Posted by: reederwi | May 25, 2010

Celeste Holm, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

Elia Kazan’s Oscar-winning Best Picture Gentleman’s Agreement, based on Laura Z. Hobson’s novel and adapted to the screen by Moss Hart, was mainstream Hollywood’s first film to illustrate the cruelties and injustices of anti-Semitism. Gregory Peck stars as a crusading journalist who passes himself off as a Jew in order to research and write an article on anti-Semitism. What Peck’s character ultimately finds is a seething cauldron of hatred and bigotry- but not obvious in-your-face bigotry. The injustice he feels is from the everyday people in his life- the family doctor, his landlord and his girlfriend.  The title of the film comes from the concept of an unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” in which non-Jews keep religious predjudices alive by their words and actions towards Jewish people. While it comes off a bit preachy and sentimental at times,  Gentleman’s Agreement is an important work that lives up to the title of a good film, but not necessarily a great one. The film boasts an incredibly strong ensemble- including the likes of Dorothy McGuire, Dean Stockwell,  and John Garfield. However, the standout performances, other than Greogry Peck’s, belong to the film’s TWO  nominated supporting actresses, Anne Revere and Celeste Holm.

Anne Revere, nominee, (176), was nominated for her role as Mrs. Green, Greogry Peck’s stoic, yet medically-fragile mother. While Mrs. Green struggles with her health, her character provides a moral compass for her son in his justice-seeking endeavors. She has one scene towards the end of the film that is truly heartfelt and it’s probably what brought her the nomination. No stranger to the Oscar ceremony, Revere was already a Best Supporting Actress winner for 1945’s National Velvet. In fact, Revere’s three Best Supporting Actress nominations (her very first was in 1943 for The Song of Bernadette) were all for playing the role of the “strong matriarch.”

Celeste Holm, winner, (175) scored the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as  Gregory Peck’s sympathetic magazine co-worker and sharp-tongued gal pal. Holm pulls off her role as the steely, crusading Anne Detrie with great strength and sensitivity. With each of her three Best Supporting Actress nominations,  Celeste Holm competed against a nominated co-star from each film- she went up against Anne Revere for this film, Elsa Lanchester in Come to the Stable (1949) and Thelma Ritter in All About Eve (1950).  This also marked the 6th time in Academy Awards history that two Supporting Actresses were nominated for the same film.

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