Week 9 Reading

In A Gentlemen’s agreement, Phil Green, a journalist from California moves to New York. Phil is assigned to do a piece on anti-Semitism in New York which was suggested by Kathy Lacey, the daughter of the editor. At first, Phil struggles to start his work, thinking about calling his friend Dave who lives in California, Phil comes up with the idea of pretending to be Jewish so he can get a real understanding of anti-Semitism in New York. Phil, who had fairly recently lost his wife begins a new relationship with Kathy Lacey. Throughout the film acts of anti-Semitism are displayed, one of the things that Phil learned was that having a Jewish last name made it more difficult to get a job. One of his Jewish coworkers was denied a position at the company, Smith’s Weekly- which was seen as a liberal News organization, however, when she put a different last name on the application she got the job.

One of the most shocking moments in the film is when Phil’s son Tommy comes home during an argument between Kathy and Phil and tells his father something happened at school. Tommy explains the other children called him slurs and refused to play with him. As Tommy is in distress Kathy grabs his shoulders and looks him in the eyes saying, “You’re no more Jew than I am, it’s just a horrible mistake.” Phil is rightfully mad at this response, telling Kathy that the problem is not with Tommy’s religion or ethnicity, but with the fact the other kids him being Jewish as a problem. Phil takes a break from Kathy and Kathy has a powerful conversation with Dave. Kathy asks Dave if he thinks she is anti- Semitic, Dave responds no but proceeds to ask her how she reacts when people are anti-Semitic around her. Kathy says she feels sick to her stomach when it happens and wants to scream, Dave points out her sitting there does not do anything to condemn the behavior and that her sitting there only allows a safe space for people to make anti-Semitic comments. Kathy realizes if she wants to be a part of the solution she has to speak out. In the end, Kathy and Phil hug, insinuating the relationship will continue.

I thought this was an interesting film. Although I thought it was a little strange, the overall message was very powerful and still very relevant. I thought the idea that silence is violence was highlighted in this film. After watching “My Darling Clementine” for another class this week, I was impressed with how progressive a movie from the same decade could be.

3 thoughts on “Week 9 Reading

  1. I was also surprised by how progressive the film was and I’m sure that at the time the film was seen as provocative. I liked how the film emphasized how the continuation of anti-semitism happens from silence and inaction, its an aspect of bigotry that I feel like is often overlooked and recently looked at more in-depth. I thought that the scene with Tommy, Phil, and Kathy puts at the forefront how Kathy’s passive beliefs can be just as damaging as having directly anti-semitic beliefs. Phil was right in being upset with Kathy for indirectly telling Tommy that because he is Christian that he is free from the bigotry that shouldn’t happen. Kathy’s character in many ways represents how some Americans view anti-semitism, a bad concept but should not be directly addressed.

  2. In my analysis, I also spoke about how I thought it was a bold production to bring to the big screen and with such a big actor! I was mostly surprised that the current political and social spheres allowed for this film to happen when this issue was one that people weren’t so obvious about. I also believe that Gregory Peck was in the film, To Kill a Mockingbird, so this continuation of working with hot-button issues seemed to be within his wealth of skill.

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