January 30, 2016

Gregory Peck, Gentleman's Agreement


I haven't been much of a fan of Gregory Peck's. There's an effortless type of simplicity to his style of acting which doesn't resonate with me. To that effect, it has often felt as though he's 'doing' very little, though I can't get myself to blame him as it would seem that the roles he gets nominated for are ones which leave a little more to be desired. But this time, on his third go-around with Oscar, he demonstrates a sense of devotion to the material at hand which I hadn't seen in The Keys of the Kingdom and The Yearling.

I think what struck me the most about Peck in Gentleman's Agreement was that in spite of my qualms about the film, I still felt as though he was committed to the part. I thought he was sleepwalking in The Keys of the Kingdom and I thought that what he does in The Yearling, while fairly effective, was still nothing to be in awe of. I suppose that both of these factors still come into play with Peck's Philip Green - this isn't necessarily the most challenging role for an actor, and I never bought that Peck was being pushed beyond his own capacity while watching Gentleman's Agreement, but there's a degree of diligence to the way he plays the character which otherwise acts as a support to the outdated, self-entitled material. Or at least, there's a diligence here which indicates that he believed in the movie's self-perceived importance, thus keeping it from completely collapsing under its antiquatedness some 70 years later. Peck argues and preaches with the likes of Dorothy McGuire and Dean Stockwell with a tame fire (though a fire nonetheless), he looks bonafide in his reactions towards the anti-semitism that his character encounters. which I feel gives the film a sense of authenticity to its messaging, so to speak. Would I watch him again? Sure, it's decent enough. Do I think he does a good job for what it's worth? It certainly looks that way--and I think his effort is what makes this performance successful. Do I think that this was an uninspiring nomination nonetheless? Yes, but then again a majority of these 1940s nominations are.

1 comment:

  1. I remember being very disappointed when I first saw the film and Peck's performance because of all the kudos it/he received. On re-watching it last year, I felt the same way. It's not a terrible performance because Peck is always watchable and earnest, but the criticisms of him as 'wooden' and 'stiff' are typified by his work here. It doesn't help that his character, as written, is stoic, humorless and very self-righteous ... but Peck plays him the same way. Whenever Celeste Holm or John Garfield appear in the film, they add a liveliness and energy that Peck simply doesn't provide.

    I know you didn't care much for his performances in "Keys of the Kingdom" or "The Yearling" (not to mention "Duel in the Sun") but I prefer all of those performances to this because I care about or am intrigued by those characters in ways that I never am by Phil Green. For all of his angst and arduous suffering, I'm never moved by or invested in any of it. It's all head and no heart and so I feel completely detached from him and his experiences.

    I'll re-watch "Gentleman's Agreement" from time to time because of the talent involved and the themes it explores, but there is so much all of this could have been that it simply is not.