcée who was actually the driving force behind Minify's story. Kathy, played by Dorothy McGuire, and Phil hit it off right away and begin dating.
|Phil and his family|
Minify is thrilled and agrees to keep Phil's true faith a secret from the rest of the magazine. But Kathy is confused that he might really be Jewish and concerned for him, though she eventually agrees to play along. The two fall in love and decide to marry. Meanwhile workers at the magazine have found out Phil is Jewish. His new secretary, Elaine Wales, confesses that she only got this job after she changed her name from Estelle Walofsky. Phil tells Minify who then changes their hiring policy. But when Wales discovers the changes, she confesses to Green that she is worried that this will allow them to let in a "kikey" Jew.
|Phil and his secretary, Elaine|
|Phil tells Kathy the plan|
|Kathy, Phil, Dave, and Anne|
|Phil is rejected at the hotel|
|Kathy embraces Tommy|
|Kathy and Dave have dinner|
|Anne proposes to Phil|
|Phil comes back to Kathy|
Post-World War II America was doing its best to forget the horrible images of genocide and racial hatred. In any event, prejudice of that kind was a European problem, best underscored by the continuing reports of the Nuremberg Trials. Americans were the conquering heroes, and now all the problems were over. But America had its own brand of prejudice, and in 1946 author Laura Z. Hobson wrote a book about a journalist who pretends to be Jewish in order to expose prejudice in America. The book received rave reviews, and was an instant best-seller.
|An important Jewish executive tells Minify to "leave it alone."|
|Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire|
|Darryl Zannuck and his contemporaries|
|Phil and his mother and son|
|Protesters for the "Hollywood Ten"|
|Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus on Miracle on 34th Street|
|Ingrid Bergman awards James Baskette the Oscar|
|Celeste Holm wins his Oscar|
|From left: Darryl Zanuck, Edmund Gwen, Loretta Young, Ronald Colman, and Celeste Holm|
|House of Un-American Activities Committee|
|John Garfield as Dave fights in a restaurant|
There are many things I found fascinating about this film, and not all of them involve staring at Gregory Peck. Just most of them---kidding! Does that lighten the mood or undermine it?
|Celeste Holm with Gregory Peck|
|Publicity still from Gentleman's Agreement|
|Phil and Kathy fight|
|Kathy leaves Phil|
|But some of my best friends are Jewish!|