I went further back in time than I have before for this particular Oscar winner, all the way back to 1948 in fact. The film that won the Best Picture in 1948 was called Gentlemen’s Agreement. To be quite honest, I didn’t like this film very much. I thought it was heavy handed and boring. I appreciate the skill that went into the film but I think I had a hard time connecting with the true meaning of the film because it was made over sixty years ago.
Gentleman’s Agreement takes a heavy handed look at Anti-Semitism in the 1940’s. The film’s main character, Philip Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck), is recently widowed journalist. Recently moving to New York City with his son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) and his mother (Anne Revere), Philip is given an assignment by a well-known magazine. Asked to write a piece of anti-Semitism, it takes Philip a while to find a way to feel enthusiastic about the piece. Realizing he can only approach the situation as a gentile, Philip decides to walk a mile in a Jewish man’s shoes and decides to pretend to be Jewish. Telling nobody the truth but his mother, his son and his girlfriend (soon to be fiancé), Kathy Lacey (Dorothy McGuire), Philip feels the full effect of the pain anti-Semitism can cause. Philip attacks the assignment head on, not wavering for a moment when the discrimination affects his job, his family and his pride or even when it threatens his relationship. In the end, Philip finishes up his assignment, reveals the truth about himself and writes his story, unveiling the extent anti-Semitism exists in the world.
With famous director Elia Kazan behind the camera, this is a well-shot film with a story that flowed. Though I thought that the film’s point was entirely too heavy-handed, it is very likely that I get that impression form the film because I am watching six and a half decades after it was originally released. The performances in the film were solid, earning the film a number of different nominations. Gregory Peck was nominated for best actor and Dorothy McGuire earned a nomination for best actress. Anne Revere was nominated for best supporting actress but Celeste Holm took the win for that award. Celeste played Anne Dettrey, the fashion editor for the magazine who eventually becomes one of Philip’s good friends. Another actor who gave a great performance but did not earn a nomination was John Garfield who played Dave Goldman, one of Philip’s friends from growing up who was Jewish. Kazan himself earned the best directing award for the film and of course, the film won best picture.
Gentleman’s Agreement went up against four films, Crossfire, the Bishop’s Wife, Great Expectations and the well-known Miracle on 34th Street. I have not seen any of these other films, other than Miracle on 34th Street, so I cannot voice an opinion as to if the film should have won best picture. I can say that the acting and directing in the film were skillful enough to let me understand how it could be a winning film. As I did with the English Patient, I am going to split up my rating into two categories. I give the film a 1 out 5 for being a film that entertained me. As far as it being a “good” film, a film with good shots and performances, I give the film a 4 out of 5, which gives it a 5 out of 10 overall. Though it is heavy handed, the film delivers a valid point, utilized the skills of some very talented actors and actresses as well as one very talented director.