- Actors: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere
- Directors: Elia Kazan
- Writers: Elia Kazan, Laura Z. Hobson, Moss Hart
- Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck
- Format: NTSC, Import
- Language: English, French
- Subtitles: English, Spanish
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Release Date: Oct. 5 1999
- Run Time: 118 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00000K3CT
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Gentleman's Agreement [Import]
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Elia Kazan directed this sometimes powerful study of anti-Semitism in nicer circles, based on Laura Z. Hobson's post-World War II novel. Gregory Peck is a hotshot magazine writer who has been blind to the problem; to ferret it out, he passes himself off as Jewish and watches the WASPs squirm. Seen a half-century later, the attitudes seem quaint and dated: Could it really have been like this? Yet the truth of the story comes through, in the wounded dignity of John Garfield, the upright indignation of Peck, and the hidden ways bigotry and hatred can poison relationships. That's particularly true in the Oscar-winning performance of Celeste Holm, who finds more layers than you'd expect in what seems like a stock character. --Marshall Fine --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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Unfortunately, the story itself seems dated watching it now, with rather "cheesy" dialogue especially in the scenes with Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire. I did enjoy Celeste Holms though, she played her part beautifully and believably.
The sound was poor on this film, went from soft to very loud several times, picture quality was excellent.
***SPOILER: I thought the ending was surprising and in a bad way.
What Celeste's character says previously about the "Cathy's" of the world was true. Why would Greg Peck go running back to a woman who had shown her lack of real backbone re: prejudice, again and again. The token gesture to make things "right" that she made at the end of the film seemed so shallow and almost worthless. Forgive her perhaps, but want to marry her? I think not.
Gregory should have been running back to Celeste!!! That was a woman of passion and conviction and much more in line with the kind of person he was. That did not ring true at all for me, given the nature of the overall story and Gregory Peck's character.
I'm surprised this won several Academy Awards but I guess at the time, it was considered a ground-breaking film. Celeste Holms did deserve her Oscar though, she was wonderful!
Peck plays a New York magazine writer who decides to do a comprehensive study of what it is like to live as a Jew. One of the film's most powerful scenes occurs when Peck, giving the name he is using for his investigation, Green, is turned away when he seeks to register at a prominent hotel, with a policy of turning away Jews. He learns much as well about the struggle of Jewish Americans in interacting with his friend John Garfield, an Army officer with much insight to reveal.
His involvement in the controversial experiment and ultimately expose causes Peck problems with his girlfriend Dorothy McGuire. Eventually she sees the light and recognizes an important truism as she states that at least in the cases of anti-Semitic bigots one knows where one stands. She observes the more outwardly subtle problem of people on the one hand proclaiming themselves as liberal and without prejudice, but also playing it safe and refusing to stand up for injustice when it occurs, such as when anti-Jewish jokes are told at cocktail parties or slights are observed which stem from bigotry and nothing is said.
"Gentleman's Agreement" was a bold step forward for Hollywood in facing up to realities in post-World War Two America. Zanuck and Kazan would also tackle the subject of race in the sensitively done "Pinky" with Jeanne Crain one year later in 1949. Crain is a young woman with African American blood who attempts to pass for white in a society affected by racism.
I'm assuming that most of the people considering a purchase of the DVD have already seen the movie, so I'd like to focus here on the incisive commentary by Richard Schickel, long-time film critic for Time magazine. Stars June Havoc and Celeste Holm are also heard on the track, recorded separately, and while their remarks are interesting, this is Schickel's showcase, and he runs with it.
As it happened, I wound up listening to this commentary over the course of three nights. This kind of gradual exposure allowed me to really absorb Schickel's observations.
The critic is no sycophantic fan of "Gentleman's Agreement." While he admires its aims, and much of its execution (primarily the achievements of director Elia Kazan), he has some reservations about the script, and some of the acting.
He demonstrates a complete understanding of the conventions of 1940s studio filmmaking, but doesn't always accept the necessity that "Gentleman's Agreement" had to adhere to those norms. I didn't always agree with Schickel's criticisms of the film, but they certainly made me think, and I never found them off-putting.
Schickel wisely underscores the contribution of John Garfield, whose training in The Group Theater gave him a more realistic acting style than anyone else in the film. "Garfield seems to be acting in an entirely different movie," Schickel says, and it is not a criticism. The Garfield performance leads on a direct path to Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire," also directed by Kazan, and Schickel makes this clear. It is at this point that he makes the single most fascinating statement in the entire commentary, which I won't spoil for you here. Suffice it to say that it's something that may strike you as intuitive, but put into this context, becomes something of a revelation.
I've seen Web-based reviews of this DVD that criticize Schickel for doing too much plot summary. I disagree; he doesn't merely give a blow-by-blow account of what's hapening. He mentions plot points, but goes on to offer an opinion about how well the moment is conveyed, or about what real-life parallels the film is touching upon, or something else that is valuable to the viewer.
DVD commentaries just don't get much better than this.
The other extras on the disc, among them an AMC backstory presentation and a selection of 1947 newsreels, are nice additions.
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