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20TH CENTURY FOX

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Elia Kazan
Cast:
Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere, June Havoc, Albert Dekker
Writing Credits:
Moss Hart, based on the novel by Laura Z. Hobson

MPAA:
Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actress-Celeste Holm.
Nominated for Best Actor-Gregory Peck; Best Actress-Dorothy McGuire; Best Supporting Actress-Anne Revere; Best Film Editing; Best Screenplay.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 1/15/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actors Celeste Holm and June Havoc and Film Critic Richard Schickel
• AMC Backstory Episode
• Two Movietone Newsreels
• Theatrical Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Gentleman's Agreement [Blu-Ray] (1947)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (Febraury 4, 2013)

Growing up I got subjected to many of those awful "Afterschool Specials". Actually, some of them seemed decent, but something about the simplistic and trite way in which these shows would educate us kiddies about a variety of issues seemed off-putting even back then. Yeah, I suppose they offered positive messages, but the execution appeared lacking; the programs tended to beat the viewers over the head with the intended themes.

Perhaps 1947's Gentleman's Agreement stood as the prototype for those shows. Possibly the only winner of the Best Picture Oscar that could easily fit into that 4 PM weekday timeslot, it wants to tell all the youngsters that "anti-Semitism is bad". On that subject, you'll get no disagreement from me, but the way in which Agreement makes its points seems less than subtle. It takes the battle against prejudice to an almost ludicrous level.

The plot finds writer Phil Green (Gregory Peck) in search of a new topic on which he can write a magazine article. He's been assigned anti-Semitism but he can't figure out a good angle through which to cover the subject. Eventually, he decides to go undercover and pretend he's Jewish so he can discover the truth from the inside.

This kind of plot popped up in many movies since 1947, though I can only think of instances in which the characters experienced what it was like to be black; that occurred in releases from Watermelon Man to Black Like Me to an episode of M*A*S*H. I don't know if Agreement pioneered this genre, but I can't think of anything older than it. I also don't know if the other similar projects came across as so heavy-handed, but I doubt they could be more overbearing, since Agreement so heavily bombards us with its message.

I can't deny there's value in the movie's theme, since it may enlighten some people to the insidious nature of prejudice. I also expect this is a film that had a much more substantial impact when it first appeared than it does today. After all, in 1947 they didn’t air the “Afterschool Special" series, and I suppose these topics remained hidden more than in modern times. Agreement also exposes elitist hypocrisy and some double standards.

However, the whole project seems so self-righteous and stiff that it becomes a drag. The acting appears reasonably good, and the script remains fairly intelligent, but the suffocating tone of the piece makes it hard to watch.

Plus, I really hated the end of the movie. (Potential spoilers ahead! Skip ahead three paragraphs to avoid!) Phil falls for Kathy (Dorothy McGuire) and they plan to marry. However, friction enters the relationship because she appears to be a garden party liberal who'll talk the talk about eradicating prejudice but does nothing about it.

Eventually the two go splitsville and it looks like Phil will connect with co-worker Anne (Celeste Holm), someone who seems much more compatible with him. However, by the end of the movie, he gets back with Kathy and poor Anne gets left out in the cold.

The film fails to explain what happens between Anne and Phil, and this really irked me. Kathy was such a simp, and Anne was the only genuinely interesting and sympathetic character in the piece. Holm plays her with such a nice air of sad vulnerability that I felt bad for her; Phil leaves her behind without any apparent explanation.

Well, even without that unsatisfying conclusion, I'd still regard the movie as a dull one. I admire the intentions of Gentleman's Agreement but think it tries too hard to make its points. The filmmakers hammer home same themes a thousand times; if I want to encounter mind-numbing, bone-crushing repetition, I'll just read one of my reviews. Gentleman's Agreement was politically correct before such a concept existed, and that doesn't make for a stimulating film experience.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B- / Bonus B-

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

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