Cast & Crew
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.
Ransom M. Sherman
Arthur Little Jr.
Paul S. Fox
R. A. Klune
Charles Le Maire
Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
Gregory Peck plays Philip Schuyler Green, a journalist and single dad putting his life back together after his wife's death. Moving to New York for a job with a big magazine, he settles into a new apartment with his mother (Anne Revere), who helps take care of Tommy (Dean Stockwell), his eleven-year-old son. Then he meets with his new publisher, John Minify (Albert Dekker), to discuss ideas for articles. Minify suggests writing about anti-Semitism, but Green thinks a series on the topic would turn into a dull account of facts and statistics. His objections disappear when he gets the idea of experiencing anti-Jewish bigotry first-hand, posing as a Jew and describing the changes he encounters in the ways he's seen and treated by others.
The changes are obvious and for the most part ugly, and Phil finds some of them right at his magazine. His secretary (June Havoc) reveals that she adopted her present name, Elaine Wales, after a job application under her real name, Estelle Wilovsky, was rejected by the very publication where they work; on top of that, Elaine herself is an anti-Semitic Jew, worried that hiring just anyone would let undesirables in the door. And so things continue. The physician treating Phil's mother belittles a Jewish specialist; a "restricted" hotel refuses Phil a room; and his Jewish friend Dave Goldman - played by John Garfield, whose pre-Hollywood name was Jacob Julius Garfinkle - can't find a nice "unrestricted" place to live.
Most surprisingly, trouble starts between Phil and Kathy Lacy (Dorothy McGuire), his new girlfriend. Kathy is Minify's niece, and the idea of articles about anti-Semitism originally came from her. She's also one of very few people in on the secret of Phil's pose; he's still new in New York, and he's been passing as Jewish since shortly after he arrived. In practice, however, Kathy's attitudes toward Jews are less broadminded than one would hope. When she and Phil decide to get married, her sister Jane (Jane Wyatt) volunteers to host a reception in a posh suburban town, and Kathy seems eager to tell the suburbanites that her fiancé isn't Jewish, insisting to Phil that it's just for the sake of honesty. He prevails on her to tell only Jane, but word gets around and puts a damper on the festivities.
The climax arrives when Tommy is bullied by anti-Semitic kids at school. He comes home in tears, and when he tells Kathy what happened, she tries to comfort him by absurdly explaining that since he isn't really Jewish, he shouldn't be upset! This is too much for Phil, who ruefully breaks up with her. All is not lost, however. Having a drink with Dave, she talks about how horrible she felt when anti-Semitism fouled the atmosphere at a dinner party she attended. Dave helps her realize that simply feeling bad wasn't enough - she should have taken a stand and spoken out. Seeing the error of her ways, she repents and wins Phil back.
Gentleman's Agreement is based on a novel of that title by Laura Z. Hobson, who knew this territory well. Her maiden name was Zametkin - hence the Z in her byline - and she started the book after reading that a Congressman from Mississippi had called newspaper columnist Walter Winchell a "kike," and nobody in the entire House of Representatives had condemned the slur. Zanuck took an interest in the novel when a Los Angeles country club mistakenly blackballed him as a Jew, even though he was actually the only gentile among the studio chiefs of that era. Before and during World War II, most Jewish studio execs had been wary of anti-Semitism as a subject, afraid they'd be accused of special pleading on their own behalf; accordingly, some warned Zanuck not to take this story on. To their great credit, Zanuck and Kazan ignored the advice and broke that barrier at Twentieth Century Fox, just as Dmytryk and company did at RKO that year.
Some critics accused Gentleman's Agreement of pulling punches by focusing on a hero who suffers the blows of anti-Semitism on a temporary basis. "The movie's moral," cracked the politically liberal writer Ring Lardner, "is that you should never be mean to a Jew, because he might turn out to be a gentile." Bosley Crowther, chief reviewer at The New York Times, criticized the film for focusing on a limited cross section of Americans, noting that Phil's investigation is "narrowly confined to the upper-class social and professional level," and that he generally experiences only "petty bourgeois rebuffs, with no inquiry into the devious cultural mores from which they spring." Some also faulted it for being preachy. "It is a tract rather than a play," wrote Robert L. Hatch in The New Republic, "and it has the crusader's shortcomings."
But even these critics ultimately came down solidly in favor of the film. Hatch wrote that story "goes far beyond overt Jew-baiting and the sleazy subterfuges of restricted neighborhoods and selected clienteles. Right-minded people readily deplore these abnormalities, but Gentleman's Agreement goes on to the right-minded people themselves," placing them in a corner "where their code of acceptable behavior will no longer shield them, and [asking] them how they stand." Crowther likewise found the picture both courageous and commendable, offering particular praise to the "brilliant" directing by Kazan and to the forthrightness of the screenplay (by Moss Hart, the celebrated playwright) in naming actual anti-Semites in American public life, including the proudly racist senator and Mississippi governor Theodore G. Bilbo, the white-supremacist Louisiana minister Gerald L.K. Smith, and congressman John Rankin, the very politician (although Crowther doesn't mention it) whose bigotry spurred Hobson to write her novel.
Gentleman's Agreement reaped high rewards for its bravery, intelligence, and entertainment value. Zanuck took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, Kazan received the Best Director prize, and Celeste Holm was honored for her supporting performance as Anne Dettrey, the magazine's fashion editor and everyone's pal. The film's total of eight Oscar nominations beat out Crossfire, which garnered five and won no statuettes. Gentleman's Agreement still comes across as a smart, incisive, and engrossing drama, and although times have changed since 1947, the subject it so boldly tackles remains timely and relevant to this day.
Director: Elia Kazan
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay: Moss Hart; based on Laura Z. Hobson's eponymous novel
Cinematographer: Arthur C. Miller
Film Editing: Harmon Jones
Art Direction: Mark-Lee Kirk, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Alfred Newman
With: Gregory Peck (Philip Schuyler Green), Dorothy McGuire (Kathy Lacy), John Garfield (Dave Goldman), Celeste Holm (Anne Dettrey), Anne Revere (Mrs. Green), June Havoc (Elaine Wales), Albert Dekker (John Minify), Jane Wyatt (Jane), Dean Stockwell (Tommy Green), Sam Jaffe (Fred Lieberman)
by David Sterritt
ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003
Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays.
In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership.
After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film.
1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans.
It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter.
It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life.
Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism.
Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict.
After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro.
Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003
You want the moon!- Phil Green
yeah!.... with parsley.- John Minify
'Garfield, John' accepted the role after producer Darryl F. Zanuck promised that the film would be faithful to Moss Hart's script. Despite his limited role, Garfield was paid a full star's salary.
When other studio chiefs, who were mostly Jewish, heard about the making of this film, they asked the producer not to make it. They feared its theme of anti-Semitism would simply stir up a hornet's nest and preferred to deal with the problem quietly. Not only did production continue, but a scene was subsequently included that mirrored that confrontation.
The movie was Fox's top-grossing picture of 1948.
The movie mentions three real people known for their bigotry: Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo, who advocated sending all African Americans back to Africa; Mississippi Representative John Rankin, who called columnist Walter Winchell "the little kike" on the house floor; and the Christian Nationalist Crusade leader Gerald Smith, who sued Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. to prevent to the movie from being shown in Tulsa. He lost the case, but Smith sued Fox for $1,000,000 through the court system, which eventually dismissed it in 1951.
Producer Darryl Zanuck sought legal advice regarding the naming of the three anti-Semitic political figures. When told there was only a small risk of libel, he replied, "Let them sue us. They won't dare, and if they do, nothing would make me more happy than to appear personally as a witness or defendant at the trial." As it turned out, Sen. Bilbo died before the film's release, and Rep. Rankin lost in his campaign to succeed Bilbo (but remained in Congress); Gerald L.K. Smith filed a lawsuit which ultimately failed.
The film changed the book from a treatise on homosexuality and homophobia to one about Judiasm and anti-Semitism.
The best-selling novel Gentleman's Agreement was serialized in Cosmopolitan (Nov 1946-February 1947) before it being published in book form. In a July 1947 Cosmopolitan interview, author Laura Z. Hobson stated, "What did I try to do with the book? I think a woman who wrote to me put it in two wonderful sentences. She says, 'Villains aren't really frightening. It's the millions of nice people who do, and allow, villainous things.' I think that's the gist of what I was trying to say." Hobson noted that Darryl Zanuck, Fox's production head, who made the film his sole personal production of 1947, told her that if the film failed at the box office, it "would set Hollywood back twenty years in honest[ly] dealing with the problem of prejudice." The film marked the first time that noted playwright Moss Hart wrote directly for the screen.
Director Elia Kazan, in his autobiography, states that Jewish heads of other major film studios held a meeting in which they urged Hart to convince Zanuck not to make the film because they did not want to stir up anti-Semitism. A New York Times article from March 1947 noted, "A few objections [to the film] have come from Jews, who feel that the picture May increase rather than diminish intolerance, but a far larger proportion of Jewish opinion approves the venture, according to Zanuck." In a New York Times column from November 1947, reviewer Bosley Crowther mentioned a rumor that a "well-known Hollywood producer" tried to convince Hart that the film should not be made, a situation mirrored in the film itself, when a Jewish industrialist states, quoting Crowther, asserts, "You can't write it out of existence. The less talk about it, the better. Leave it alone!"
According to Twentieth Century-Fox legal records, scenes were shot at various locations in New York City, including Rockefeller Plaza and the NBC Building, and at Darien, CT. Los Angeles Daily News stated that John Garfield accepted his limited role in the film after Zanuck promised that the film would be faithful to Hart's script. Publicity for the film states that Zanuck paid Garfield "his full star's salary" for the role. Daily Variety, in reviewing the film, praised the acting of Garfield and Celeste Holm, stating, "This is one picture in which the performances of the supporting cast equal, or top, those of the two principals." Fox legal records report that Morris Carnovsky was originally hired to play "Professor Lieberman," but his contract was terminated by mutual agreement. Modern sources state that the film was Fox's top grossing picture of 1948, that it cost $2,000,000 to produce, and that it was the second largest grossing picture up to that time in the South. The film received the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Celeste Holm won for Best Supporting Actress. Gentleman's Agreement was also nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Actress (Dorothy McGuire), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Revere), Writing-Screenplay (Moss Hart) and Film Editing (Harmon Jones). According to a Motion Picture Herald ad in April 1948, the picture won fifty-one film-related awards, including the New York Critics' Circle Award.
In a modern interview, Kazan stated about the film, "For the first time someone said that America is full of anti-semitism, both conscious and unconscious and among the best and most liberal people. That was then a much bolder statement than it is now.... It was saying to the audience: You are an average American and you are anti-semitic.'" In his autobiography, Kazan qualified his enthusiasm for the film by stating that it "doesn't have what would have made it lasting in its effect: the intimate experience of someone who had been through the bitter and humiliating experience." Reviewers gave the film high praise. Los Angeles Daily News lauded it for being "both daring and adult, a film that isn't afraid to call names or to depict a love affair whose conflicts, for once, are over ideas." Hollywood Reporter called the film "the most spellbinding story ever put on celluloid." The Protestant Motion Picture Council challenged viewers that it will "take courage to see it. That is, to really see it, to face up to its personal implications, and then to 'do something about it.'"
Dialogue in the film refers to a number of then-prominent demagogic figures known for their bigotry, including U.S. Senator Theodore Gilmore Bilbo, from Mississippi, who advocated deporting all African Americans to Africa; Representative John E. Rankin, also from Mississippi, who in a statement from the House floor called broadcaster and columnist Walter Winchell "the little kike"; and Gerald L. K. Smith, a Christian Nationalist Crusade leader. In May 1947, Zanuck queried Fox legal counsel George Wasson on whether they were breaking any laws by making the references. After Wasson responded that no court would consider the references a violation of "right to privacy," and that there was only a slight risk of libel, Zanuck wrote, "Let them sue us. They won't dare and if they do nothing would make me more happy than to appear personally as a witness or a defendant at the trial." In April 1948, Smith did sue Twentieth Century-Fox in a Tulsa court to ban the film in Tulsa, his home for the previous six months. After a district judge refused to issue a restraining order, Smith took his complaint through the court system, suing the company for $1,000,000, but in February 1951, the case was dismissed.
In September 1948, the film was rejected for showing in Spain. The New York Times reported that the ban was instigated "by order of the ecclesiastical member of the Film Censorship Board on moral grounds. According to a source close to the board, the banning order stipulated that while it was a Christian duty to 'stimulate love among individuals, societies, nations and peoples,' this should not extend to Jews." The report listed six points or "theological errors" of the film that warranted the ban, including that the film declared "that a Christian is not superior to a Jew" and that the film asserts that "for many Jews it is a matter of pride to be called Jews. Pride of what? The pride of being the people who put God to death? Of being perfidious, as they are called in Holy Scripture?" On October 3, 1948, according to Hollywood Reporter, the President of the Board of Film Censors in Madrid, Gabriel Garcia Espina, called the statement reported in New York Times to be a "calumny" and that the film was, in fact, banned because anti-Semitism was not an issue in Spain. Espina stated, "There is no racial problem in Spain. We do not know here the conflict of Semitism or anti-Semitism. And precisely because of the beautiful and traditional Spanish idea of human freedom, these anguishing racial differences that have disturbed so much, and apparently do disturb, the lives of the peoples, are alien to us and we want them to continue being alien to us." The film, however, was approved for showing in Spain on January 12, 1949 under the title La Barrera Invisible.
Lux Radio Theatre broadast two radio versions of the story. The first show, starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Jeff Chandler, aired on September 20, 1948, and the second version, which starred Ray Milland, Dorothy McGuire and Shep Menken, was heard on March 15, 1955.
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States March 1948
Released in United States on Video February 3, 1993
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1947
Re-released in United States on Video March 5, 1996
Shot in 65 days in 1948.
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Kazan" November 22 - December 26, 1996.)
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1947
Released in United States on Video February 3, 1993
Released in United States March 1948
Re-released in United States on Video March 5, 1996