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Blu-ray Review Gentleman's Agreement Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

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    XenForo Template One of the most honored of the social issues films which cropped up in the post-World War II Hollywood era, Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement may play a bit less forcefully and less cinematically than other movies of the period, but its issues are still valid, and the Hollywood treatment of these issues with anti-Semitism only partially obscures the points the movie is trying to make. With a first-rate cast and strong if slightly stagy writing, Gentleman’s Agreement is still a film that can be effective and affecting at its best.

    Gentleman’s Agreement (Blu-ray) Directed by Elia Kazan Studio: 20th Century Fox Year: 1947 Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 118 minutes Rating: NR Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Spanish, French Subtitles: SDH, Spanish

    Region: A MSRP: $ 24.99

    Release Date: January 15, 2013

    Review Date: February 2, 2013

    The Film

    4/5 Journalist Phil Green (Gregory Peck) is assigned by magazine editor John Minify (Albert Dekker) to do a series for his magazine on anti-Semitism. He’s given free reign to approach it any way he wishes, but Phil is stuck for a way into the story until he gets the idea to approach it from the angle of personal feelings by masquerading as a person of Jewish faith to see what living in that persona would mean. What he learns shocks him: that prejudice against Jewish people was present everywhere: sometimes blatantly, sometimes reservedly or even in disguise: with his building’s custodian, with acquaintances, his family doctor, even at the liberally run magazine where he’s working. Things become even more awkward when Minify’s divorced niece Kathy (Dorothy McGuire) begins seeing a lot of Phil and their relationship blossoms into love. At almost every turn, people believing Phil is Jewish becomes a problem for Kathy, and his disappointment in her complacent attitude toward the problem of internalized, noncommittal prejudice (the gentleman's agreement of the title) drives a wedge between them. The film is based on a best selling novel by Laura Z. Hobson, but playwright/screenwriter Moss Hart’s stage credentials continually betray themselves in the frequently overwritten dialogue which director Elia Kazan films oftentimes as if he’s transcribing a play onto celluloid. The writing is filled with so many terrific ideas: the common self loathing of their own kind modeled by Green’s secretary Miss Wales (June Havoc), the quiet acceptance of prejudice that even liberal suburbanites are guilty of (Kathy and her equally culpable sister played by Jane Wyatt), atheistic Jews who are nonetheless saddled with their religious heritage and must wear it as a badge of honor (scientist Prof. Lieberman  played by Sam Jaffe). The film’s best characters are more peripheral to the central love story; they’re Phil’s Jewish buddy Dave (John Garfield) and the magazine fashion editor Anne (Celeste Holm) who’s actually Phil’s soul mate but not romantic connection, all due to the sappy machinations of the typical Hollywood plotting. In fact, the film’s social issues still play just fine now; it’s that manipulated happy ending that rings so false and Hollywood glossy that ruins an otherwise very important and overall well done treatment of the issue even if the solutions suggested are only of the most surface nature. At least the problem was presented unblinkingly. Gregory Peck was pitch-perfect casting as the high minded and socially committed Phil Green, and he gives the kind of stalwart, eagerly earnest performance that was typical of him in this era. Dorothy McGuire makes a willowy Kathy whose distaste for confrontation is mentioned a couple of times in the movie but seems forgotten by the end though she has a couple of really electric speeches in the film’s second half that show her power as an actress. (Is it really realistic to think this is the last story of social importance that Phil will approach and that Kathy will find difficult to cope with his intensity and commitment?) John Garfield gives one of his most relaxed and effective performances as Phil’s great Army buddy. His eyes evince a lot of pain and a history of rejection but a never-say-die attitude keeps him buoyant. It’s the film’s best performance by far. Celeste Holm’s Oscar-winning Anne shows a great deal of heart and sardonic humor. She has a couple of monologues in the film that won her the award and show why she was the go-to girl for brittle dialogue delivered with a wry touch. Anne Revere as Phil’s mother gives a solid, straightforward portrayal, and Dean Stockwell is just as effective as Phil’s son who becomes the object for prejudice late in the movie.

    Video Quality

    4.5/5 The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. With a gorgeous grayscale boasting inky blacks and superb whites and a grain structure that suggests film in every frame, the image is sparkling throughout. With only the tiniest bit of minor flashing in one scene, the transfer’s sharpness is excellent, and there should be absolutely no complaints with this achievement. The film has been divided into 13 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    4/5 The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix delivers just what one would expect with dialogue, sound effects, and Alfred Newman’s rather spare music into a single track. Occasionally dialogue is not quite as audible as one might wish (Celeste Holm mumbles a few lines that get a bit lost), and in very quiet scenes, there’s the muffled trace of hiss and crackle that has been stifled as best they can by the transfer’s sound engineers.

    Special Features

    2.5/5 The audio commentary is by film critic Richard Schickel with occasional inserted comments by actresses Celeste Holm (who sounds very frail) and June Havoc. The ladies’ comments are fine, but as Schickel isn’t particularly enamored with the movie, his comments are rather dismissive oftentimes and much of the film finds him simply reacting to what he’s watching rather than offering scholarly commentary. “Hollywood Backstory: Gentleman’s Agreement is another in the entertaining series of backstory featurettes prepared for Fox titles which aired on AMC. In 24 ½ minutes, it deals with the theme of the book and Hollywood’s reluctance to tackle it, non-Jewish head of Fox Darryl Zanuck’s commitment to making the movie, the casting choices, the beginnings of the H.U.A.C. investigations and how they inevitably touched members of the cast and crew, and the film’s rapturous reception and awards. It’s in 480i. Two Fox Movietone newsreels show award presentations to the movie. The Oscar newsreel (1 ¾ minutes) features comments from winners Celeste Holm and Darryl Zanuck while the Look Magazine Awards (1 minute) features acceptances from Gregory Peck for Best Actor and Darryl Zanuck for Best Picture. They’re both in 480i. The theatrical trailer issued after its Oscar wins runs 3 minutes.

    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average) Gentleman’s Agreement may not pack quite the same punch as it did in 1947, but it’s still a very well acted and affecting drama, and the Blu-ray release (even omitting the three dozen behind-the-scenes stills from the DVD release) features a beautiful video transfer and better than average of its era audio. Recommended! Matt Hough Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Robin9

    Robin9 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for this review. I'm pleased - and slightly relieved - that the picture quality is so good. I love this movie, not especially for its central theme although that certainly holds my attention, but for its assessment of the two main women characters. I have to disagree with the suggestion that Celeste Holm's character's lack of romantic connection with Phil Green is all "due to the sappy machinations of the typical Hollywood plotting". In my view the fact that those two do not get together is completely atypical, and Celeste Holm's delivery of the speech in which she declares her feelings and tells Phil her rival is not worthy of him is absolutely superb. (I was astonished some time ago when I looked up Gentlemen's Agreement on IMDB and read a comment that Celeste Holm should have been ashamed of herself for grotesque ham in that moment. I couldn't believe what I was reading! It's one of my favourite moments in all films) I also love the moment when Dorothy Mcguire turns on her man and tells him to stop judging her; another great scene. I'll have another look at the DVD before placing my order but I'll probably buy this BRD.
     
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  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    In the scene when Holm declares her feelings and then the scene fades out, I felt a crucial moment was lost. I wanted to know his reasoning why she wasn't his choice; they seemed to me like a match made in heaven. (In the book, of course, Anne and Dave have an affair, but that notion was completely abandoned for the film.)
     
  4. Robin9

    Robin9 Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't need to be explained. It's physical attraction and response (or lack of it) and all that entails. She doesn't reach him in that essential and fundamental way, and he realises that no matter how much better and more suitable a soul mate she might be, she's never going to get to him the way the other woman does. That's why I admire it. It's true to real life and not to Hollywood cliche. Nat King Cole once recorded a feeble pop song whose ungrammatical, non-scanning lyric contained a truth most classical love poets never came within a mile of: QUOTE: You can weep and sigh and say "unfair". You can almost die of despair. But if love ain't there, it ain't there. UNQUOTE That's two things to do tonight. Listen to that Nat Cole album and watch Gentlemen's Agreement.
     
  5. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    We'll just have to agree to disagree about this.
     
  6. bujaki

    bujaki Well-Known Member

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    Matt, You may not agree with the "sappy" Hollywood ending, but it happens to be the ending of the novel, literally so. I too prefer Anne to Kathy as a character, but evidently Phil felt otherwise.
     

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