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3 October 2013

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

1947
Directed by: Elia Kazan
Starring: Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Dorothy McGuire, 
Celeste Holm, Anne Revere

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. 

One would think that a film made in 1947 would be dated today, that its theme or story would not resonate with people, that the underlying premise of the story itself - that of religious prejudice - would be so out of place in today's 'inclusive' society that we would watch the film and wonder that there was such a dark period in our collective past.

Unfortunately, the questions that the film poses, the conflict that its characters face, are as valid today as they were more than sixty years ago. Perhaps more so. Yes, society has come a long way; yes, there have been changes, and it has been for the better; yes, Desegregation and Affirmative Action (here) and Reservation (India) have done their part in bringing marginalised peoples into the mainstream fold. Yet, we are still beset by our prejudices. Oh, we all have them, though we might claim not to, some less egregious than the others, perhaps, but they colour our views on people and events.

It is all the more insidious for it being unconscious, so much a part of our psyche that we are really not lying when we say we are not biased. It is there in the unconscious shifting when a 'Black' man sits near you on public transport; it is present when you see a woman in a burqa and mentally, unconsciously almost, make a judgement about her subservience; it is there when you see a teeka on a forehead and a paan-stained mouth and file a man away as 'one of those types'.

Which type?

Someone not quite like 'you', with your liberal views, and your adoption of the whole of mankind as one mass of humanity, no difference. Yet, 'YOU' are no different from them. Only your biases, your prejudices differ. Every moment of every day, we judge ourselves and others, our actions and their words, whether consciously or unconsciously. We judge people (and ourselves) on our dress, our language, our way of speaking, our etiquette, our manners (or lack of them). Yes, that is human. Where the issue comes alive is when we then use these judgements, conscious or otherwise, to draw a line beyond which others may not cross. While some lines were starkly drawn - 'Dogs and Indians not allowed' - others are invisible. No one says anything, no one does anything, but by not saying or doing anything, they allow evil to continue. And evil it is, make no mistake about it.

Gentleman's Agreement is a film about religious prejudice as much as it is about nice people,  good  people, doing nothing about stopping its spread. It is about discrimination, and how we practice it in a range of ways.  

Phil Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck), a hotshot magazine writer, lives with his widowed mother (Anne Revere) and his 10-year-old son, Tom (Dean Stockwell). 
He has been invited down to New York by John Minify (Albert Drekker), the editor of a national magazine, to write a series of stories on anti-Semitism. Green is not too enthused: what could he write that hasn't been said before? However, when he realises that he is finding it hard to explain what anti-Semitism is, to his son, he agrees to take it on, and try his best. 
As his mother tells him, "Perhaps it hasn't been said well enough. If it had, you wouldn't have had to explain it to Tommy right now."

A week later, Green is still overcome by writer's block - what angle can he use to peg the story? Every single one he thinks of, doesn't seem worth the page it is written on, once he sets it down on paper; but his relationship with Kathy (Dorothy McGuire), his editor's niece whom he met at dinner three days earlier, develops in leaps and bounds. So fast, that even they are surprised by the intensity of their feelings.
Green's sounding board is his mother; wise and with no-nonsense airs, she is both catalyst and confidante, offering him unconditional support as he sets about finding his way around the assignment. As he talks to her about the difficulty of finding that one angle to the story, he remembers his childhood friend, Dave Goldman. How did Dave feel about being Jewish? How was he treated? Enthused, he sets about to write only to discover that that doesn't quite work either. How would he know how Dave felt? How he was treated? How can he even ask Dave to explain?
This is personal - and then, as his mother is taken ill in the middle of the night, inspiration strikes. He, Green, will never know what it is to experience something until he  experiences it himself. He remembers that his best articles had never been those that he wrote while sitting at his desk. It was when he lived those experiences - as an Okie (an Oklahoma immigrant) on Rt 66, or as a coal miner, and then wrote about them that the articles came alive.
Green is dark-haired and dark-eyed. So is Dave. There is no particular accent to give him away; neither did Dave have one. Perhaps he could pretend to be Jewish for a while? 
 He would experience first-hand what Dave and others of his race experienced from the time they were born. He would be Jewish for six weeks, eight weeks, nine months, whatever it takes for him to get the story...

His name? 'Green' could be changed to the more Jewish Greenberg; he would just drop his middle name 'Schuyler'. But, he warns his supportive mother, this has to go all the way, the pretence, no exceptions. His mother agrees - if he is to be Jew, she would be one, too. His editor is equally enthusiastic about the idea, and so the die is cast.
Green asks his secretary, Elaine Wales, to apply for jobs in a host of prestigious companies. Same qualifications, same experience, different names - one application to go out in the name of Green, the other in the name of Greenberg. His secretary asks him if he had changed his name. No, says Green, surprised. Why? Well, she did. Because she got tired of being rejected. Because she was originally Estelle Walovsky, and she had been rejected by the very magazine that later hired her.

When Green informs Minify, the liberal editor is shocked and furious. He immediately sets to changing the magazine's hiring policies to one where race and religion do not play a role. Much to Green's amazement, Elaine is not happy at the new hiring policy - what if the 'wrong' Jews apply making life tough for Jews like her and Green? Green's eyes are opened to the bigotry that exists on the inside as well.

He is also made aware of the subtle ways in which a Jew is made to feel different - when he writes his new name on his mailbox so the mail in Greenberg's name can be delivered to his house, the janitor tells him it would be wiser to tell the mailman or inform the post office instead.
He is also taken aback at Kathy's reaction to his story - "But you are not really Jewish?" she asks. What difference does that make? "Not that it would make any difference to me. But you said, "Let everybody know," as if you hadn't before and would now. So I just wondered. Not that it would make any difference to me." Green is beginning to see that perfectly nice people with 'liberal' views have their own prejudices to get over.

Green is also introduced to Anne Dettrey (Celeste Holm), the fashion editor at the weekly, who is struggling against prejudices of a different kind. She is frank and forthright and not above putting people in their place. As his assignment continues, his friend Dave (John Garfield) comes to New York on a reconnaissance trip and stays with him - Dave has the chance of a good job in New York, and he has come to see if he can rent a house to bring his family down. When he hears about Green's series, he is supportive but concerned - he, and others like him, have lived that life. They are, in some ways, inured to it, the digs, the sly innuendos, the hidden prejudice. When Green tells him that pretending to be Jewish has only made him get his nose rubbed in it and he doesn't like the emanating smell, Dave responds that what Green is trying to do is to encapsulate a lifetime's experiences into a few short weeks. "You are not changing the facts; you're just making them hurt more."
A fact that stares Green in the face, when a man picks a fight with Dave in a restaurant simply based on his name.  Or when a swanky hotel manager refuses to assign Green a room because he is Jewish. When his mother's doctor suggests that an internist with a very Jewish name may overcharge Green (simply based on the stereotype about Jews and money), and is uncomfortable when Green informs him that he is Jewish himself.  When Kathy begs to tell her sister of Green's subterfuge at a party that her sister is hosting for them. 
 
When some neighbours who were expected at the dinner, unexpectedly find themselves 'unable to come'...

It is Kathy's attitude that Green finds the hardest to take. When she refuses to offer her cottage to Dave even though she knows he will lose his job if he cannot move to New York and he is is finding it difficult to rent a house, she claims it is because Dave will have a tough time there. People will refuse to recognise him and his family; shops will refuse to serve him; how can she send him there? Green is shaken; why can't she stand up to these folks? On the contrary, Kathy tells Green. It is he who does not understand. He can't change the whole world! New Haven is restricted. They do not allow Jews there at all. And even here, in Darien, Connecticut, people have a gentleman's agreement...
A 'gentleman's agreement'? Green is beyond furious. Matters deteriorate further when Tommy comes home crying because the boys in the neighbourhood will not play with him because he is a Jew. Kathy tries to comfort him by telling him he is no more Jewish than she is, and Green erupts. 
It is not that he is not Jewish that is the issue here; it is that that epithet is wrong in and of itself. And Kathy cannot see that. He asks Tommy later whether he ever felt like telling them that he was not a Jew; when Tommy demurs, Green is comforted: "That's good. There are a lot of kids just like you who are Jewish, and if you had said that, you'd be admitting there was something bad in being Jewish."

Kathy is not an anti-Semite. But she is unwilling to tackle the issue head-on, or even to acknowledge it is an issue. And by not raising her voice against it, she is culpable to the extent that she allows it to continue. It is something that she learns only when Dave pointedly (but gently) asks her 'what did she do?' when someone said something bigoted?
 
Based on Louisa Hobson's novel of the same name (she wrote it after hearing of Senator John Rankin calling columnist Walter Winchell 'a little kike' on the floor of the House), A Gentleman's Agreement unveils the unspoken agreement by which Jews (and other minorities) were excluded from jobs, housing, colleges, clubs, hotels and resorts. While Affirmative Action had not arrived, and African-Americans were kept away from moving out of their social order by law and government machinery, the relegation of Jews to second-hand status was an unstated affair.

Darryl Zanuck, a 'White' American (with all its assumed privileges), felt strongly that it was a story that needed to be told, and not only snapped up the rights to the novel, but brought Elia Kazan on board to direct it. Gentleman's Agreement is unabashedly a 'message' film. It is also a courageous film in that it was the first Hollywood film to tackle such a sensitive subject and tackle it head on. Much like the secretary in the film, who changes her name to better fit in, and who wants the status quo to remain so the 'wrong' types do not get in to further tarnish the name of 'Jews', studio bosses who were themselves Jewish, tried to persuade Zanuck not to make the film for fear that it would stir a hornet's nest. (Those fears were not unfounded, since Zanuck, Anne Revere, Elia Kazan and John Garfield found themselves before the House Unamerican Activities Committee to defend their views and blacklisted for a while. Anne Revere would lose twenty years of her professional life to this blacklist, and Garfield, hounded again and again, would die by the age of 39. Director Elia Kazan would cooperate with McCarthy to an extent that when he received his Academy Award, many people refused to rise to applaud him.) 

Zanuck and script writer Moss Hart turned that into a scene in the film where a Jewish investor asks to be allowed to handle it 'their way'.  Minify erupts. "We have seen how you have handled it," he says, "now we need to blow the lid wide open."

The part of Phil Green was first offered to Cary Grant but he turned it down. Gregory Peck, whose agent did not want him to accept, took it on nevertheless, and turned in one of his finest performances as a man who is brought to realise what it takes to live as someone 'different'. He is almost impersonal as first, even arrogant.
After all, he has 'lived' as an 'Okie', as a coal miner, now he will live as a Jew. But as the assignment wears on, every slur, every insult becomes a personal hurt. Green is not free of prejudices himself; only, his are of a different kind. When he first suggests, dismissively, that 'it was funny' that the series was suggested by Mr Minify's niece, his mother puts him in his place: "You don't say? Why, women will be thinking next, Phil." 

Green is the moral lynch pin that holds the story together, and as such, he has some of the film's preachiest lines. What made them bearable was Peck's complete earnestness in saying them. When he faces an immersion course in bigotry because of the change in his name, he realises how insidious the issue really is, how hidden, how deliberate, how prevalent.

In some ways, he is the voice of the present, waking the conscience of a society against an evil that is all the more so for being hidden. People who are quick to condemn the Holocaust or the lynchings of the Blacks, or any act of violence against a perceived minority are quite often blind to the injustices that are continually perpetrated against them in a civil society. Violence is seen and reacted to, and against; the culpability that comes from admitting to prejudice is not as easy to accept.

It is a journey of learning for both Green and the audience.  But I've come to see lots of nice people who hate it and deplore it and protest their own innocence, then help it along and wonder why it grows. People who would never beat up a Jew. People who think anti-Semitism is far away in some dark place with low-class morons. That's the biggest discovery I've made. The good people. The nice people.  

It is also the journey of Green's change from being inflexible about intolerance to admitting at long last how it can affect the vulnerable, like his son, Tommy. How 'principles' can go to dust when a child is hurt by the bigotry.
Peck, however, did not get on with director Elia Kazan at all, and the two never worked together after this. Nor did Peck appeal to Celeste Holm, who claimed he was not much fun to work with.

Dorothy McGuire played Kathy - the complacent liberal who finds that her tolerance does not quite extend to her own personal life; who finds it easier to fall in with the status quo than to fight it; who cannot understand why her fiance's crusade against bigotry has to be so personal; who doesn't quite understand that by keeping quiet, she, and others like her, are as culpable as the people who do make the racist jokes or the bigoted remarks. Kathy's role is not unsympathetic, as much as conflicted. She has nothing against Jews, but she doesn't want her loved ones to suffer for a cause. 
When she doesn't protest at a dinner party when someone tells a racist joke, is it because she accepts that intolerance, or because she does not want to make a scene? In many ways, she could be you, or me. It is easy enough to talk the liberal talk; where does one draw a line and get ready to stand behind it? 

Dorothy McGuire was, to me, the weakest link in the story; she comes across as spoilt rather than conflicted, and the conclusion was a tad bit too tidy. (Besides, I would much rather have had Green end up with Anne rather than Kathy.)

John Garfield, a Jew who changed his name (Jules Garfinkle) in real life, accepted his role as Dave Goldman because he too wanted the story to be told. His is by far the most natural performance in the film, perhaps because it is something he has lived through himself. His Goldman knows that one cannot fight everyone, or win every fight, but that there are some things that are worth fighting for. 
Sometimes, as he tells Kathy in the end, one has to hit back, if one does not want the state of affairs to continue. 

Celeste Holm as Anne, the editor who is truly tolerant, was amazing in her short role.
 
When she meets with Green after Kathy has broken off her engagement to him, she tells him Kathy is representative of the outspoken liberal - They can never move from talk to action. She is the antithesis of Kathy - she knows what it is like to face prejudice (she is a working woman in the early forties, after all), and she knows what it takes to fight it. 
Gentleman's Agreement is not a film that 'entertains', but it is a film that kept me riveted to the screen for the nearly two hours of its running time. It is a film that made me think, made me question, and look with fresh eyes at an issue that is not dead at all. The film is dated, argue some critics. To them, I say, no, not at all.  

For all of us who have said a joke, or heard one, and laughed, or perhaps not laughed, but not said anything at all even though the 'joke' made us uncomfortable, we are not prejudiced, are we? Not, not really; it's 'just a joke', 'between friends'. And each time we make that joke, or we let those jokes pass, we let prejudice fester until it turns into an intolerance that we cannot get past. 

When actor Kal Penn (House, Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle, The Namesake) was applying for auditions, he spoke about how when he applied as Kal Penn, his audition callbacks went up by 50% than when he had applied as 'Kalpen Modi' (his real name).  Do you still think prejudices do not exist? Race and religion are not ticking bombs waiting to explode? There are housing societies in Bombay where having a Muslim name will ensure you do not get to buy a flat. For all I know, there may be housing societies which will not sell or rent to Hindus, as well. I do know for a fact that there are housing societies which will not rent to people who aren't vegetarian.

Perhaps anti-Semitism is not as prevalent today as it was then, but prejudices, different prejudices, still abound, and this film is as much about fighting those prejudices as it is about fighting anti-Semitism or the exclusion of African-Americans from mainstream society. Only the names have changed. Substitute 'Muslims' or 'Gays' or 'African-Americans' or...

When we demonise a whole set of people (any people) as 'the other', we do not allow ourselves to know the individual, and that, in essence, is the underlying theme of the film. To me, sixty plus years later, in a world that is torn apart by religion and race, by violence and intolerance, Gentleman's Agreement still holds the same relevance, if not more.

22 comments:

  1. Anu,
    I envy your fabulous style of writing! The preamble is so lyrical, I am sure much better than the movie would be. We Indians must be among the most bigoted people on the earth, and we are also not subtle about it. I have not seen the movie, but I can admire its underlying premise that it is not 'they', but 'we' the liberals who are equally guilty in perpetuating such prejudices.


    While the Jews have faced prejudices in history in large parts of the world, in today's US the general impression is that they are the most powerful ethnic group, and they influence American pro-Israel tilt in the Middle East. So I am not sure I would be able to relate to it as much I do to 'kaalu' (as I said we Indians are very honest about it :)) movies. Gregory Peck himself played another great role on the side of liberalism in "To Kill a Mockingbird". in fact all such movies are my great favorites - "To Sir With Love", "In The Heat of the Night" and "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner Tonight". Suddenly I realize that Sidney Poitier was common to all, but Rodney Steiger (the openly bigoted) in the second and Spencer Tracy (the liberal (?) Mayor) in the last movie also add to making these movies classics.


    Anu, your reviews have made me watch many movies such as, "The Japanese Wife", "Memories in March" etc. with great delight, but probably I am not enthused enough to watch this one, because Jews in America for me are white, rich and powerful, and they run the Middle East desk of the State Department. So, discrimination? I would need to watch an Auschwitz movie. But your review is beautiful. My full compliments to you.


    AK

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  2. Thank you for the compliment, AK, and it is written so because the cause is dear to me. I battle my own biases every day, innoccuous or otherwise, and I see how, unchecked, they can rise to intolerance. And all Jews in America are not white, rich and powerful. What the Jews are today, is because of, and in spite of, what they faced yesterday. They have battled the prejudices, the intolerance against them and prevailed. What about the 'others' who are yet to prevail? The Dalits, for instance? Or the Muslims? Exchange 'Jews' for 'Muslims' today, and you have the same injustice happening over and over and over again.


    Prejudice has to be battled when and where it raises its head. I do not need another Auschwitz to remind me of the far-reaching consequences of religious and racial prejudice. Perhaps this movie is not for you, and I raise no objections, but, my friend, reverse snobbery is as much a prejudice as the other more egregious one.

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  3. Such a fabulous film and I've never heard of it!
    Seems to be very watchable!
    Equally good is your review of the movie.

    Being a gay, South-Asian person living in Central Europe, leaves one having to face lots of biases, prejudices, and discrimination, even on blogosphere. But equally strong are the biases, prejudices and discrimination, which carries with one's ownself. It is easier for me to point out what I face, but I myself carry my luggage of intolerance against some other group of people. One can just not be aware of this too much!

    Anti-Semitism is not gone, maybe to some extent in the US, but it has arosen somewhere else. But as you have said, it is not about Anti-Semitism alone, it is more about the anti- feelings. Those feelings of being against something that is not like what I'm accustomed to. It can be gender, when some person is not like what you expect from his/her visible sex; religion, some other form of god, to whom the prayers are offered, skin colour, etc, etc. We just don't take enough time to look at the person and his/her abilities, forget his character.

    On one hand generalisations and presumptions are discriminatory on the
    other they help us orient ourselves in the diverse society.
    Nevertheless, we must vehemently oppose discrimination on grounds of gender, colour, religion, caste, creed, national or social origin, sexual-orientation, age, disability etc. And this opposition should be visible on all possible levels. An anti-discrimination agency from the government can help, but the change has to happen in the minds of the people.

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  4. Well said, Harvey! It is unfortunate that the very characteristics of race, religion, gender, colour, nation, sexuality etc, that we choose to identify ourselves in a larger diversity, are the very characteristics that we use to isolate ourselves into disparate groups of people 'just like us'.



    As you so aptly pointed out, government policies are of no use if we cannot overcome our own prejudices. When has telling someone to do something ever worked? :)

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  5. This sounds like an amazing film, Anu. I have just returned from the Bangalore Literature Festival, and one of the most interesting sessions I attended there was about prejudices and their manifestations - mostly regarding religious prejudices, particularly in how a lot of non-Muslims in India regard Muslims (that phrase of yours about how we think a woman is subservient just because she goes veiled reminded me of this... one Bangalore-based writer whom I know of is always in a hijab, but is very outspoken in reminding people that she wears it because she wants to, not because others do).

    Anyway, to stop digressing. This was a film I'd never even heard of, even though I have seen another anti-Semitic film made also in 1947, Crossfire. Gentleman's Agreement sounds more subtle, more thought-provoking. i must certainly keep an eye out for it.

    By the way, have you seen the Brendan Fraser starrer School Ties? Another good take on anti-Semitism, I thought.

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  6. Jew then, Islam today, something else tomorrow. As long as there be difference, will exist discrimination and the 'us v. them'. Quite a lot of the bias stems from ones own insecurities, and the strength inherent in being the majority. Sadly, that gives the minority a cause to bond in spite of differences within. Man finds it very tough to embrace difference, then as well as now. A sad truth that will remain. We can make movies, write books and sing songs like this from my favourite poet, to what avail?!

    How many roads most a man walk down
    Before you call him a man ?
    How many seas must a white dove sail
    Before she sleeps in the sand ?
    Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
    Before they're forever banned ?
    The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
    The answer is blowin' in the wind.

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  7. "Unfortunately, the questions that the film poses, the conflict that its characters face, are as valid today as they were more than sixty years ago. "
    Well, are not our 'fundamental' biases - race, religion etc. - akin to those mythological demon whose every drop of blood that falls on earth gives rise to as many demons?
    Is not "human' to have biases?
    Why (and when) should we fight against A bias?
    As long as we do not learn from what we do, the relevance of such 'message's are bound to remain relevant for ages.
    What seems more important, the way the movie has been narrated here, is that the even the events also do not seems to have been dated. One sees 'similar' events - with cosmetic changes here and there - even today.
    is it so because our mind sets have not changed or is it that because the happenings of 'similar' events that our bias remain 'live'?

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  8. It is, Madhu, more so because it is about a very covert sort of dislike, one that does not speak aloud because airing it makes you something lesser than what you thought you were. And knowing that, one still thinks these thoughts, not consciously, but it is there in the way you behave and what you condone.



    In Crossfire, the film you mentioned, there is a beautiful dialogue that Robert Young's character says: This business about hating Jews comes in a lot of different sizes.
    There's the 'you can't join our country club' kind. The 'you can't live
    around here' kind. The 'you can't work here' kind. Because we stand for
    all these, we get Monty's kind. He grows out of all the rest... Hating
    is always insane, always senseless.




    How true. Because we condone the little things, because of that unspoken Gentleman's Agreement, we let it rise to shocking levels. I liked Crossfire because it showed the worst that could happen (on an individual level; on a mass level, we get Auschwitz); in Gentleman's Agreement, we begin with the insidiousness. When even those who think themselves tolerant are shown a mirror to their prejudices. Do watch, if you can get your hands on it. I think you will like it.

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  9. Yes, it was one thing yesterday, another today, yet another tomorrow... I know we have not learnt from history, and we probably never will, but it is important that we do not stop holding a mirror to our consciences. If we do, then we let loose anarchy. At some point, each one of us has to decide where we will draw our line and stand behind it to defend that humanity. Or what is the point of calling ourselves 'human'?

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  10. It is indeed human to have biases. We all do, you, I, everyone. As for why and when we should fight those biases? When those biases make us treat another man as somehow lesser than us. When we see others treated in a way that we would not like to be treated. That is when. As for why, the most unselfish reason would be that we are all born equal. Our race, our religion, our sexuality, our economic background do not make us any less than anyone else in our humanity. The most selfish reason would be because if we condone others' mistreatment in the name of prejudice, there will be no one to stand up for us when we are at the receiving end.



    Today's world is progressively becoming more and more intolerant of differences, even though the world itself is becoming a smaller place. Or perhaps it is because the world is getting smaller that we are so conscious of these differences.



    Yes, I think this film is relevant today. It is necessary to stem the flood of the 'benevolent' prejudices so they never rise to malevolence. Thank you, Ashokji for provoking this debate. :)

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  11. By the way, there is a Manna Dey-Lata duets post that you missed while you were away. (I envy your being able to visit the literary festival. Another one of my author friends had gone to the Jaipur festival and was thrilled to bits about it. )

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  12. I'll certainly go have a look at your Manna Dey-Lata post, Anu. Thanks for pointing me to it!

    By the way, here's a post I wrote about the Bangalore Lit Fest (and some photos):

    http://madhulikaliddle.com/updates/back-from-the-bangalore-literature-festival/

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  13. A really powerful film, and as you say, sadly, still relevant.

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  14. Sounds like quite an interesting film and Gregory Peck is my favourite so I guess I would have love this film had I the opportunity of seeing it. Sad like I always say nowadays films do not have a story, back then the films story was the king and not all the noise and special effects. When you left the cinema hall you went back home thinking but now you just forget about the film the moment you leave the hall.

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  15. Too true, Shilpi. If you do manage to get your hands on this one, do watch it. You will like it, I'm sure.

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  16. Ooooh, interesting! :D Hey, Anu! Long time no talk! I've been really busy since high school (yup, high school) has started here and I'm in the early college program. All honors and AP classes. :) I really should be studying for a test right now, but bleh. xD So, how have you been?
    I was really excited when I saw this was the latest film you reviewed. In fact, I was just thinking about it today! As you know, I'm totally nuts over Greg, and I loooove John Garfield! I loved him in Between Two Worlds! (Snarky, cigarette-smoking, trench-coat wearing journalist. <3) I haven't seen it though. I guess I'll have to, now! :D
    I've been watching TONS of Classic Hollywood lately. Fred Astaire has pretty much taken control of my life (I watched one of his films yesterday after drinking coffee, freaked out when he said the most adorable thing ever, and jumped up and down and yeah my knees are killing me right now.) and I totally think he and Ginger were secretly married. :P

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  17. Yes, I wondered where you were. :) I'm glad this post dragged you out of hibernation long enough.

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  18. Lovely review, Anu. You almost make me want to watch it again, except that I remember finding this incredibly preachy. When John Garfield's character chides Kathy for not protesting against an anti-semitic joke, I remember wondering how many misogynist jokes (otherwise known as jokes about "women") he must've cracked without ever bothering about putting down women! I am now reminded of something my favorite character on Mad Men said when confronted about racial discrimination in 1960s America - she couldn't do all the things 'blacks' weren't allowed to do either, so why would she fight against racial prejudice?! One assumes that she'd rather fight her own battles first.

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  19. I have been travelling in Europe for the last few months. Just got to India a few weeks ago, and will be around for a few months. Are you done with your India trip?

    "While reviewing a film, why bring in what the character might have done? Especially when there is no reason to believe the character is in any way an MCP. :) " My extrapolation comes largely from experience. Men (and women) who are not MCPs often reveal attitudes inconsistent with their ideals. This is particularly true when it comes to language and jokes because the general perception is that if you believe in equality, jokes and language do not count. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to endure sexist jokes (and comments like “she is a b**ch”, or "he is a s**-of-a-b**ch") coming from otherwise liberated people, and having to grin and bear it. And its amazing how views about women’s rights harmonise across class, culture and race barriers. (Yes, when it comes to women’s rights I tend to climb the soap-box!) The reason why I was irritated by the John Garfield character’s comment was that he was pontificating at someone who is even more marginalised than him, he is not (shown to be) fighting her battles, but expects her to fight his.

    As to fighting your own battles first, its the same principle as “put on your own oxygen masks first before helping others”. Yes, joining common cause is a good strategic move, but one must pick one’s battles. You fight on too many fronts, you achieve nothing!

    Should I have turned my face when their houses were burnt down” Umm... we all turn our faces away, either directly by supporting such bullying (for example, the large number of Narendra Modi supporters!), or indirectly, by not fighting such injustice. Lets face it, while most of us wholeheartedly admire and support the Teesta Setalvads of this world (I hope thats true!), few of us are likely to join her.

    Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, otherwise we’ll be arguing over this till doomsday! :)

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  20. See, there is no reason to believe that Garfield countenances sexist jokes. He is not shown to be disrespectful of women. On the other hand, Phil is rather dismissive about a woman coming up with a serious topic. And he is rightly called out for that. In context he is gently pushing Kathy to come to her own conclusion about remaining silent. Don't you think she will extrapolate from this incident when it comes to her own battles? The point he is making is that by remaining silent, you are allowing something egregious to continue unchecked.


    "We all turn our faces away"? No. We *all* don't. That is a terribly ghastly thing to say. I'm all for women's rights, but they are not greaterr than others.
    Yes. Let's agree to disagree.

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