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Gentleman's Agreement

Gentleman's Agreement(1948)

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Philip Schuyler Green, a widowed journalist, arrives in New York from California with his son Tommy and his mother to work for Smith's Weekly , a leading national magazine. John Minify, the publisher, wants Phil to write a series on anti-Semitism, but Phil is lukewarm about the assignment. At a party, Phil meets Minify's niece, Kathy Lacy, a divorcee to whom Phil becomes attracted, and Kathy reminds her uncle that she suggested the series some time ago. Tommy asks his father about anti-Semitism, and when Phil finds it difficult to explain, he decides to accept the assignment. He is frustrated, however, at his inability to come up with a satisfactory approach, for he and Minify want the series to go deeper than just exposing the "crackpot" mentality. After trying to imagine how his Jewish boyhood friend, Dave Goldman, who is now overseas in the Army, must feel when he experiences bigotry, Phil decides to write from the point of view of a Jew. He continues to have difficulties writing, though, until he realizes that some things can never be known until one experiences them firsthand, and that the only way to get the necessary experience is to appear Jewish in the eyes of other people. When Minify announces the series to a luncheon group, Phil casually mentions that he is Jewish. Later, Phil learns from his new secretary that she was told there were no positions with the magazine when she applied under her real name of Estelle Walofsky, but when she reapplied using "Ethel Wales," she got the job. On his first day as a Jew, Phil becomes the target of slurs and learns of discriminatory rules at his apartment building. When he tells Kathy, with whom he has fallen in love, about his story "angle," she is at first confused that he might really be Jewish. The next day, the magazine's personnel director is reprimanded by Minify for his policy of not hiring Jewish secretaries and is told that every future ad must include the line, "Religion is a matter of indifference." When Miss Wales learns about the change of policy, however, her fear that a "kikey" Jew will ruin things for them prompts Phil to state that he hates anti-Semitism as much from her as from a gentile. Later, Kathy, to whom Phil is now engaged, tells Phil that her sister Jane in Darien, Connecticut has planned a party for them on the next Saturday, and Phil reluctantly agrees to allow Kathy to tell Jane about the ruse. When Kathy asks Phil not to discuss anti-Semitism at her sister's party, Phil refuses and and Kathy berates him for being argumentative. Soon after, Dave arrives in town on leave to look for a home, as he has been offered a job in the area. When Phil tells him about the series and says that, as a Jew, he is having his "nose rubbed in it and doesn't like the smell," Dave says he is just not "insulated" yet. Phil and Dave then meet Anne at a restaurant, where a drunken patron calls Dave a "yid, and Dave violently shoves the man away. Afterwards, Phil receives a call from Kathy, who says she is in Connecticut to confront Jane. When Phil arrives in Darien for Jane's party, he is surprised that the guests are interested in the series, but Kathy does not reveal that Jane screened the guests and only invited the "safe ones." Two days before Phil and Kathy's wedding, the couple learns from Anne that the Flume Inn, where they plan to honeymoon, is "restricted," meaning that Jews are not allowed, but when Phil's mother has a minor stroke, the wedding is postponed anyway. Dave, who has not been able to find a house, says he must return to his family and miss the wedding. Angered because he feels that Dave is being rejected because he is Jewish, Phil goes to the Flume Inn to confront the management. When he gets evasive answers to his queries, Phil raises his voice in anger and says he is Jewish, which disturbs some of the guests. Phil returns to Kathy and argues that she should help Dave find a home in Connecticut. When she reveals that the Darien citizens have a "gentleman's agreement" not to sell to Jews, Phil castigates her for not wanting to fight. Tommy, in tears, interrupts their quarrel and says that the kids at school called him a "dirty yid" and a "stinking kike." After Kathy tries to comfort the boy by saying that he is no more Jewish than she, Phil calms his son, then angrily lectures Kathy for instilling in Tommy a sense of superiority as a white Christian American. Phil contends that his biggest discovery has been that the "nice people," who are not anti-Semitic, sustain prejudice by not protesting against it. Kathy decides that they cannot marry due to Phil's temper and leaves despite his apologies. That night, Phil tells Dave about Tommy, and Dave says that he can now quit, as he has learned what it is like when anti-Semitism hits one's children. Phil delivers the first half of the series, entitled, "I Was Jewish for 8 Weeks," and announces that he is returning to California. Meanwhile, Kathy asks Dave to meet her at a restaurant, where she relates that earlier that night, a man told a bigoted joke, to which no one in her party objected, and that she felt ill about it. Dave's repeated question of "What did you do about it?" helps Kathy realize that she has been getting mad at Phil because he expected her to fight, but she should have been getting mad at those who help maintain bigotry. Dave advises that he has learned to "sock back" and that she might not feel ill if she had done so. When Kathy says she is not a fit wife for Phil, Dave contends that a man wants a wife who will go through the rough spots with him and feel that they are the same rough spots. Later, Phil's mother is reading his manuscript when Dave comes in and calls his boss to announce that he has found a house and will take the New York job. Dave explains that he will live at Kathy's Darien cottage, and that Kathy has decided to live with her sister and challenge the bigotry there. Thrilled that Kathy has changed, Phil embraces her.