Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm
Philip Green (Peck) is a widow, a father, and a successful author. He’s just taken on a new job at a popular magazine in New York. Besides his mother, he doesn’t have many connections to the big city. For his first assignment the editor at his magazine wants him to write a piece exposing the growing antisemitism. Since he’s new in town, Green decides to present himself as Philip Greenberg, a Jew, to try to experience things for himself. He’s also formed an attachment with his editor’s niece Lacey (McGuire) who’s in on the plan. She agrees to keep his secret, but like Philip she soon finds that the bias is more devastating than they ever expected. As he seeks his story out, Philip and Lacey begin to understand the depth of harm that comes from racism and discrimination.
For a powerful social commentary, Gentleman’s Agreement was one of the most successful films of 1947. The movie was directed by Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire). The film was based on a popular novel by Laura Z. Hobson published that same year. The cast included a number of popular actors including Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird), Dorothy McGuire (Old Yeller), John Garfield (Four Daughters), and Celeste Holm (All About Eve). Critics and moviegoers alike were mainly positive in their reviews. The film would go on to win three Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Kazan), and Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm.
This movie has a powerful message, and must have hit at some pretty controversial points on its initial release. Unfortunately the message is very narrow in the scope of the problem. The characters in the film are facing racism and discrimination within the sheltered environment of high society and upper-middle class America. There is some attempt to acknowledge the working man, but it’s generally overlooked in favor of the plot.
The movie is put together nicely from every aspect. The acting, camera work, and all the other technical aspects of the film are done well. It’s a great example of the social commentary films that are often winners at the Oscars. Some of these films have included The Lost Weekend, Ordinary People, and The Hurt Locker.
Despite being a bit narrow in its focus, this is a great movie. If you’re a fan of Gregory Peck this is a must-see. For fans of classic movies in general, I think this is one worth seeing. It’s a great story of one man’s growing understanding of the world around him. I recommend this to anyone who appreciates movies that carry a message. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.