Gentleman's Agreement

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Gentleman's Agreement
Gentleman's Agreement (1947 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byElia Kazan
Screenplay byMoss Hart
Elia Kazan (screenplay revision) (uncredited)
Based onGentleman's Agreement
1947 novel
by Laura Z. Hobson
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
StarringGregory Peck
Dorothy McGuire
John Garfield
Celeste Holm
June Havoc
Anne Revere
Dean Stockwell
CinematographyArthur C. Miller
Edited byHarmon Jones
Music byAlfred Newman
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 11, 1947 (1947-11-11) (New York City)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7,800,000[3]

Gentleman's Agreement is a 1947 American drama film based on Laura Z. Hobson's best-selling 1947 novel of the same title. It concerns a journalist (played by Gregory Peck) who poses as a Jew to research an exposé on the widespread distrust and dislike of Jews in New York City and the affluent communities of New Canaan and Darien, Connecticut. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm), and Best Director (Elia Kazan).

The movie was controversial in its day, as was a similar film on the same subject, Crossfire, which was released the same year (though that film was originally a story about anti-homosexuality, later changed to anti-Semitism).

In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4][5] It was released on DVD as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.


Philip Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck) is a widowed journalist who has just moved to New York City with his son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) and mother (Anne Revere). Green meets with magazine publisher John Minify (Albert Dekker), who asks Green, a Gentile, to write an article on anti-Semitism ("Some people don't like other people just because they're Jews"). He is not very enthusiastic at first, but after initially struggling with how to approach the topic in a fresh way, Green is inspired to adopt a Jewish identity ("Phil Greenberg") and writes about his first-hand experiences.

At a lunch party, Phil meets Minify's divorced niece Kathy Lacey (Dorothy McGuire), a pre-school teacher, who turns out to be the person who originally suggested the story idea. The next day, Phil tries to explain anti-Jewish prejudice to his young, precocious son – directly after displaying some anti-female prejudice of his own. Green tells his mother that he's struck by the odd notion that the idea for the article came from "a girl" at the magazine. His mother replies, "Why, women will be thinking next". Phil and Kathy begin dating. They agree to keep it secret that Phil is not Jewish.

Phil has difficulty getting started on his assignment. He realizes he can never feel what another person feels unless he experiences it himself. He recalls having "lived as an Okie on Route 66" or as a coal miner for previous writing jobs, instead of tapping a man on the shoulder and making him talk. He then decides to write, "I Was Jewish for Six Months".

Though Kathy seems to have liberal views, when he reveals what he intends to do, she is taken aback and asks if he actually is Jewish. The strain on their relationship due to Kathy's subtle acquiescence to bigotry becomes a key theme in the film.

At the magazine, Phil is assigned a secretary, Elaine Wales (June Havoc), who reveals that she, too, is Jewish. She changed her name to get the job (her application under her real, Jewish-sounding name, Estelle Wilovsky, was rejected). After Phil informs Minify about Wales' experience, Minify orders the magazine to adopt hiring policies that are open to Jews. Wales has reservations about the new policy, fearing that the "wrong Jews" will be hired and ruin things for the few Jews working there now. Phil meets fashion editor Anne Dettrey (Celeste Holm), who becomes a good friend and potentially more, particularly as strains develop between Phil and Kathy.

Phil's childhood friend, Dave Goldman (John Garfield), who is Jewish, moves to New York for a job and lives with the Greens while he looks for a home for his family. Dave also experiences anti-Semitism, when someone in the armed forces tells him that he hates Jews, and they get into a brief fight before the prejudiced soldier is taken away. Housing is scarce in the city, but it is particularly difficult for Goldman, since not all landlords will rent to a Jewish family. When Phil tells Dave about his project, Dave is supportive, but concerned.

As Phil researches his story, he experiences several incidents of bigotry. When his mother becomes ill with a heart condition, the doctor discourages him from consulting a specialist with an obviously Jewish name, suggesting he might be cheated. When Phil reveals that he is himself Jewish, the doctor becomes uncomfortable and leaves. In addition, the janitor is shocked to see that a Jewish name is listed on the mail box, instead of his Christian name. Furthermore, when Phil wants to celebrate his honeymoon at a swanky hotel for rich people in the country, the hotel manager refuses to register Phil, because Phil is Jewish, and tells him to register at a different hotel instead. Tommy becomes the target of bullies when his schoolmates discover he is Jewish. Phil is troubled by the way Kathy consoles Tommy, telling him their taunts of "dirty Jew" are wrong because he isn't Jewish, not that the epithet is wrong in and of itself.

Kathy's attitudes are revealed further when she and Phil announce their engagement. Her sister Jane (Jane Wyatt) invites them to a celebration in her home in Darien, Connecticut, which is known to be a "restricted" community where Jews are not welcome. Fearing an awkward scene, Kathy wants to tell her family and friends that Phil is only pretending to be a Jew, but Phil prevails on Kathy to tell only Jane. At the party, everyone is very friendly to Phil, though many people are "unable" to attend at the last minute.

Dave announces that he will have to quit his job because he cannot find a residence for his family. Kathy owns a vacant cottage in Darien, but though Phil sees it as the obvious solution to Dave's problem, Kathy is unwilling to offend her neighbors by renting it to a Jewish family. She and Phil break their engagement. Phil announces that he will be moving away from New York when his article is published. When it comes out, it is very well received by the magazine staff.

Kathy meets with Dave and tells him how sick she felt when a party guest told a bigoted joke. However, she has no answer when Dave repeatedly asks her what she did about it. She comes to realize that remaining silent condones the prejudice.

The next day, Dave tells Phil that he and his family will be moving into the cottage in Darien, and Kathy will be moving in with her sister next door to make sure they are treated well by their neighbors. When Phil hears this, he reconciles with Kathy.


Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement trailer closeup.jpg Gregory Peck as Philip Schuyler Green Anne Revere in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg Anne Revere as Mrs. Green
Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg Dorothy McGuire as Kathy Lacey June Havoc in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg June Havoc as Elaine Wales
John Garfield in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg John Garfield as Dave Goldman Albert Dekker in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg Albert Dekker as John Minify
Celeste Holm in Gentleman's Agreement trailer.jpg Celeste Holm as Anne Dettrey Jane Wyatt in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg Jane Wyatt as Jane

Other cast members[edit]

Dean Stockwell as Tommy Green
Nicholas Joy as Doctor Craigie
Sam Jaffe as Professor Fred Lieberman


Zanuck decided to make a film version of Hobson's novel after being refused membership in the Los Angeles Country Club, because it was assumed (incorrectly) that he was Jewish. Before filming commenced, Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish film executives approached Darryl Zanuck and asked him not to make the film, fearing it would "stir up trouble". They also warned that Hays Code enforcer Joseph Breen might not allow the film to pass the censors, as he had been known to make disparaging remarks about Jews. There was also concern that Dorothy McGuire's character being divorced would offend the National Legion of Decency.

The role of Phillip Green was first offered to Cary Grant, but he turned it down. Peck decided to accept the role, although his agent advised him to refuse, believing Peck would be endangering his career. Jewish actor John Garfield agreed to play a lesser role in the film to be a part of it.

Portions of the film were shot on location in Darien, Connecticut.[6]

Reception and box-office[edit]

Gentleman's Agreement received a generally favorable reception from influential New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. Crowther said that "every point about prejudice which Miss Hobson had to make in her book has been made with superior illustration and more graphic demonstration in the film, so that the sweep of her moral indignation is not only widened, but intensified thereby". However, Crowther also said that the movie shared the novel's failings in that "explorations are narrowly confined to the upper-class social and professional level to which he is immediately exposed". He also said the main character's shock at the extent of anti-Semitism was lacking in credibility: "It is, in a careful analysis, an extraordinarily naive role."[7]

The New York Herald Tribune described it as a "brilliant blow against racial and religious intolerance".[8]The Daily Mirror assessed it as "the most explosive picture of the year" and "one of the most exciting and punch-laden pictures you've ever seen."[8]

In addition to winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm), Gentleman's Agreement was one of Fox's highest-grossing movies of 1947. The political nature of the film, however, upset the House Un-American Activities Committee, with Elia Kazan, Darryl Zanuck, John Garfield, and Anne Revere all being called to testify before the committee. Revere refused to testify and although Garfield appeared, he refused to "name names". Both were placed in the Red Channels of the Hollywood Blacklist. Garfield remained on the blacklist for a year, was called again to testify against his wife, and died of a heart attack at the age of 39 before his second hearing date.

In recognition for producing Gentleman's Agreement, the Hollywood chapter of B'nai B'rith International honored Darryl Zanuck as its "Man of the Year" for 1948. On Sunday, December 12, a gala commemoration evening was held in downtown Los Angeles at the Biltmore Hotel before a crowd of over a thousand. Among the tributes to Zanuck, New Mexico Senator Clinton Anderson said, "He does not storm up and down the streets of a community, urging its citizens to do good. He does not fill the pages of books with words that string together into a sermon. He allows you to be seated comfortably in a theater, to be absorbed in a problem and to walk out into the night with your thoughts clarified and your lips saying, 'This situation ought to be changed'."[9] After the formal speeches there was a star-studded variety show, including the debut before the Hollywood film world of the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

The movie was an unexpected hit at the box office. According to Variety, it earned $3.9 million in rentals in the US in 1948.[10]

Leonard Maltin said "sincere...then daring approach to the subject matter is tame now."[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Darryl F. Zanuck (for 20th Century Fox) Won
Best Director Elia Kazan Won
Best Actor Gregory Peck Nominated
Best Actress Dorothy McGuire Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Celeste Holm Won
Anne Revere Nominated
Best Screenplay Moss Hart Nominated
Best Film Editing Harmon Jones Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Picture Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Celeste Holm Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Elia Kazan Won
Special Award – Best Juvenile Actor Dean Stockwell Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 7th Place
Best Director Elia Kazan Won
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Elia Kazan (also for Boomerang!) Won
Best Actress Celeste Holm Nominated
Dorothy McGuire Nominated
Venice International Film Festival Grand International Prize of Venice Elia Kazan Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 244, ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. ^ "Variety (July 1948)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. July 11, 1948. Retrieved July 11, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Box Office Information for Gentleman's Agreement. The Numbers. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  4. ^ "2017 National Film Registry Is More Than a 'Field of Dreams'". Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  6. ^ Lynn Haney (2003). Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-7867-1473-5.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 11, 1947). "Gentleman's Agreement (1947)". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b "Motion Picture Herald". Quigley Publishing Co. July 11, 1947. Retrieved July 11, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times. (December 14, 1948). p. 14.
  10. ^ "Variety (January 1949)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. July 11, 1949. Retrieved July 11, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Green, Spencer; Sader, Luke, eds. (2005). Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide. Plume. ISBN 9780452286207.

External links[edit]