Best Picture Review: “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947)

Gentlemans Agreement (1947)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

Last night at 8:30, after working out at the Y, Lauren and I sat down to watch Gentleman’s Agreement, winner of the 1947 Best Picture award.  8:30 is a pretty late start time for me, especially having been up since 6:15am and just gotten back home from the gym.  It would be a battle to stay awake for the movie.

Gentleman’s Agreement is a movie about a single man named Phillip “Schuyler” Green who has just moved to New York, living with his son and mother.  He is an experienced writer and gets a job writing a big article about anti-Semitism.  “That’s been done,” they all say.  “What more can be said that hasn’t been said already?” 

It’s true.  Poor Schuyler can’t get a good start on this article.  That is, until a visit with his aging mother, when he decides to pretend to be Jewish and see what happens.  What better way to get true insight into the story than to be a Jew himself?  He tells no one except his family and fiance, Kathy Lacy.

Well, as one may expect, as soon as word gets out about his Jewish beliefs, he soon falls victim to plenty of discrimination and disrespect.  The story takes some twists along the way when he and Kathy break up after she, of all people, makes an insensitive remark to his son about him being Jewish.  In the end, Schuyler writes the story and it is highly regarded by all.

Yes, I fell asleep during the movie.  Not once, twice, thrice… more like 11 separate times, but each time it was for just a few seconds before Lauren yelled “Ryan!  Wake up!”  So I don’t think I missed much.  I think the sleeping was as much a testament to me being tired from working out as it was how boring the movie was.  I truly was not interested in the movie right from the get-go.  I didn’t think the acting was natural at all. 

Another complaint about this one was the torrid love affair between the lead character Schuyler and Kathy.  As I’ve seen time and time again in movies up to this point, characters fall in love in mere seconds.  Love at first sight was far more common than love after several meetings.  But there was very little evidence of these two falling for each other before his proposal.  I just didn’t quite buy it this time.  Like I said before, Teresa Wright had this love at first sight thing nailed down in Miniver and Best Years.

So, overall, a weak movie by my standards.  Probably ranks just ahead of Cimarron at 4th-to-last.  I did, however, find it interesting that this movie was very controversial at the time.  So much so, that through a series of complaints and protests, several actors had to testify before a hearing committee, which led to the blacklisting of two actors, including Ann Revere, the old mother.  She wouldn’t act again for 20 years thanks to her refusal to participate in the hearings.

Next up, 1948’s Hamlet.  Never been a Shakespeare guy, but we’ll see what happens…

Also, I’d like to direct you to another blog where the same project is taking place!  Eitan and Shira from DC are watching every Best Picture and reviewing them too, but are quite a ways further along than us.  Check out their Stats page for some truly awesome detailed facts.

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2 comments

  1. Gentlemen’s Agreement (and On the Waterfront, which you’ll be watching soon) take on a lot more meaning when you explore the sordid story of Elia “Rat Out All My Friends to Joe McCarthy” Kazan. I’m interested to see what your take on his other Best Picture winner will be.

    Thanks for the shout-out, by the way! Could you link to our new blog (http://www.81bestpictures.com) as opposed to our old one (80best…)?

  2. Nice blog. This oscars in order watching stuff is a *huge* undertaking. We’ve been doing this since 2006–although we add theme related food, as well. We’re almost at the tail end (we’re doing Titanic tomorrow) and I miss the old movies. Good luck with Hamlet.

    p.s.. Even Elia Kazan didn’t like Gentleman’s Agreement very much.

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