Art Vs Commerce: How Green Was the Golden Age? (1940s)


So last year we met the returning soldiers, and saw how rocky their return home was… in 1947, the top prize went to the movie that discussed how not everything they fought was confined to Europe.

And The Oscar Goes To…

Personification of gravitas Gregory Peck plays Philip Green, a California writer who takes a job at a New York magazine, and is asked to do an exposé on American antisemitism. In order to get to the heart of the matter, Green starts telling people… other than his editor… that he himself is Jewish. And it works so well he doesn’t make it to lunch without finding antisemitism in the magazine itself.

What really makes this movie work is that Philip isn’t just taking on the KKK or literal Nazis. Sure he goes head to head with a hotel that only allows gentiles, sure his actually Jewish best friend gets called a slur by an angry drunk at a fancy restaurant, sure his son (Quantum Leap’s Dean Stockwell) gets bullied at school for being Jewish… but the film’s real target is the “nice people,” the people who claim to be against all that but don’t raise a finger against their anti-Semite friends to avoid making a scene. This is centered on a conflict between Philip and his new fiancée Kathy, who’s the one who pitched him the exposé in the first place, but makes excuses for her less tolerant friends and tells Philip’s son not to worry about bullies because he isn’t actually Jewish. Philip also goes a couple of rounds with his Jewish secretary, who worries that the magazine hiring more Jews would mean some of the “bad, [slur]y ones” would get hired and make them all look bad, and who he catches actually thinking that being Christian is better.

Much like Get Out didn’t shy away from saying that liberal, progressive Obama voters could still be their own brand of racist, Gentleman’s Agreement shows how antisemitism comes not just from those who spread it, but those who don’t stand up to it, and I respect the hell out of that.

It’s good… but heavy. So while audiences came flocking for The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946, maybe we can understand why in 1947 they said “Uh… hey, what’s Bing Crosby doing?”

How Green Was Their Valley? This one’s all about how the Greenest of Valleys still had a thick black rot of intolerance in them.

And Rotten Tomatoes Says: Only 81/93, what the hell, RT? Seems like they judged it for trying too hard to have a message, and that’s just a bad take. I mean, that’s under The English Patient for crying out loud.

The Box Office Champ

As it happens, Bing Crosby did have another one out this year, and what’s more, he reteamed with his Going My Way co-star Barry Fitzgerald. And they’re in basically the same relationship, only doctors instead of priests. Fitzgerald is a small town doctor who hires a physician to cover his practice for a while. Said physician is Dr. Jim Pearson (Crosby), and the two accidentally lock horns on the train ride from Boston. But they grow to respect each other, to the point where Pearson is trying to defend his older friend’s position rather than replace him. Also since they aren’t priests, Dr. Pearson can be the Hays Code equivalent of horny and actually have a love interest.

Where Crosby’s Father Chuck was a beacon of kindness, Dr. Pearson is a lot more sardonic, able to land a quality burn when he chooses. Such as telling his newfound rival, a pharmacist, that he’ll call him if he needs to know how to make a good banana split. (See drug stores were also often soda shops and look he made it work.)

I also love how it took a shot at Crosby’s Road to Morocco co-star, when he asks if this town shows movies.

“Picture shows are on Tuesday.”
“What’s showing on Tuesday?”
“Some picture with Bob Hope in it.”
“I’ll wait until a week from Tuesday.”

It’s perfectly pleasant and I enjoy Sassy Bing Crosby but I see why Going My Way won a big pile of Oscars and this didn’t.

How Green Was My Valley: Bing Crosby characters don’t roll into town because your Valley is Green. You get a Green Valley because Bing Crosby is here.

And Rotten Tomatoes Says: No consensus, no audience score, just one review. It’s positive, though.

Next Page: A Dark Prince and Crimson Slippers

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