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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Gentlemen's Agreement (1947)


What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: What would it be like to walk in a marginalized group's shoes? The most important places the movie goes isn't even in the easily identifiable racism, but rather how injustice happens when good people do nothing.


Plot Summary: 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). His new employer, a magazine publisher, asks him to do a story on anti-semitism. Looking for a new angle for the story, Green decides to tell everyone he's Jewish. Meanwhile, Green meets his boss's niece, Kathy Lacey (Dorothy McGuire), who agrees to help Green in his deception. Green starts to experience strange behavior, apprehension, and overt discrimination, and, when his old friend, Dave Goldman (John Garfield), a Jew himself, attempts to move to New York, Goldman helps Green negotiate the world of prejudice. Nevertheless, it's not as rosy a picture for Green as you might have found in other magazines.


Cast:

  • Elia Kazan, Director

  • Moss Hart, Writer

  • Gregory Peck as Philip Schuyler Green

  • Anne Revere as Mrs. Green

  • Dorothy McGuire as Kathy Lacey

  • June Havoc as Elaine Wales

  • John Garfield as Dave Goldman

  • Albert Dekker as John Minify

  • Celeste Holm as Anne Dettrey

  • Jane Wyatt as Jane

  • Dean Stockwell as Tommy Green

*Recognition:

  • Based on Laura Z. Hobson's best-selling 1947 novel of the same title, Gentlemen's Agreement was released on November 11, 1947.

  • The movie was an unexpected hit at the box office. According to Variety, it earned $3.9 million in rentals in the US in 1948. For its budget of $1.985 million, the film earned roughly $7.8 million in the U.S. and was the #7 movie of the year.

  • Gentlemen's Agreement currently holds a 76% on RT among critics.

  • Gentlemen's Agreement garnered eight Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Peck), Actress (Dorothy McGuire), Supporting Actress (Anne Revere), Screenplay (Moss Hart), and Film Editing; winning three Oscars for Best Picture, Director (Kazan), and Supporting Actress (Holm).

  • 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. Revere refused to testify and although Garfield appeared, he refused to "name names". Both were placed in the Red Channels of the Hollywood Blacklist. Garfield remained on the blacklist for a 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. It was believed that the stress of these experiences led to the heart attack that killed him at the age of 39.

  • In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Did You Know:

  • The role of Phillip Green was first offered to Cary Grant, but he turned it down. Grant refused the role because he contended he was Jewish and thought he looked Jewish. He maintained, "The public won't believe my portrayal of a gentile trying to pass himself off as a Jew."

  • Gregory Peck did not get along with director Elia Kazan. Kazan told the press he was very disappointed with Peck's performance and the two men never worked together again.

  • Despite winning an Oscar for his direction, Elia Kazan revealed in a later interview that he was never fond of this movie, feeling that it lacked passion on his part and he thought that the romance was too forced.

  • Gregory Peck later said regarding this film, "We felt we were brave pioneers exploring anti-Semitism in the United States. Today, it seems a little dated."

  • The timeliness of the film is revealed by a telling exchange that took place between screenwriter Moss Hart and a stagehand, as reported in "The Saturday Review," December 6, 1947, pg. 71: "You know," a stagehand is reported to have said to Mr. Hart, "I've loved working on this picture of yours. Usually I play gin-rummy with the boys when scenes are being shot. But not this time. This time I couldn't leave the set. The picture has such a wonderful moral I didn't want to miss it." "Really?" beamed Mr. Hart, pleased not only as a scenarist but as a reformer. "That's fine. What's the moral as you see it?" "Well, I tell you," replied the stagehand. "Henceforth I'm always going to be good to Jewish people because you never can tell when they will turn out to be Gentiles."

  • John Garfield accepted the role after producer Darryl F. Zanuck promised that the film would be faithful to Moss Hart's script. Despite his limited role, Garfield was paid a full star's salary.

Best Performance: Gregory Peck (Phil) and John Garfield (Dave)/Dorothy McGuire (Kathy)

Best Secondary Performance: Gregory Peck (Phil)/Celeste Holm (Anne)

Most Charismatic Award: John Garfield (Dave)/Dorothy McGuire (Kathy)

Best Scene:

  • Phil Gets the Angle

  • Phil's New Secretary

  • Dave Goldman

  • Flume Inn

  • Engagement Party

  • Engagement Broken

  • "I was Jewish for Eight Weeks"

  • Anne Makes Her Move

  • Dave Shows Kathy the Subtleties of Racism

Favorite Scene: Dave Shows Kathy the Subtleties of Racism

Most Indelible Moment: "I was Jewish for Eight Weeks"/Phil and Kathy Making Up (It happens like 3 times)


In Memorium:

  • Peter Brook, 97, English theatre and film director (Lord of the Flies, Ride of the Valkyrie, Marat/Sade), Tony winner (1966, 1971)

  • Joe Turkel, 94, American actor (The Shining, Blade Runner, Paths of Glory).

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Kathy Lacey: You think I'm an anti-Semite.

Phil Green: No, I don't. But I've come to see lots of nice people who hate it and deplore it and protest their own innocence, then help it along and wonder why it grows. People who would never beat up a Jew. People who think anti-Semitism is far away in some dark place with low-class morons. That's the biggest discovery I've made. The good people. The nice people.


Kathy Lacey: You can't help that you were born Christian instead of Jewish. It doesn't mean you're glad you were. But I am glad. There, I said it.


Mrs. Green: You know something, Phil? I suddenly want to live to be very old. Very. I want to be around to see what happens. 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. I may stick around for quite a while.


Kathy Lacey: You can't make over the whole world. You know I'm on Dave's side.

Phil Green: Well, I'm not on Dave's side or any side, except against their side.


Kathy Lacey: I love this house, deeply... and I started to build it when things first began to go wrong between Bill and me. And somehow it became a symbol to me of many things. Sometimes, when you're troubled and hurt, you pour yourself into things that can't hurt back.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 3.5

Impact/Significance: 8.25

Novelty: 9.25

Classic-ness: 9

Rewatchability: 7

Audience Score: 7.55 (73% Google, 78% RT)

Total: 44.55


Remaining Questions:

  • What is a single woman doing going out with a married man on the town whose wife she has never met?

  • Is this movie best presented with a "gentile" posing as Jewish or from the actual point of view of a Jewish person going through it?

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