I first saw this movie many years ago when I rented it from a local video store. As a woman of African descent the subject matter of prejudice made me sit up and pay attention to how this storyline was going to unfold for the audience. Gentleman’s Agreement was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck decided to make this movie after he was refused membership by the Los Angeles Country Club. Zanuck found out that the club assumed that he was Jewish and that is why he was rejected. Zanuck in fact was not Jewish though. Film producer Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish film executives asked Darryl Zanuck not to go through with making this film because they did not want trouble to be stirred up. Zanuck was adamant that this film be made. Carey Grant was first choice to play Philip Green, but turned the role down. Against the advice of his agent, Gregory Peck accepted the role.
Gentleman’s Agreement stars Gregory Peck as Philip Schuyler Green, Dorothy McGuire as Kathy Lacey, Celeste Holm as Ann Dettrey, Anne Revere as Mrs. Green (Philip’s mother), John Garfield as Dave Goldman, June Havoc as Elaine Wales, Albert Dekker as John Minify and Jane Wyatt as Jane. The movie is directed by Elia Kazan and was released on November 11, 1947. It won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
A widowed journalist named Philip Green relocates to New York City with his mother and son. His first assignment with the magazine company he is now working for is to write about antisemitism. At first Philip is not bowled over by the assignment because it is a subject that has been written about many times before. Philip could not see how he could add to anything that has already been written.
Albert Dekker is magazine editor John Minify. I really like this character. The editor was very supportive of Philip. The secretary who was assigned to Philip told him that she is Jewish. She was first rejected for employment when she first sent in her resume with her Jewish sounding name which is Estelle Wilovsky. She then sent in the same resume again with her name changed to Elaine Wales and she got the job. Philip relayed this to the editor and he was shocked. John Minify calls in the man in charge of personnel and orders him to change their hiring policies right away. John Minify also tells him that if Elaine Wales is ever targeted for termination he must review it first.
In the meantime Philip Green meets and falls in love with John Minify’s divorced niece Kathy Lacey. Kathy is the person who originally came up with the idea for the article.
While talking things out with his mother one evening, Philip comes up with the idea of posing as a Jew himself to experience what antisemitism really is. It had not been written about by that angle before and this way Philip would really get to know himself how rampant antisemitism is and how Jews feel. It must remain a secret though that Philip is not really Jewish until he is ready to write and publish his article. Philip gets 100% encouragement from his mother and he starts telling people that his last name is Greenberg. Philip’s mother agrees to pretend to be Jewish too in order to convince others that they are indeed Jewish.
Philip tells Kathy that he decided to do the article on antisemitism and that he is going to pose as Jewish for a while. Kathy initially reacts in a way that makes Philip begin to look at her differently. While Kathy is not antisemitic and is the person who came up with the idea for the article, Kathy does not want to rock the boat too much. Kathy and Philip just became engaged and if everyone now thinks that Philip is Jewish, Kathy’s own lifeboat will be rocked.
Philip immediately begins to learn what it is like to be Jewish. He is shocked and appalled at the things that happen to him.
For one, the hotel that Philip wants to take Kathy to for their honeymoon refuses to register him because he is Jewish. All of a sudden there are no rooms available.
When Mrs Green becomes ill the doctor warns Philip against bringing in a specialist with a Jewish sounding name to avoid being ripped off. Philip tells the doctor that he is Jewish and the doctor leaves with his foot in his mouth.
Philip and Kathy have a riff because she wants Philip to tell everyone that he is only pretending to be Jewish when they go to a party that her sister is giving in their honor. Kathy’s sister Jane lives in Darien, Connecticut where Jews are not welcomed and talked about negatively. Kathy says that she doesn’t want to make things difficult for her sister. According to Kathy, why rock the boat especially since he is not really Jewish anyway. Philip becomes increasingly disturbed at Kathy’s attitudes. Philip insists that she tell only her sister. When they attend the party those who are there are very friendly and welcoming to Philip, but there are some guests who at the last-minute said they were unable to attend.
Philip’s best buddy Dave Goldman comes to New York for a visit and stays with Philip’s family while he looks for a job.
One afternoon while out to lunch with Dave and magazine fashion editor Anne Dettry, Dave is a victim of bigotry in the restaurant. I love the Anne Dettry character. Anne and Philip become very good friends and Anne is completely supportive of Philip.
Just after the incident Anne reaches out to try to console Dave. The restaurant manager comes over to the table and apologizes to Dave and tells him that it will never happen again.
Bigotry has now touched Philip’s son. Tommy comes home from school one day visibly upset because his classmates treated him badly and called him a “dirty jew” and a “kike”. I had to look up the word kike because I had no idea what it meant. Kathy consoles Tommy in the wrong way by telling him that he is not even Jewish so don’t worry about being called names. Philip is again shocked because whether or not they are Jewish it is wrong to call people “dirty jew” or anything else that is derogatory. Kathy and Philip have it out after he finishes calming down his son. Kathy admits that while she is turned off by bigotry she is glad that she is not Jewish because she doesn’t have to deal with it. Kathy is tired of having to prove herself to Philip and Philip is disgusted. That night Kate and Philip break off their engagement.
Philip decides it is time to publish his story. It is a shock and a huge hit. Anne Dettry is so proud of Philip. Philip is exhausted after everything that has happened to him and decides to quit his job and return to California with his family. That decision really baffled me. I sat there thinking to myself, what? Does Philip think that antisemitism is only on the east coast? What is moving supposed to do? I felt that he was running away.
I really wished that Philip ended up with Anne Dettry but that is not how the story goes. I like Kathy Lacey, but she kept annoying me with her refusal to stand up to bigotry when she witnesses it coming out of the mouths of people. She cringes, but she doesn’t say a word.
Kathy asks Dave to meet her for lunch. It is during this conversation that Dave is able to make Kathy understand that her quiet acquiescence to bigotry actually helps to keep it going and that is what Philip finds so distasteful. When Kathy finally sees the light she feels awful and starts to cry.
Dave has found a job but cannot find a place for his family to live because his last name is Goldman and no one will rent to him. Kathy rents out her cottage in Darien, CT. to Dave and his family. Kathy is moving in with her sister next door to make sure that no one in the community bothers them. Finally Kathy takes a stand.
Dave tells the good news to Philip who despite what happened still loves Kathy. After thinking it over. Philip goes to see Kathy and they kiss and make up. I assume they got married after all.
Gentleman’s Agreement is an outstanding movie. There is nothing like actually walking in someone else’s shoes to experience what it really feels like. I applaud everyone who took part in this production. Celeste Holm won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gentleman’s Agreement.
Gregory Peck was nominated for Best Actor. Dorothy McGuire was nominated for Best Actress. Gentleman’s Agreement also received Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Screenplay Writing.
I streamed this movie on Netflix.