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Gentleman's Agreement (1947)


Gentleman's Agreement
Dorothy Maguire, Gregory Peck and John Garfield


'Gentleman's Agreement' is a dramatic film about the effects of anti-semitism, made in 1947, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield and Celeste Holm. The screenplay, by Moss Hart, was based on the novel by Laura Z. Hobson which was published as the film came out.

The film contains a strong anti-racist message, which still resonates today. When it was released in 1947, with memories of the Holocaust still fresh and with the state of Israel only just coming into being, the message was even more powerful. The movie was commercially successful and was one of Fox's highest grossing movies of 1947, after 'Forever Amber' and the Betty Grable picture 'Mother Wore Tights'. It was nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards, winning three, for Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan and Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm and lost in five categories, including Best Actor and Best Actress.

It is a smart film, well acted and directed, and a clever and intelligent portrayal of an insidious social problem.

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Plot

Gregory Peck plays Philip Green, a magazine writer who decides to go undercover and pretend to be Jewish in order to gain a real-life perspective on anti-semitism. The movie traces the incidents where Green is slighted because of his announced religion, the most hurtful insult being where the anti-Jewish sentiments are assumed and accepted as a matter of course. Aided by his Jewish friend, Dave Goldman, played by John Garfield at his best, Green is transformed before our eyes, from determined writer to avowed crusader against prejudice.

Production

Laura Z. Hobson's story, on which the film is based, was serialised in "Cosmopolitan" before being published as a book. Hobson's maiden name was Zametkin - hence the Z in her name - and she started the book after reading that newspaper columnist Walter Winchell had been called a "kike" by a Congressman from Mississippi and the insult had not been condemned by any member of the House of Representatives.

Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Daryl F. Zanuck wanted to make a film on the theme of anti-semitism after being refused membership, when he was a young scriptwriter, to the Los Angeles Country Club, when it was assumed incorrectly that he was Jewish. He was actually one of the few Hollywood moguls who was not Jewish. In advance of publication of the Hobson book, Zanuck paid $75,000 for the movie rights.

Though warned before filming commenced by Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish film executives that producing the film would merely "make trouble," it is to his great credit that he saw the project through to its final editing. He made sure he had a first class cast and crew to make the film, particularly the director, Elia Kazan , still near the beginning of his stellar movie career.

Shooting of the movie took 3 months from May to August, 1947.

It came as no surprise that the majority of people connected with making the film were subsequently called by HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, to be questioned about ties to communism. John Garfield was summoned to a second appearance but died, aged just 39, of a heart attack, the night before he was due to appear. HUAC, although publicly hunting communists, also pursued a barely hidden anti-Semitic agenda. They were the Gentleman's Agreement in action.

Main Cast

Gregory Peck ... Philip Schuyler Green
Dorothy McGuire ... Kathy Lacy
John Garfield ... Dave Goldman
Celeste Holm ... Anne Dettrey
Anne Revere ... Mrs. Green
June Havoc ... Elaine Wales
Albert Dekker ... John Minify
Jane Wyatt ... Jane
Dean Stockwell ... Tommy Green
Nicholas Joy ... Dr. Craigie
Sam Jaffe ... Professor Fred Lieberman
Harold Vermilyea ... Lou Jordan
Ransom M. Sherman ... Bill Payson

Gregory Peck (1916-2003)
Peck was an American actor who became one of the most popular and respected Hollywood stars in a career which lasted more than 50 years, during which he came to represent an enduring decency, and the solid traditional values of an older America. He was one of Hollywood's major stars from the 1940's onwards and he was ranked by the American Film Institute at number twelve on their list of Greatest Male Stars of All Time. He received five Academy Award nominations and won one Best Actor Oscar for his performance in 1962 as Atticus Finch in the film 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. In May 2003, only two weeks before Peck's death, his character, Atticus Finch, was voted the greatest screen hero of all time by the American Film Institute.
Celeste Holm (1916-2012)
Celeste was an American Oscar winning actress who had a long and successful career in movies, theater and television. She won an Academy Award for her performance in 'Gentleman's Agreement' and was nominated twice more for her roles in 'Come to the Stable' in 1949 and the immortal 'All About Eve' in 1950. She was an accomplished singer as well as an actress and one of her best remembered performances is her showstopping "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" duet with Frank Sinatra, from High Society' in 1956.
Dorothy McGuire (1916-2001)
She began her acting career on Broadway as understudy to Martha Scott and moved on to a long career in Hollywood. Her best known movie apart from 'Gentleman's Agreement' was 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' in 1945.
John Garfield (1913-52)
Born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents and growing up in the Yiddish theater district of New York, the message of 'Gentlemans Agreement' meant a lot to Garfield. He became a member of the Group Theater in the early 1930's and became one of Warner Bros. major stars in the late 1930's. He was politically liberal but got caught up in the Communist scare of the late 1940s. He died from long term heart problems supposedly intensified by the stress of the HUAC hearings.

Credits

Director ... Elia Kazan
Producer ... Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by ... Laura Z. Hobson (novel)
Screenplay ... Moss Hart
Music ... Alfred Newman
Cinematography ... Arthur C. Miller
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Twentieth Century-Fox
Release date ... November 11, 1947
Running time ... 118 minutes

Academy Awards

Three Wins:
Best Picture ... Twentieth Century-Fox
Best Director ... Elia Kazan
Best Supporting Actress ... Celeste Holm
Five Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actor ... Gregory Peck
Best Actress ... Dorothy McGuire
Best Supporting Actress ... Anne Revere
Film Editing ... Harmon Jones
Best Writing, Screenplay ... Moss Hart