by 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. • (1612 views)