Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT (1947)


Directed by Elia Kazan. Screenplay by Moss Hart from the novel by Laura Z. Hobson.
Widower Gregory Peck, an investigating journalist moves to a big New York City magazine. The liberal editor Albert Dekker assigns him a series on anti-semitism. Phil Green (Peck ) pretends to all that he is a Jew and is exposed to a shocking --though not surprising to his best friend John Garfield,who is Jewish -- amount of anti-semitism in all forms: overt, covert, insidious, blatant, unrecognized, unconscious...and even shared by Jews themselves. The theme is enhanced by Peck's affair with Dorothy McGuire, Dekker's niece, a liberal product of Eastern schools. She is far from racist, knows that Peck is not Jewish, yet she does not actively fight evil. The love scenes as well as the moments of awkwardness and ambivalence between Peck and McGuire are particularly intelligently scripted and performed. The plot is enhanced by many well-drawn figures, like Celeste Holm as a chic fashion editor who falls for Peck; Garfield, a returning Army Captain; Dean Stockwell, Peck's boy who is the butt of discrimination ; Anne Revere, Peck's ailing, supportive, mother ; and several, more peripheral characters, from janitors to doctors, inn-keepers or the wise, humorous, Einsteinian Jewish scientist Sam Jaffe. A powerful film, excellently written and directed and still valid almost 50 years later in essence and in several factual or psychological details. Cleverly, what Peck uncovers is done naturally, in the course of daily, ordinary life. What may date slightly is the manner in which dialogues and speeches are delivered: by later, naturalistic film standards, their flow is too smooth and too eloquent, without the hesitations and the vagueness of real life. Some period references might be lost on today's audiences: Senator Bilbo, Gerald K. Smith, Father Coughlin .( Modern audiences may also be surprised by the amount of smoking that goes on.) What could be curious is the absence of any reference to the Holocaust, though, on the other hand, the movie's context does not need this addition to make its points . The actors are outstanding. Peck is at his most handsome, attractive, distinguished and natural. The casting of Dean Stockwell is interesting, as the same boy would play, a year later, the title role in the pro-peace, anti-discrimination film, "The Boy With Green Hair." Dekker, who usually played nasty characters, is very well cast against type. Six Oscars nominations, three awards: Picture, Director and Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm).
Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel