Best Picture Baking Project: Gentleman’s Agreement

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It’s (somehow) almost the end of May, so it was time for the next Best Picture, Gentleman’s Agreement, which is very 40s, but pretty good. All I knew about it going in was it’s basic premise (journalist pretends to be Jewish to expose anti-Semitism) so I searched for “Jewish desserts” and saw that cheesecake came up on every list. (It is also set in New York City, so it wasn’t a terrible choice really.)

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. Like I said, all I knew was the (potentially very problematic) premise. But I think (with a few exceptions, which I’ll get to), it holds up!

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. The acting in this movie is great (again with a clear exception – see point 3). I mean, this wasn’t exactly a surprise, it’s Gregory Peck! And John Garfield (who is the subject of a great You Must Remember This episode that you should listen to here). But my favorite (by far) was Celeste Holm as Anne, Peck’s coworker at the magazine, that he should have fallen in love with. (I honestly don’t know how anyone wouldn’t). Thankfully the Academy recognized this too, and gave her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

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2. Though it gets preachy (and obviously does not have a modern conception of the dangers of cultural appropriation), the general morality of this movie holds up exceptionally well. I mean, taking to task all the nice people in Connecticut who know how bad prejudice is, but won’t say anything when a man at the dinner table makes a horrible joke, is (unfortunately) pretty relevant still.

3. The ending of this movie is so frustrating. It basically undoes all the goodwill that it has stored up. (Spoiler alert for a film that is over 70 years old): The fact that he ends up with his nice-Connecticut-“I’m not prejudiced I just know it’s better to not be a Jew”-fiancée Kathy, after her last-act-change-of-heart is gross. Don’t get me wrong, I think people can change. And I’m super glad that she offers her Darien “cottage” to her fiancé’s actually Jewish friend and his family, but that’s not a reason to marry her. To be honest, I don’t buy their “love at first cocktail party” relationship at all. Partly this is due to the actress, Dorothy McGuire, is definitely the weak link in this cast, but she has ZERO chemistry with Peck (which is highlighted with his delightful energy with Holm).

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Crossfire – Never heard of it, but Gloria Grahame (an obsession of mine) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for it so I’m going to assume it’s worthy.

Great Expectations – This is a great movie.

Miracle on 34th Street – Obviously a classic and I love that Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for playing Santa Claus.

The Bishop’s Wife – Another classic. (Though for nostalgia reasons, I am partial to its 90s remake.)

I would say that Gentleman’s deserved the win if you turn it off before the last two minutes. As is – it’s a tie with David Lean’s Great Expectations.

Bechdel Test pass

I don’t think so. There are 5 named women, 3 of whom are layered and well acted and certainly have their own emotions and feelings. But the only women I can remember talking to each other discuss which families are being invited to a party. Which I guess is technically not about a man, except it is really, because what they are really discussing is whether or not Peck is an acceptable boyfriend.

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There are a million cheesecake recipes on the internet. I usually choose a “No-Bake” version when I make one for our Sunday family dinner, but for the project I went with a slightly more involved version (but not like – water bath, corn starch involved).

Easy-ish Cheesecake

Ingredients for Crust

  • 10 whole graham crackers, crushed (I used the cinnamon sugar kind for a slightly more fun flavor)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Filling 

  • 2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions 

  1. Select a 9″ pie pan, with a deep bottom (I used my standard 9in Pirex) 
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Make the crust be stirring together all the crust ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined
  4. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan, making a thicker layer on the bottom than on the sides
  5. Make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth
  6. Mix in the eggs and vanilla, again mixing until smooth at a low to medium speed
  7. Pour filling into crust
  8. Bake for 20 min.
  9. Remove from oven and place foil around edges as a crust sheild
  10. Place back in oven and bake for 10 more minutes
  11. Remove cheesecake from oven and let cool
  12. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve