Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

In producer Darryl F. Zanuck's and director Elia Kazan's serious, preachy Best Picture-winning social drama - a landmark film - and an historically-significant and tough expose of post-war anti-Semitism:

  • the topic of anti-Semitism was introduced in a breakfast scene, when recently-widowed, crusading, non-Jewish (Gentile) magazine writer Phil "Schuyler" Green (Gregory Peck) spoke to his innocent young son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) about prejudiced anti-Semite sentiment: "Oh, that's where some people don't like other people just because they're Jews"; when Tommy pressed: "Why? Are they bad?", he added: "Well, some are, sure and some aren't, it's just like everybody else"; ultimately, Phil couldn't really explain the reason for the hatred; shortly later, Tommy was taunted and assaulted by his playmates, who believed he was Jewish
  • novelist Phil spoke to his live-in mother Mrs. Green (Ann Revere) in their NYC apartment about how he was struggling with the approach to his next writing assignment for a national magazine known as Smith's Weekly; the expose would be about anti-Semitism; his idea was to try and capture the feelings of his long-time Jewish childhood friend Dave Goldman (John Garfield) on paper: ("Can I think my way into Dave's mind? He's the kind of fellow I'd be if I were a Jew, isn't he?...Whatever Dave feels now - indifference, outrage, contempt - would be the feelings of Dave not only as a Jew but the way I feel as a man, as an American, as a citizen. Is that right, Ma?...Hey, maybe I've broken this log jam, Ma, maybe this is it?") - but then he realized as he sat at his typewriter: ("There isn't any way you can tear open the secret heart of another human being")
  • in a breakthrough with his mother, Phil decided to adopt an unorthodox approach in order to gather truthful material (in an unbiased way) for a series of articles ("I Was Jewish for Six Months"): he would assume a Jewish identity as Phil Greenberg for six months to experience at first hand discrimination and anti-Semitism: "I can just tell them I am and see what happens....Dark hair, dark eyes. Sure, so has Dave. So have a lot of guys who aren't Jewish. No accent, no mannerisms. Neither has Dave."
  • Phil engaged in a discussion with his bothered secretary Elaine Wales (June Havoc) (who was Jewish herself, but had changed her name from Estelle Walovsky to obtain employment); she couldn't believe that he was willing to give up his 'Christian' identity for eight weeks for the sake of a story, and he defended himself: ("Face me, now Miss Wales. Come on, now look at me. Same face, same eyes, same nose, same suit, same everything. Here. Take my hand. Feel it! Same flesh as yours, isn't it? No different today than it was yesterday, Miss Wales. The only thing that's different is the word Christian"); at one point, she described how even Smith's Weekly ("The great liberal magazine that fights injustice on all sides") revealed its own anti-Semite prejudice to her when she applied for a position; he also politely reprimanded her for using prejudiced words: "Now look, Miss Wales, we've got to be frank with each other. You have a right to know right now that words like yid and kike and kikey and nigger and coon make me kind of sick no matter who says them"
  • Phil experienced a confrontation when checking into a high-class luxury hotel where it was suspected that he was Jewish (from his name) - the manager (Morgan Farley) directly asked: "In answer to your question. May I inquire, are you? - That is, uh, do you follow the Hebrew religion yourself, or is it that you just want to make sure?" - and then the manager announced that there were no vacancies and refused to answer Phil's direct and simple questions about his bias on restricting guest clientele to Gentiles: ("Look, I'm Jewish and you don't take Jews - that's it, isn't it?...If you don't accept Jews, say so!...Do you or don't you?")
  • Phil's Jewish friend Dave Coleman arrived to temporarily live with Phil while looking for work, and Dave reacted to the impact that Phil's effective yet unorthodox impersonation of being Jewish was having: "You crazy fool. And it's working?...You're not insulated yet, Phil. It's new every time so the impact must be quite a business on you!"; Phil responded: "You mean you get indifferent to it in time?"; Dave answered: "No, but you're concentrating a lifetime thing into a few weeks. You're making the thing happen every day, going out to meet it. The facts are no different, Phil, it just telescopes it, makes it hurt more"
Tense Words with Kathy Lacey About the
Pervasiveness of Anti-Semitism
  • Phil concluded how pervasive anti-Semitism was among "good people" to his romantic interest, divorced schoolteacher Kathy Lacey (Dorothy McGuire), his publisher's niece, emphasizing that there was bigotry and prejucide among even the "good" and "nice" people; Phil's research caused slight tension between them when she told him: "You really do think I'm an anti-Semite"; he replied: ("No, it's just that I've come to see that lots of nice people who aren't, people who despise it and detest it and deplore it, and protest their own innocence, then help it along and wonder why it grows. People who would never beat up a Jew, a young kike or a child. People who think that anti-Semitism is something away off in some dark crackpot place with low-class morons. That's the biggest discovery I've made about this whole business. The good people, the nice people")

Struggling Magazine Writer Phil Green with Mother

Decision to Assume Jewish Identity

Speaking to Secretary Elaine Wales

Rejected as Jew at Hotel

Dave: "You're concentrating a lifetime thing into a few weeks"


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