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SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 – 1991 & Diversity;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Male Role Model; Female Role Model; Parenting;


AGE: 12+; No MPAA Rating;

Drama; 1947; 118 minutes; B & W. Available from

“Gentleman’s Agreement” is a charming romance that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1947. The film is an excellent introduction to the concept of unconscious bias. It will help anyone, ages 15 and above, become aware of deeply hidden vestiges of ethnic or racial prejudice. The story shown in the movie provides a model for how people can reconcile inconsistent parts of their personalities and come closer to being the person they want to be.

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TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.


Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction and

Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.


Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.


The year is 1947. Phil Green, a journalist, has been hired by a popular magazine to write a series of articles about anti-Semitism in the U.S. He decides to pretend that he is Jewish and to record the reactions of the people he meets. While preparing the series, Phil meets Kathy Lacey, the niece of the magazine publisher. Kathy had always thought of herself as an unprejudiced person and it was she who proposed to her uncle the series of articles being written by Phil.  Kathy and Phil fall in love, but they find that Kathy has anti-Semitic feelings that she had not noticed before. These are unacceptable to Phil who believes that prejudice in all its forms is evil. The film is the story of Phil’s experiences in writing the series and how he and Kathy try to resolve their differences.

In 2017, “Gentleman’s Agreement” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The movie is based on the novel by Laura Z. Hobson. The book was initially serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine.


Selected Awards:

1947 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Kazan), Best Supporting Actress (Holm); 1947 New York Film Critics Awards: Best Director (Kazan), Best Film; 1948 Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture, Best Director (Kazan), Best Supporting Actress (Holm); Special Award for Best Juvenile Actor (Stockwell); 1947 Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress (McGuire); Best Actor (Peck), Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Screenplay.


Featured Actors:

Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere, June Havoc, Albert Dekker, Jane Wyatt, Dean Stockwell, Nicholas Joy.



Elia Kazan.


The lessons of this film are not limited to anti-Semitism but apply to any type of prejudice, including, racial prejudice. The film builds on our empathy with Phil, the crusading journalist, and Kathy, a woman torn between the attitudes of her class (white, Christian) and what she knows is right. We are led to respect and like them both. As Kathy, who thought she was devoid of prejudice, discovers that she carries layers unconscious prejudice taught by her family and friends, we come to understand how easily we can harbor unconscious bigotry.  When Phil makes it clear that he will not marry Kathy unless she faces and eliminates all of her unconscious anti-semitism, we empathize with her struggle to rid herself of prejudice. When Kathy triumphs, we are shown that like Kathy, we can eliminate prejudice against all races and religions in ourselves.

Because of its skillful use of a dramatic device to help viewers grow, mature and reconcile inconsistent parts of their own personalities, “Gentleman’s Agreement” rates as one of the best films ever made. If children can be helped to see the film in this way, “Gentleman’s Agreement” becomes an emotion picture that speaks to the intelligent heart of the viewer. It is likely to add significant memories to the fund of experience which is used by each viewer to understand his or her universe and to determine future actions.

The character of Phil Green, the writer, is a male role model for a man who will not tolerate injustice and who is a good father. Green’s mother is a female role model for a morally conscious and nurturing mother and grandmother. The character of Kathy is a role model for someone willing to take a deep look into herself, to change, and to grow.

The Concept of “the Other,” a Requisite for Prejudice and Discrimination

You cannot discriminate against people (or make war against them) unless they are classified as being from another group that is not entitled to moral consideration or empathy.  TeachWithMovies has developed a discussion of the concept of the other together with a concentric circle diagram that will assist teachers in exploring with their classes the problems with the concept of the other.  See

Visual Learning Exercise — Cesar Chavez’ Rejection of the Concept of “the Other.”


MINOR. Almost everyone in this movie smokes like a chimney.


Read the Benefits section. When the movie is over introduce your child to the terms “unconscious bias” (a prejudice that we are not aware of until a situation occurs that brings it up) and “integrated personality”  (when various aspects of someone’s personality are working in a harmonious and effective manner, without contradictions in what the person believes and what he or she feels) tell your child that the movie is about any type of prejudice and talk about your personal struggle to rid yourself of prejudice, racism, sexism, religious prejudice or classism. Then review the discussion questions and ask any that are appropriate.  It would be great if you could discuss with your child any prejudices that you might be working to eliminate.   If your child shows and interest in the film, suggest that he or she read the novel Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson.


Prejudice against different races, ethnicities and other religions, once learned, is one of the hardest attitudes to change.

For most people learning to respond to people outside of stereotypes is a lifelong project and even for mature adults

who have spent years working to eliminate prejudice in their  attitudes, unconscious bias can crop up when they least expect it.

For several years after the Second World War, there was a severe housing shortage in parts of the U.S. As demobilized GIs came home and started families, the demand for housing skyrocketed. The Dave Goldman character was caught in this housing shortage. It was almost impossible for him to find housing for his family so that he could take the job that had been offered to him in New York. It generally took the clout of a major company, such as Phil Green’s employer, to get an apartment.

Gerald L.K. Smith (1898 – 1976) was a radical right-wing agitator and isolationist who claimed to be a protestant Christian fundamentalist. His statements against Jews, Catholics, blacks, labor unions and Communists were notorious. Theodore G. Bilbo was governor of Mississippi from 1916 – 1920 and 1928 – 1932. He was infamous for his racist speeches and his advocacy of the use of the poll tax to keep blacks from voting.

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1. See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

2.  This film is about anti-Semitism. Does it relate at all to racial prejudice?

Suggested Response:  

While reasonable minds may differ,TWM has found that Gentlemen’s Agreement can be very helpful in uncovering and rooting out unconscious racial bias.  This author grew up in the Jim Crow South as an avowed integrationist opposing all racial prejudice, playing a miniscule  role in the Civil Rights Movement.  He has found the lessons of this film helpful in rooting out unconscious bias in himself.

3. What is a “gentlemen’s agreement” and how does the term apply to the case.   Could the parties to such an agreement really be gentlemen?

Suggested Response:

A “gentlemen’s agreement” is an arrangement or understanding which is based upon the trust of both or all parties and is not legally binding.  The agreement referred to in this film was to exclude Jewish people from certain public facilities such as hotels, restaurants, and clubs, not to hire them to work in certain businesses, and not to allow them to live in certain neighborhoods. The title of the film is ironic; discriminating against people on the basis of their religion is not within the true meaning of being a “gentleman.”

4. Look at this dialog from the film:

Elaine Wales: You just let them get one wrong Jew in here, and it’ll come out of us. It’s no fun being the fall guy for the kikey ones.

Phil Green: Miss Wales, I’m going to be frank with you. I want you to know that words like yid and kike and kikey and coon and nigger make me sick no matter who says them.

Elaine Wales: Oh, but I only said it for a type.

Phil Green: Yeah, but we’re talking about a the word first.

Elaine Wales: Why, sometimes I even say it to myself, about me, I mean. Like, if I’m about to do something I know I shouldn’t, I’ll say, “Don’t be such a little kike.” That’s all.

Was Miss Wales prejudiced against her own people? Against herself? Justify your answer and tell us what this fact says, if anything, about her own self-esteem?

Suggested Response:

Answers will vary. But one of the serious problems with prejudice is what it does to the self-esteem of the people who grow up in a society in which they are thought to be inferior. Also, frequently, people in a group who are discriminated against adopt the prejudices against others  in their own group.


Continue to the Male and Female Role Models Section to continue to explore the theme of the film.



1. Do you consider the character of Phil Green to be a male role model? Justify your answer.

Suggested Response:

Phil Green is a male role model. He is a good father to his son and he is a righteous man. He will not tolerate prejudice among those that he cares about and will give up the woman he loves rather than tolerate prejudice within her.



2. Was Ann (the fashion editor) right when she told Phil Green that Kathy was shallow? Did the character of Kathy grow and mature during the movie?

Suggested Response:

Ann was wrong. Kathy acts with integrity and courage because when she comes to understand that there is a part of her character that is prejudiced, she roots it out. Prejudice is difficult to overcome and for many people eliminating prejudice requires constant vigilance and self-correction. The fact that Kathy had a personal motive for ridding herself of prejudice might make it somewhat easier for her because she must do this to retain Phil’s love; however, it is still a great achievement to take a deep look at yourself, to assess what needs to be changed, and to change it.


3. What, if anything, did Kathy do that you admire?

Suggested Response:

Rooting out prejudice in oneself is something greatly to admire.  What Kathy did was to reconcile inconsistent parts of her personality.  Kathy understood that it was bad to be prejudiced, and she didn’t consider herself to be a prejudiced person, but she had unconsciously absorbed bias against Jews that did not reveal itself until unexpected situations brought it out.


4. Evaluate Phil Green as a parent?

Suggested Response:

Phil Green was a good parent. He cared about his son in a way that his son knew how his father felt. He spent time with his son. However, Phil Green’s greatest achievement as a parent was that he provided his son with a great role model.


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.



(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements)


5.  What are the benefits to a person of treating people of all races, creeds, and colors with respect?

Suggested Response:

There are several.  First, you will be upholding the highest ethical principles of your religion or belief system, almost all of which promote the ethical principal of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Second, regard for others is not a limited commodity. Including other persons (and sentient beings) in your circle of compassion expands your connections with the world.   Third, respecting others means to allow them to develop their talents and skills to the fullest extent.  As a matter of fact, there are brilliant and talented people of all races and ethnicities. Thus, allowing all races and ethnicities access education, training, and opportunity improves society.  The cost to American society of slavery and then Jim Crow restrictions on African Americans has been incalculable.


See Assignments, Projects, and Activities for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


  • Pick a group of people that, in some way, you are prejudiced against. Describe the origin of this prejudice.  No one is born prejudiced.  You  had to learn it from someone or somewhere.  Describe how this prejudice manifests itself in thought and action. Then describe three specific steps that you can take to improve your character by getting rid of this prejudice. Be honest with yourself. Your response will be kept confidential. Your paper should be between one and two pages in length, typed, double spaced.


Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.”) CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.


The novel Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson.



  • Caste – the Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, Random House, 2023, particularly pages 186 – 189.

This Learning Guide was last updated on February 18, 2024.

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