Film / Gentleman's Agreement

"Ma, I've got it! I've got the idea, the angle, the lead! I'll be Jewish! Why, all I've got to do is just say it. No one around here knows me. I can live with myself for six weeks, eight weeks, nine months. Ma, this is it!"
Phil Green

Based on a novel by Laura Z. Hobson, Gentleman's Agreement is a 1947 film directed by Elia Kazan and starring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire.

Peck plays a journalist — Phil "Schulyer" Green — who, having been widowed for some years, moves to New York City with his son and mother in pursuit of a new job, where he is assigned a piece on anti-Semitism. He struggles for a while to find a convincing and engaging angle from which he can write the story, and finally settles on pretending to be Jewish so he can experience prejudice first-hand. McGuire plays Kathy Lacey, his fiancee, who dislikes the difficulty this act brings, and who lacks the courage to stand up and actually confront prejudiced people. Other characters include Anne Dettrey (Celeste Holm), the fashion editor at Phil's magazine who quickly befriends him; John Minify (Albert Dekker), the editor who suggests the piece; and Dave Goldman (John Garfield), a Jewish friend of Phil's who expresses misgivings about the ruse. The title comes from the "gentleman's agreement" between the residents of a particular community not to sell or rent property to Jews.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Director (Kazan), and Supporting Actress (Holm). Something of a Dueling Movies example along with Crossfire, another 1947 release that dealt with anti-Semitism as a theme.

This film contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: How Phil figures he can pass as Jewish: he has dark hair, dark eyes, and a somewhat ambiguous name. He figures he doesn't need to have any "mannerisms" since his Jewish friend Dave doesn't have any either.
  • Jewish Like Me: The whole premise, and a fair bit older than the Trope Namer. Phil doesn't disguise himself or act differently in any way (which is part of the point, really) — all he does is say he's Jewish — and people treat him very differently.
  • Informed Judaism: No part of Phil's act involves, say, attending a synagogue, or anything other than just saying he's Jewish. People promptly hate on him.
  • Expy: Phil meets a scientist who looks vaguely like Albert Einstein and delivers a speech about how he's not a Jew that borrows Richard Feynman's reasoning for why he isn't a Jew (he's not religiously Jewish and is not racially Jewish because there's no such thing as a Jewish race).
  • N-Word Privileges: After his secretary (see Stop Being Sterotypical below) uses a Jewish slur, Phil points out he does not think it's appropriate to use degrading words, specifically saying "nigger" as one of the words it's not right to use as degrading to people of whatever group someone doesn't like.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: When one of Phil's coworkers tries this after assuming Phil would've been in P.R. during the war as opposed to having been a G.I., Anne has a succint reply:
    Anne Dettrey: I know dear, and some of your other best friends are Methodist, but you never bother to say it.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Phil's secretary, Elaine Wales/Estelle Wilovsky. She's unhappy that she couldn't get a job under her real name, but when Phil arranges for the magazine to have fairer hiring practices, she's immediately concerned that more "kikey" Jews will ruin the job for the "good ones," like Phil and herself. Phil does not take kindly to this.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Minify's opinion of Phil's pen name. He claims he wouldn't give it to a dog.