Movie Review: Gentleman’s Agreement

PeckAgreementby Brad Nelson   3/17/14
This is an “issue” picture from 1947. Gregory Peck plays a reporter who pretends to be Jewish in order to investigate anti-Semitism. Along the way, he deals with an ailing mother and a couple chicks who dig him.

Now, whatever one’s thoughts on anti-Semitism (I’m against it, those on the Left tend to be for it), one can, and should, separate out the moral issues from the cinematic ones. That is, the movie could be mediocre while the message inherent to it is good.

And that’s sort of what we have here with Gentleman’s Agreement. I found Peck to come across as a little unnatural in this role. As much as a diss Dana Andrews, a guy such as that probably would have been better in the role. Peck is just too stiff. And he’s not helped in that many of the other actors are not particularly first-rate, although Peck’s mother, Anne Revere, has her moments and probably does more than anyone to humanize what is otherwise a quite mechanical picture.

As expected, when Peck goes undercover (or, at least, tells everyone that he actually is a Jew and that his real name has always just been a cover), he meets with the “gentleman’s agreement” which is to not allow Jews into certain country clubs and upper-crust hotels. And, really, this is where the movie loses some of its emotional appeal. Anti-Semitism is indeed brought home and made real when Peck’s son is pestered at school and called a “kike.” But as for Peck not being let into a country club, well, boo hoo. It’s not fair, but who said life is fair?

This picture would have been more effective had it shown us anti-Semitism steered toward those who weren’t rich and well off and who could well afford to find some other country club or hotel. And some background on the history and travails of the Jews would have helped to raise this from a mild “scold” film to something deeper and more meaningful.

There’s an aspect of this movie that foreshadows today’s PC environment wherein everyone’s sensibilities are always on high alert and looking for offense. Peck has a conversation with a doctor who recommends a couple specialists for his mother. Peck says, “What about Dr. Goldman? I hear he is very highly thought of.” And the doctor says something like, “Yes, well, indeed he is. He’s not typical in that he tries to stretch out the charges.” And then Peck jumps on the doctor for his obvious anti-Semetic prejudice.

Now, is this an unfair view of Jews or do some stereotypes have a bit of truth in them? Well, one can always fall victim to the conformation bias, but in my experience, Jews are pretty tight with their money. And that’s a good trait. After all, waste not, want no. But I have to say, I changed dentists recently simply because the one I had was so obviously trying to squeeze every last dime out of me in what I later found out to be unnecessary work. Did she do this because she was Jewish or because she was just a business person? I don’t know. Neither did it enter my mind not to go to a Jewish dentist in the first place. Nor would it now.

But the point is, some stereotypes have some truth in them. And the PC “senstive” culture that we live in now says we have to lie to ourselves and pretend that Jews, by and large, aren’t tight with their money, that blacks don’t like fried chicken, and that Norwegians don’t like lutefisk. (Well, I think that last one is allowed because whites are allowed to be stereotyped with impunity.)

I come from the Don Rickles schools of “sensitivity.” I think we are much better off laughing at this stuff than getting our panties all in a bunch. So, overall, I found this movie to be to stilted and preachy….when it wasn’t outright boring (which much of it was).

And, really, they need to make another picture like this today. This time it would be called “Progressive’s Agreement.” It would talk about the unspoken agreement in Hollywood to squeeze out any conservatives in the industry. (And ironic in all this is that most Jews support “Progressive” candidates.)

Perhaps one day Jews will get over their own prejudices about the supposedly big, bad “right.” Our job as conservatives, Christians, and/or just decent people is to care for our Jewish brothers and sisters (turning the other cheek where necessary) because they’ve had to put up with a lot of horrible stuff in this life from anti-Semitic clowns. Apparently, even today, anti-Semitism is gathering in Europe, no doubt helped along by “religion of peace” Muslims and their Leftist allies.

So while watching this film, my heart went out to the Jews, but the reality is that Jews themselves hold some foolish beliefs. Perhaps only Dennis Prager understands why they keep voting for their true enemies (the Left) while continuing to wallow in distrust of Christians and conservatives.

No doubt there is a second film (other than the “Progressive’s Agreement” one) that could be made about long-standing biases. And if someone does, please don’t let the movie get bogged down as Gentleman’s Agreement does in the romance between Peck and Dorothy McGuire. Besides, I think Celeste Holm was the girl for him. But McGuire does redeem herself (as does the movie, to some extent) in the closing moments when she talks about a dinner party she attended where someone told an obviously racist joke and all the “nice” people, although they didn’t laugh, stayed silent nonetheless.

That actually brings back to memory a time when I sat around a table at a business meeting several years ago with a dozen people or so. The fellow in charge of the meeting made a rude remark about a mutual friend who we all knew was a lesbian. And I spoke up right then and there and reminded this fellow that she was a good person and a friend to both of us and deserved better. I don’t support gay marriage (which is an oxymoron). But I do support not being a schmo.

On the other side of the coin, neither do I get all hot and bothered over “Polack” or other ethnic jokes. I think we’ve become way too sensitive about this kind of stuff. Perhaps I’m drawing distinctions that are much too complex for today’s mass-culture Kindergarten minds bred and diseased on television, stupid news, and dumb movies. But I still draw a distinction about telling a joke and actually not giving someone a job, or not treating them with due courtesy, because of their skin color. • (1751 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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7 Responses to Movie Review: Gentleman’s Agreement

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I suspect that most stereotypes start as reasonable generalizations (which are then excessively broadened). My First Law of Generalizations is, “There are always exceptions.” This is the difference between a generalization and a stereotype. For example, calling liberals liars is a generalization based on experience and observation, but assuming that every single liberal is a liar would be a stereotype (though probably only rarely mistaken). The Jewish stereotype started at a time when Jews had few options for legal livelihoods and couldn’t legally own land (the main source of wealth in medieval times). So they became bankers and loaned money at interest (which most monotheists aren’t supposed to do, at least to their co-religionists). Of course, as Father Brown once observed, they were also allowed to be legal heretics; as long as open Judaism was allowed, they didn’t fear the Inquisition or whatever equivalent there was locally.

    As for “bigoted” humor, we can stipulate the “fruit cordial” joke that got Mark Steyn in trouble at NRO. If anyone wants, I’ll gladly repeat it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      For example, calling liberals liars is a generalization based on experience and observation, but assuming that every single liberal is a liar would be a stereotype (though probably only rarely mistaken).

      Exactly. If one is a gazelle, one should assume (based upon past experience) that the “stereotype” of a lion is that it is a carnivore. If one lion proves to like to eat veggies, then fine. But it’s not wrong to approach a general situation based upon experience (rather than just rumor) with a certain expectation while keeping the door open to the exception.

      That’s call discernment or “discrimination.”

      There’s another aspect to this where we should all just “Lighten up, Francis” as Sgt. Hulka reminds us. If someone is upset over the “fruit cordial” joke then tough tittie. The Left lives off of drumming up offense, thus this is why they have no sense of humor. Little barbs, jokes, and such are the little social things we all use to knock people off their pedestals. Such gentle (sometimes not so gentle) kidding keeps us from becoming complete arrogant assholes.

      That is surely why Obama and his type are indeed complete arrogant assholes. Here’s a guy who has undoubtedly been affirmative-actioned through his entire career, never hearing a discouraging word (and thus separating himself from humility and reality).

      Where does a joke end and the “gentleman’s agreement” start? Well, that assumes that one thing leads to the other. Most of these issues resolve themselves if people just speak their feelings at the time, something that Peck’s girlfriend makes crystal-clear in her monologue at the end of the film. It’s not the jokes, per se, that are the problem. It’s the silent acquiescence to tyranny and bully behavior that is the problem.

      Jokes and barbs probably go more toward diffusing this stuff, or at least they can. Either way, I don’t honestly care because I’m not going to live in the imposed PC “bubble boy” inclosure of “niceness” that the fascist thought police and nannies on the Left wish to put us in. One of the things I would do if independently wealthy would be to return to college, take some “gender studies” types of classes, and mouth off to these liberal fascists. Eventually I would be kicked out, but then I would move on to another and write about it. So if anyone has a spare 100 grand out there, click the PayPal button at the very lower right and I’ll get started on that.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This would be a good place to mention the Neal Boortz article on how certain elephants engage in what amounts to discrimination (in the form of ethnic profiling) of the Masai and Kamba tribes in Kenya, which I mentioned late last night on another link here. Perhaps the problem is that liberals such as Obama have no wish to learn from reality, such as their own mistakes (as I mentioned once in pointing out why it’s unfair to compare Obama to monkeys, which CAN learn from their mistakes).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Tusk Tusk.

          I’m not sure of in what way the elephants are profiling the Masai and Kamba tribes. Are they profiling them in such a way as to deny them the best scratching trees?

          Basically the minds of Leftists are untroubled by the complexities of life. To them, if a white teacher scolds a black child for dipping Susie’s pigtails in the inkwell, that teacher is in engaging in discrimination.

          If, at the end of the day, you total up (by race) just who is acting up the most (and if blacks and hispanics lead the pack, as they do), you have two logical conclusions: One, teachers (of whatever race) are picking on the “people of color” out of a sense of racial hatred. Or, two, more “people of color” kids are simply acting up. And if two is true (and it surely is), then that leads to the why of the general behavioral problems exist more within a particular group.

          And that’s what the libtards don’t want to look at, for their policies have led to the breakup of the family (and thus less discipline and good values imparted to the children). And their very polices that paint “people of color” as victims give them a green light to ignore the normal rules of society. They create the beast they keep trying to protect.

          So the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our skin color but in our political correctness.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    By the way, I thought, by far, the better “issue” picture (alcoholism, in this case) was “The Lost Weekend” starring Ray Milland. Can anyone else think of any great “issue” movies? I know there’s “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. But I thought it was really more of an overt propaganda film compared to these other two. Now, if someone were to make a movie showing the dangers of the homosexual alphabet-soup lifestyle, then you’d be talking about a gutsy “issue” film.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I did some thinking about this. I suppose To Kill a Mockingbird and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner would qualify, though I’ve never seen either one myself and therefore can’t rate them. I would be more familiar with a lot of the anti-CIA (and similar) movies of a later era, such as Three Days of the Condor, Day of the Dolphin, and Firestarter, but again I have no idea how you would rate them. Perhaps some religious movies would qualify, depending on exactly what you mean by an “issue movie”. But as one old Hollywood mogul (I think it may have been Louis B. Mayer) once reportedly said, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” This is true, at least if the message outweighs its entertainment value.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I can’t top the wisdom of Louis B. Mayer.

        And, yes, I think Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and To Kill a Mockingbird would qualify as “issue” films. And as for the message outweighing the entertainment value, that’s pretty much Michael Medved’s schtick. He frequently points out that liberal film makers keep cranking out films that they know won’t make a lot of money but the do it because these films are, at the very least, light propaganda. They didn’t quite get Louis B. Mayer’s message.

        Perhaps that’s why a good “issue” film is hard to find. But who can say where entertainment starts and “issue” films begin? I think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington does a good job of combining both.

        I would never go so far as Louis B. Mayer and denounce “issue” films as inappropriate. That would be a recipe for just the vacuous schlep we have now. I have no problem with art intersecting reality. I suppose it matters to me how well it is done, even over and above the issue itself. I suppose when this is done less ham-fistedly we talk of “themes” in films, not “issues.”

        A good example of that is The Best Years of our Lives. It’s honest, not particularly “preachy,” in the usual sense, while being quite entertaining, if only because it intersected on reality and carried some timeless themes. It can’t have been only the people coming home from WWII who might have had a little trouble adjusting to peacetime.

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