July 07, 2007
I just love Film Four. I've been recording stuff they put on in the afternoon or late at night and rarely is there a duff movie, just hundreds of films I've never heard of, let alone seen.
Such was the case with Gentleman's Agreement: Gregory Peck's Phil Green is a journalist for a liberal magazine in New York, shortly after the end of the Second World War. Commissioned to write an in depth article on antisemitism, he pretends to be Jewish and is astonished at the reaction. Perhaps most from his well-born fiancee who thinks and speaks liberal but finds the social upheaval of acting on it too difficult.
It reminded me of a former girlfriend who, when I mentioned that my great-grandmother was Jewish and therefore my grandfather also, asked that I didn't mention this to her grandfather. I asked why not, as it is something I'm rather proud of (the rest of my ancestory seems depressingly English). Like Kathy in the film, she replied that he wouldn't understand.
How dismaying it is that half a century since the film was made, we still live in a world where antisemitism can fester, not to the degree it did, but perhaps more than at any time I can recall.
Still, it only goes to show that Gentleman's Agreement, not to mention its fine script and excellent performances, has something to teach us today.
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