I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gentleman's Agreement, 1947

Not Rated

This was one of Hollywood’s first significant attempts at covering the hot topic issue of racial prejudice and bigotry after the First World War. Anti-Semitism was of great concern in society at the time, and the horror of the Holocaust was fresh in everybody’s mind. That said, this was a very good attempt at starting dialogue, but I think it has “too much talk and not enough action”. I’m not saying that in regards to today’s standards (in which case, the story would be really weak); I understand that this was a new and delicate issue, but the plot still lacks gumption.

A “gentleman’s agreement” is one that is formed without writing or even speech; it is one that is quietly understood or assumed. In this story, it’s the silent agreement of the negative treatment or overall ignoring of Jews. Today, a gentleman’s agreement is not all that dissimilar from telling a politically incorrect joke and assuming the person agrees with you.

Phil Green (played by Gregory Peck) is a journalist who just got assigned a series of articles; he’s to write about Anti-Semitism in America- the thing is, he’s not Jewish. He hems and haws over how to approach this article and even considers calling up his friend who’s Jewish (but how do you really ask those types of questions of a friend?). He figures out he’ll become Jewish, so to speak… and he’s even got the title: “I was Jewish for Six Months”. (Interestingly, he doesn’t make it that long.)

Just before this revelation of his, he falls in love with a cute but naïve woman named Kathy (who I immediately recognized as the mother from the Disney film “Old Yeller”.) Although their relationship is a little tumultuous, I loved the way they fought and made up. They apologized so well to each other, realizing what was most important. I know it’s only a movie, but it was touching to me.

During his time “being Jewish”, Phil realizes that he’s not allowed at certain parties and hotels, his own liberal-minded company doesn’t hire Jews, and his son (who he asked to tell others he was “part Jewish” if anyone asked) is being bullied. The climax of the film for me was when he went to confirm his room at a “restricted” hotel for his Honeymoon. He asks to speak to a manager and after muddled words and indirect answers, he is told he cannot rent a room there. I figured that was going to be the last straw for him, but instead he stood there and stared and then walks away seemingly defeated.

The plot is padded a little heavily with the love story more so than the “meat” of the story. Phil did have some good father-child conversations with his son… I wouldn’t expect any less from Gregory Peck. J (My favorite fatherly role of his is Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”.) Phil finishes his articles early and although they may be controversial, it looks like they will be a success. (At least we can hope that it gets the ball rolling.)

This film won three awards from its eight nominations including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress: Celeste Holm who was also in the Best Picture winner “All about Eve” and my childhood favorite made-for-TV-movie “Polly”. “Gentleman’s Agreement” was up against “Crossfire”, “The Bishop’s Wife”, “Great Expectations”, and “Miracle on 34th Street”. It is very unusual that a holiday movie is up for nomination, but this last nominee had obviously such a (lasting) impact. I’m sure some would argue that THAT is the Best Picture from this year.


Phil’s ailing mother has a wish for what [this] century will be remembered for… “not the Atomic century, or the Russian century, or even the American century, but Everybody’s century… one in which free people found a way to live together.” This is an ongoing wish of many people. Let’s put our differences aside and learn to live peacefully with one another.

Swallow your pride. Phil’s Jewish friend feels no sympathy for him after a fight with his girlfriend. I love his response to seeing Phil sulking by the phone: “So you’re right and she’s wrong. So what? So she has to telephone you first? Who makes such rules, the Supreme Court? Go on and call her and stop licking your wounds.” I wish apologizing was this easy for me (no matter if I know I’m wrong or if I strongly believe I’m right); it’s not worth hurting the ones you love.

Kathy (again with the help of Phil’s Jewish friend) realizes that in moral issues like this, you need to “fight it instead of getting mad at those who helped it along”. She was taking the passive-aggressive approach by just verbalizing how displeased she was in other’s behaviors. She finally understands that what matters the most to her fiancé, is that he has a “buddy” alongside him to help fight the injustice. (This revelation at the end of the film is a little ironic considering that is my biggest critique of the film: too little action. Perhaps there should have been a “Gentleman’s Agreement 2” made…)

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