Can I say "ehhn?" First of all, it's a two-hour movie, and we don't get this fairly obvious gimmick until thirty minutes in, when he essentially says, "Wait a minute! I always go undercover on all my other assignments. Why not this one?" And I told my TV, "I'm way ahead of you Joe. In fact, I don't know why the editor, who was familiar with your previous work, didn't suggest this fairly obvious angle in the first place." Instead of getting to the point, that first half hour is dedicated to scenes involving Peck's loving mother who renders homespun wisdom like "Prejudice is wrong," and scenes with Peck's young son, who starts every sentence with "Say, pop..."
Peck's character, Joe Green, has a pretty blunt approach to going undercover. He simply shows up and says, "By the way, I'm Jewish," and waits for the sparks to fly. He doesn't even change his name to Joe Sternglam or Izzy Schvitzing. I guess there really was a time when anti-Semitism was rife, even in New York (I remember Woody Allen making a joke about a restricted club, and that was in the '60s), but the whole movie certainly hasn't aged well.
One final thing: the movie has our hero, who supposedly has two eyes and a brain, turn down a romantic affair with Celeste Holm, who is so asymptotically close to being Jean Arthur that her very presence in a movie makes it 25% funnier and 20 IQ points brighter. At that point I lost all respect for the hero and literally fast-forwarded the closing scene.
But here's the thing for you trivia buffs: The movie was based on a 1947 novel by the same name, written by Laura Z. Hobson...only in her version, the book was about homosexuality! And it was quite successful with the (presumably movie-watching) public. What a shame--that could have been a really compelling story. (Or, I guess, really painful to watch now, depending on what "going undercover" means in that era.) America could have had its own version of Victim fourteen years ahead of time. But of course Europe and the Brits beat us to it. I blame the red states.
Anyway, if anyone knows where I can find the book, I'm really curious to read it. I really shouldn't be buying new books at the moment--I'm moving in a few weeks and just mailed off five boxes of books to go into storage--but in this case I'm willing to make an exception.
QUIZ QUESTION: There's a word (or perhaps a "word") that I threw into this review because it has a very specific and appropriate property. What is it?