I had a much easier time watching Gentleman’s Agreement when I was the same age as the boy in the movie. What I heard in the film were social instructions. They weren’t new. They were reaffirming what my parents taught me. But it was the first time I was seeing insidious examples of bigotry as well as obvious ones. The scenes I watched of Gregory Peck explaining the world and how his son should behave struck a strong chord in me. I remember thinking, “He explained that just right.” I found my recent viewing of Gentleman’s Agreement more difficult to watch. The viewpoint I’m associating with now is that of the adults, how the characters were reacting, their experience of recognizing their own actions, their casual privilege. And while I don’t recall seeing any obvious ethnic characters or extras, I can understand why: Gentleman’s Agreement focused on anti-Semitism to reveal the mindset behind bigotry. It’s just how I saw it as a kid, as an instruction manual to recognize and react with true, brave humanity. I found Gentleman’s Agreement difficult to watch now because you can easily replace Jew with Muslim to see the battlefield of bigotry is still here so many decades later. Exchange the word Jew with Muslim, Hispanic, Black or any other They instead of We. It’s terrifying and saddening, and it makes Gentleman’s Agreement as relevant today as in 1947.
Winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.