Reviewed by Danny Sarnowski
And I mean that. Oy. What a picture. 1947's Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Gentleman's Agreement, is a tough one. This movie has it all: bland characters, slow scenes, weak & cliched dialogue, and an extremely forced plot. Perhaps, in its day it was a powerful wake up call to movie goers about the dangers of intolerance. Of course, movie goers of its day had just lived through WORLD WAR 2. I hope, by that point, they had learned a thing or two about the dangers of intolerance. Anyway...
The movie stars Gregory Peck as Philip Green, as a widowed magazine writer, newly arrived in New York after living his entire life in California. He is in town to consider accepting a job at a prestigious and liberal weekly magazine. His assignment is to do a series of articles on Antisemitism. People of 1946 New York seemed to believe that intolerance and hate were the domain of zealots and overtly monstrous loners. The secret hate for Jewish citizens, apparently just below the surface of every day life, needed to be exposed and discussed.
Green accepts the assignment without a clear bead on the story. He works to crack it for a few days but is missing an "angle" that really sticks. As he vents to his mother (who lives with him and his young son Tommy - a very young Dean Stockwell), he recounts that he usually "lives" his stories. He becomes engrossed in them and enters the worlds that he writes about. This takes Phil to the idea of pretending to be Jewish in order to write about what's like to be a Jew (why this took any time at all is not explained - this appears to always be his angle). Thus, Phil sets about planting seeds with his new colleagues and friends that he is Jewish to see what happens.
He doesn't make an effort to go and "live the Jewish life" or really venture beyond his office. The next hour and a half are really just Peck being in rooms with horrifically intolerant bigots who make seemingly endless Jewish jokes or horrible comments at the end of which he says "did you know that I'm Jewish?" And then they seem sheepish. I mean, the fact that anyone thinks that Antisemitism is not a problem has apparently never been in a room with anyone else in New York. Every scene for the rest of the movie involves some sort of anti-Semitic content. Phil is the subject of prejudice and discrimination, his son is beaten up, and so on... In fact, being fake Jewish even costs Phil his new relationship.
Ah, the relationship. After arriving in New York, Phil meets Kathy, a wealthy, WASP-ish divorcee. After two dates and one kiss, they apparently decide to get engaged. She is his partner in the secret of his plan with writing the articles and sees the hate all around him. She also silently watches others make anti-Semitic comments and sits idly by while her exclusive, gated community refuses to admit Jews. There is no formal rule against Jews, you see, just a "gentleman's agreement" that they will not be welcome. And there you have it. The hate is everywhere. The film ends with Phil publishing his article and us getting a few sermons about our need to speak up and fight for those who are being discriminated against. I wonder how the African Americans who saw this film felt the rest of the country was doing at all of that.
- Celeste Holm plays a spitfire fashion editor who is a colleague of Phil's at the magazine. Her quick wit and been-there-done-that attitude is refreshing in every scene she is in. She took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role.
- Pretty much everything else.
- Ultimately, this movie is slow and boring. It condescends to you. It lectures you - D