Gentleman's Agreement appears an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an appealing presentation.
Sharpness generally seemed solid. Some wide shots demonstrated slight softness, but these examples appeared infrequent and didn’t intrude on the picture. Overall, the movie looked distinct and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no issues, and edge haloes remained non-problematic.
Black levels seemed deep and tight, and contrast worked well; the movie came with a nice silver feel. Shadows displayed good clarity and didn’t suffer from excessive opacity. In terms of print flaws, I noticed a handful of small specks but nothing more intrusive than that. Some interiors seemed a bit flickery, though. Overall, the transfer gave us a strong rendition of the film.
Though the DTS-HD MA monaural mix showed its age, it appeared quite clear and pleasing. Speech was reasonably natural and distinct, without a sense of coldness or brittle tones. Effects weren’t a major component, but they appeared acceptably accurate, while music showed fairly good reproduction; range wasn’t excellent, but the score came across as well-rendered for something from 1947. This was a solid track for its age.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the prior 2003 DVD? The Blu-ray dispensed with the awful fake stereo track from the DVD and just went with the appealing monaural mix that also appeared on that release; the DTS-HD MA mono was a little warmer and cleaner than the DVD’s audio. The visuals gave us the more obvious improvements, as the Blu-ray was cleaner, sharper and more distinctive than the DVD.
The Blu-ray duplicates almost all of the extras from the last DVD, and these start with an audio commentary from actors Celeste Holm and June Havoc plus film critic Richard Schickel. All three were taped separately for this edited but generally screen-specific track.
To say the least, Schickel dominates the piece. The actors toss in the occasional tidbit that relates some information about their experiences on the set, but they can’t have appeared more than five percent of the time. For all intents and purposes, Schickel does this one solo.
As a whole, the commentary seems spotty, as Schickel doesn’t provide a great deal of insight into the production. While he gives us some decent notes about the shoot as well as an attempt to place the film in historical perspective. However, he mostly just describes the plot and doesn’t really give us much depth.
In a positive vein, Schickel doesn’t seem particularly enamored with the movie, and he offers a surprising number of criticisms. Usually this kind of commentary sticks almost totally with praise, but Schickel probably relates more negative than positive thoughts, which makes this track rather atypical. Nonetheless, it remains inconsistent and doesn’t do a whole lot to illuminate matters.
Next we find an episode of AMC Backstory that covers Gentleman’s Agreement. In this 24-minute and 27-second program, we get the standard mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. Oddly, the program doesn’t credit the speakers as they appear, but I recognized actor Celeste Holm, film historian Rudy Behlmer, movie executives Richard Zanuck and David Brown, and John Garfield’s daughter Julie. Director Elia Kazan also appears in an older clip.
“Backstory” provides a superficial but useful examination of the movie. It mostly concentrates on the historical context in which it was producer, as we learn about Jews in Hollywood, resistance to this story, and the backlash that followed, especially as it related to the “Red Hunt”. The show doesn’t tell us a lot about the making of the movie itself, as those elements seem pretty quick and shallow, but the attempts to illuminate the period appear helpful and intriguing.
In addition to the flick’s trailer, Movietone News breaks down into two smaller pieces. “Oscars Presented for Motion Picture Achievements” runs one minute, 42 seconds and covers some of that year’s ceremony. The 55-second “Hollywood Spotlight: Darryl Zanuck Honored for Producing Best Motion Picture of 1947” shows Bob Hope as he gives Look Magazine awards to Gregory Peck and Zanuck. It offers one funny bit, and both clips seem like nice historical artifacts.
The Academy likes to toss their Best Picture prizes to movies that present positive, socially-acceptable messages, and no film exemplifies that trend more than 1947's victor, the dull and pedantic Gentleman's Agreement. No other winner may have approached the excesses of this movie, either, as it drives home its point with painful solemnity. The Blu-ray offers strong visuals, more than adequate audio and a few decent bonus materials. I’m not wild about this slow movie, but the Blu-ray replicates it well.
To rate this film visit the Fox Studio Classics review of GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT