Jan 30, 2016

Dorothy McGuire, Gentleman's Agreement


You can tell a lot about a character by his or her imagery. Whenever I'm compiling photos of characters for this blog, my goal is to key in on specific images that depicts the total essence of the character I'm about to review. My major problem in doing this for Dorothy McGuire's Kathy in Gentleman's Agreement was that I could not figure out what exactly it is that defines her. Who is she, really? What does she stand for? What is her worth here? I'm not sure.

For what it's worth, I don't necessarily believe that Kathy Lacy is 100 percent a supporting character. I think that her presence within the film is consistent enough to warrant a slight debate as to which category she genuinely belongs to. What bothers me most about the part is how plain the character is in its DNA. She is a high-society Caucasian woman (nearly all of these Best Actress characters are) who believes herself to be fundamentally liberal and forward thinking, but her character arc is discovering that perhaps she isn't as liberal and forward thinking as she had initially believed. And where's the juice in that? Kathy is presented to us as a divorcĂ©e (an element which is supposed to supplement how 'daring' Gentleman's Agreement is) and yet, that's just about all that's interesting about Kathy. McGuire merely floats in and out (again, consistently) of the film, here to present herself for some sort of mild moral conflict with Gregory Peck. Otherwise, there is no distinguishable qualities to her being. Imagery-wise, she isn't even adorned with spectacular/memorable wardrobes or those damned crazy hats the ladies loved to wear at the time. She is, simply put, a very basic entity within a film that wants to be monumental but is in actuality quite a basic film itself. I do feel as though McGuire's acting was well enough; I think her monologue about the meaning behind her cottage is profound...likewise can be said about her final scene with John Garfield. But beyond consistency, there is just not enough in this role to warrant any sort of nomination. It seems as if Kathy was written because the hero needed a romantic device to foil with; nothing she does, says, or reveals about herself is anything to write home about. She is, unfortunately, a one-and-a-half-dimensional character.

1 comment:

  1. I think Dorothy McGuire is absolutely a lead in this film. Her character is central to the plot and her screen time is significant. There are two things working against her performance. First, McGuire was almost always a benign, low voltage presence even in her best films. Second, she was a saddled with an ill-defined character here. The idea that Kathy could believe herself to be open-minded while her attitudes belie this has an intrinsic dichotomy that could have made this character quite interesting, but the screenplay only explores that superficially and the resolutions are too pat. Even with all of that, McGuire is simply to bland and flat through much of the film to register in any significant way. There isn't much range in the character or her performance and her lack of chemistry with Peck is nearly fatal. Truthfully, there really isn't anything special about her work here.