Gentleman’s Agreement Blu-ray Review


I never read the 1961 book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin but I knew enough that the book was about true-life adventures of how a white journalist blackened his skin in order to investigate and experience racism for himself in the south. It’s possible that Griffin’s experiment was inspired by Gentleman’s Agreement – the #1 NY Times bestseller of 1947 and Oscar’s Best Picture of 1948. This story must have been huge in its day and could have been have been re-titled with a more controversial name such as ”Jewish Like Me”.

Elia Kazan’s movie title Gentleman’s Agreement refers to a code word for Waspy businesses to not deal with any Jews. The film explores anti-semitism in American culture through the eyes of the upper-class folk who are all typically the center of attention in 1940s American cinema. On the surface, screenshots of Gentleman’s Agreement give the impression of those classic films of “fancy-tied Cary Grant playboys standing around hotels and restaurants chatting up glamorous Joan Crawford dames”, but this film actually has a great story and the majority of the conversations in this film center around prejudice. Journalist Schuyler Philip Green (played by the suave Gregory Peck) is hired by a popular magazine to write a controversial article about how Americans mistreat the Jews in everyday life. His editor doesn’t want him to write a boring article with statistics, but wants a juicy article that could open the eyes to the closed-minded masses. After spending much of the film with writer’s block, he is finally inspired by his fiance (played by Dorothy McGuire) and his 12-year old son (played by Dean Stockwell…yes, the main guy from Quantum Leap) – Green decides to go undercover and be Jewish! I was hoping that Peck would grow out a long beard and wear a yarmulke, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t change his look – all he does is go about his business telling people that he’s Jewish and seeing their reactions. And just as he expected, he gets treated unfairly by the gentiles, even surprised that his agnostic Jewish co-workers even look down on the religious Jews. Some of the exciting scenes involving anti-semitism are pretty tame by today’s standards: After finding out that Green served in the war, a man assumes that he was in the military intelligence department because the stereotype is that Jews can’t be tough or fight as true Americans. Green gets pissed off and says something like “just because I’m Jewish, you think I wouldn’t be a soldier in battle?” And in some other scene, Green gets reservations at an exclusive country inn for Wasps but are canceled when they find out he is Jewish. Green’s actual Jewish friend, a military officer played by real-life tough-guy John Garfield (who was actually Jewish) joins in the fun with Green to prove to the audience that Jews are like anyone else. Green’s undercover work as a Jew even strains his relationship with his family – his fiance must keep his Jewish act secret in order to totally succeed and Green ends up being upset with her after learning that her family may not be accepting of Jews. Green even tells his son to “be Jewish” so that he too can experience what it’s like to be picked on for being different. Selfish it may seem, Green wants his family and friends to know what prejudice feels like in order to always be tolerant of all other races, religions, and any other “different” people. The movie is obviously preachy to someone watching it for the first time nowadays, but Gentleman’s Agreement must have been a pretty powerful film in its day to get people to open their eyes to any closed-minded behavior in American’s daily lives.


20th Century Fox has released a knock-out video transfer of Gentleman’s Agreement. The 1080p 1.37:1 video transfer looks amazing. With almost perfect quality, the movie looks fresh as if filmed yesterday while retaining the film’s original grain without any sort of distracting over-processing. Such clarity is sometimes sad because the stars look so alive on the video transfer yet they are all dead in real life. This is a gorgeous, striking, and sharp presentation and I can’t imagine this film ever looking better on video!


The DTS-HD Mono sound mix sounds flawless, especially for a film from this era. The dialogue is crystal clear with no hiss or distortion. This dialogue-heavy movie of course isn’t the type to blow you away with depth and bass, but this is how mono mixes on Blu-rays should sound – nice job!

French Dolby Digital Mono and Spanish Dolby Digital Mono, as well as English SDH and Spanish subtitles are also included.


Extras are decent. Included is a very good audio commentary from Time Magazine’s Richard Schikel with his analysis of the film. The AMC Backstory is a featurette about the making of Gentleman’s Agreement and also explores the Nurember Trails and other anti-semitism issues during that time period. And the Movietonews are short clips of the film’s Oscar highlights.

– Audio Commentary
– AMC Backstory: Gentleman’s Agreement (24:27)
– Movietonews
– Movie Trailer


Growing up in America in the 1980s, my junior and high schools focused non-stop on slavery, the Holocaust, and Martin Luther King Jr. We certainly got our fair share of education about racism involving African-Americans and Jews, but I was always curious about how all the American immigrants were handled in the early 1900s and I didn’t really get a clear impression of how that world was from my history classes. I did however get the inside scoop about this abstract world from my Bronx-born, Jewish grandfather who told me American racism tales until he passed at the age of 102. Even in a liberal city like New York City, racism was just everywhere. While I learned from school that water fountains were separated – one for “colored” and one for “whites”, I had no idea that there were so many other divisions for many ethnicities and cultures right out in the open. From my grandfather’s stories, he told me how it was quite common for job listings to have disclaimers such as, “Not hiring Irish.” Another time, he worked for the famous elevator company Otis and worked about two weeks until he was called into management and was fired on the spot once upper management realized he was Jewish – the supervisor had even apologized to him and explained that “the higher-ups have a rule about not hiring Jews.” So there were many stories like this and seems so bizarre since I have never experienced anti-semitism in my lifetime, but that’s how America was in the old days. Gentleman’s Agreement is definitely worth a look to get an idea how Americans perceived the minorities before many of the equal-rights movements started in the 1950s. Excellent Blu-ray and interesting movie – go check it out!