Week 9 – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

The movie, Gentleman’s Agreement, was a film released in 1947 that followed the life of Philip Green. Green, a journalist, is based in New York and is hired to write a story about the antisemitic views and feelings of people living during that time. In order to dive deeper into research and to investigate further into the anti-Jewish sentiment of the time, Philip Green decides to pose as a Jewish man in order to experience what was happening fully before writing his piece.

Throughout the film, it was very obvious that there was this “othering” of Jewish people as well as other minority groups. “What must a Jew feel about this day,” Green said, “… Can I think my way into Dave’s mind? He’s the kind of fellow I would be if I was a Jew. We grew up together, we lived in the same kind of home, we did everything together! Whatever Dave feels now, difference, outrage, contempt would be the feelings of Dave not only as a Jew but the way I feel as a man, an American, a citizen.” Green argued again and again that there was no difference of the flesh in relationship with religion, that everyone was human, just believed in different things. Towards the end of the film, the conversation between Philip and Kathy. He said to her, “look at me… same face, same eyes, same nose, same suit, same everything. Here, feel my hand… feel it, the same flesh as yours, isn’t it? No different today than it was yesterday. The only difference is the word Christian.” Throughout the film, there was always this comparison between people who practiced Judaism and Christianity. In the end of the film, he was having a conversation with the older woman, where he said that it wasn’t specifically this Kathy, but “all of the Kathys” of the world who don’t say they aren’t anti-semites but proclaim their innocence instead. Because of his going undercover, he was able to fully witness the experiences that the Jewish people of that time were going through.

Overall, this was a very interesting film to watch. I think that I was most surprised that the filmmaker was so bold as to address the topic of anti-semitism on the big screen. Choosing a well known actor lead to greater exposure, which may have led to a broadening of thought for those people who believed in some of those things.

3 thoughts on “Week 9 – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

  1. I was thinking the same thing about the public perception of this film. Dr. Moon confirming that this was definitely provocative at the time of release and even now in popular culture did not come as a surprise. Looking at the cast I noticed that Gregory Peck, who played Philip Green also played Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird which is also known to be a controversial film and I feel that Peck was likely known for these roles.

  2. I too found this movie interesting and provocative to the present as well as the past. The “othering” as you put it of the Jewish people is one of the fascinating parts of the movie. The idea that people could not tell if he was Jewish or not and how when he reviled his true identity there was a notable shift and shock in peoples behavior.

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