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|Index||55 reviews in total|
Wyler's "Friendly Persuasion" and "The Big Country" entitle an
authentic and significant theme which is somewhat expressed in stronger
terms in "Friendly Persuasion" but which meet with the impressive "The
The story is simple, lovely and sensitive...
Gary Cooper, head of a Quaker family, is a loving husband and a caring father who has to consider his position at the outbreak of the Civil War in Southern Indiana... Cooper believes - as a father - that a man must be guided by his own conscience...
Anthony Perkins takes the part of Cooper's son which he plays beautifully... He is the 'peace-loving' young man who does not believe in fighting... He is like his mother shattered and teared apart by the events, but also feeling uncertainty about his capacity to meet danger without giving way to fear... Perkins sees that he has to convince himself that he is not a coward, so he becomes a member of the Home Guard, ready to defend the community...
Dorothy McGuire emits pleasant emotions as the Quaker mother, projecting inner beauty to her family...
Sentimental and well done, "Friendly Persuasion" is superbly acted and directed, beautifully shot in color... The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Recording and Best Song...
Nearly half a century old but a film with irresistible charm and atmosphere. Some might describe it as rather sickly sentimental at times, but William Wyler's touch is always assured and coaxes performances of great charm from all the principals. I saw the film for the first time in1957 and was immediately captivated by it. It has remained one of my favourite movies -and takes its place with such classics as "It's a wonderful Life" and "Casablanca" It was also the first time that I really noticed the music of Dimitri Tiomkin, who is now firmly established as my favourite film composer. He is the composer 'par excellence' in setting mood, and there is something haunting in his themes and melodies. Take away Tiomkin's soundtrack and you would destroy the film. Fortunately you can buy the CD of the soundtrack. Tiomkin also wrote the music to "It's a Wonderful Life", and "Gunfight at the OK Corral", which I find also strangely moving. Another feature of the film which adds to the overall charm is the inclusion of humorous touches such as Gary Cooper staring through two curtain hoops at the music booth at the county fair which gives him the appearance of wearing glasses. The strong storyline involves the viewer directly in that one realises the crucial choice involved in taking up arms to defend one's home or refusing to oppose the aggressor because the New Testament asks us to "turn the other cheek". So, what makes this film so memorable? I have spoken to people who think that this movie is "O.K" -"nothing special", and other such comments that suggest mediocrity. But to me , there is an atmosphere that is unforgettable- and thanks must go to the genius of Wyler, Tiomkin, Cooper and a host of talented craftsmen and women.
When Monogram Pictures decided to change its name to Allied Artists to
give it a more prestigious look, the studio didn't last too long after
that. Still had the Monogram/Bowery Boys look to it. But the biggest
and best film that little studio ever put out was this wonderful film
by William Wyler.
Gary Cooper by now had a whole lot of career roles, but this one as Jess Birdwell, Quaker farmer in Southern Indiana during the Civil War was probably his last really great performance. But for Dorothy McGuire this was her career role. She and Cooper work so well together that you think you are prying in on the family of Eliza and Jess Birdwell.
The film is based on a novel by Jessamyn West and it's about the effects of the Civil War on the Birdwell family, the parents and the children, Anthony Perkins, Phyllis Love, and Richard Eyer. The tenets of pacifism are not easy to follow, especially during time of war. And we're not talking about war overseas. But war just the other side of the Ohio River where Confederates do cross occasionally for raiding.
Each of the Birdwells feel differently about the war, including hired hand Joel Fluellen who's a runaway slave. He's got real reason to fear raiding Confederates. Phyllis Love is in love with Peter Mark Richman who's a non-Quaker friend of the family and he's gone off to war. And Anthony Perkins feels it his duty to defend what they've earned and sweat for.
Perkins got an Oscar nomination for his role. It's a telling portrayal of the angst of youth brought up in a pacifist house. Perkins is a truly torn individual.
Years ago I met Anthony Perkins at a science fiction convention in NYC. The poor man looked nervous and ill at ease in those surroundings. He was there because of the Psycho films and the role of Norman Bates with which he had become so identified with. I have to say he looked grateful that someone asked him about Friendly Persuasion. He said he admired both Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire as thorough going professionals and it was a pleasure to be working with them and William Wyler and associated with Friendly Persuasion.
In some of the lighter moments of Friendly Persuasion before the war hits home, Cooper and Perkins go on a trip to sell some of their farm produce. They stop at widow Marjorie Main's house with her three eligible daughters who haven't seen a male face in ages. In a more liberal age it would have been quite explicit what daughter Edna Skinner does to Perkins. Cooper knows though, you can see it in his face as to what's coming.
Friendly Persuasion's popularity was helped a great deal by Pat Boone's record of the title song which was a Gold record for him. But a really great version was done by Bing Crosby for the Longines Symphony in the Sixties. It was nominated for Best Song, but lost to Doris Day's Que Sera Sera.
One of Gary Cooper's best screen moments ever is the death scene with his friend Robert Middleton. Middleton who is also Peter Mark Richman's father is Cooper's best friend and friendly rival every Sunday before church for him and Quaker Meeting for Gary. They have a friendly horse race on the way. Cooper finds Middleton shot and dying from a Confederate soldier. Middleton and Cooper both are superb and I guarantee not a dry eye was in any movie house when this was first released. It's followed by a scene where Cooper disarms the Confederate who killed Middleton and let him go. His Quaker faith kicked right in.
Dorothy McGuire in the meantime forcibly hosts a rebel patrol who confiscate the Bidwell stores. They're about to confiscate the pet goose Samantha for dinner when she whacks the offender with a broom. The goose gets a pardon. She stood up and fought for what she loved even if it was a family pet. It's one of her best screen moments.
William Wyler took some southern California landscape and did a marvelous job in recreating Indiana of 1862. He brought home a winner in every way for Allied Artists.
And Friendly Persuasion will pleasure thee in a hundred ways.
This fine adaptation of "Friendly Persuasion" is quite satisfying, with
thoughtful drama that takes place in an interesting and believable
setting, plus many good lighter moments. Though the story ultimately
focuses on just a couple of the characters' concerns, along the way it
provides an effective overview of their lives as a whole.
Gary Cooper is surprisingly believable in a somewhat atypical role as a Quaker father. Dorothy McGuire is well-cast as the sometimes fretful mother, and Anthony Perkins works very well as the son torn between his family and what he perceives as his duty. Walter Catlett is a bit over-the-top as the organ salesman, but he is entertaining, and his character is used well. In fact, the subplot with the organ is an interesting contrast with the main plot about the war, mirroring a couple of the same themes in a much less consequential context.
The setting in the American Civil War is well-conceived, and the family's dilemmas are portrayed sympathetically and convincingly. It is such a nice contrast with the type of movie that has to make its points through heavy-handed, contrived events, and it offers some worthwhile thoughts without pretending to offer easy, superficial answers.
Besides all that, it's a thoroughly enjoyable movie because of the many lighter, amusing moments. Director William Wyler and the cast work them in nicely with the more serious material, and the film maintains a harmonious balance throughout. It all makes for a very worthy and memorable picture.
Gary Cooper shines as a Quaker alongside a resolute and opinionated Dorothy
McGuire as his "congregation elder" wife. They live in the rural "North" at
the outbreak of the Civil War, raising 2 eligible teenagers (a boy and a
girl), as well as a 10 year old boy. The emminent Civil War has the Quaker
community divided on the issue of pacivism. Several "older men" in the
congregation quickly turn coats, urging Cooper to join them in fighting the
Rebels who plunder and burn Northern villages and kill women and children.
When put to the true test, it is Cooper who proves to be the "true
A love story between the teenage girl and her soldier suiter is a beautiful bonus. The entire cast is excellent, and the timeless theme song by Pat Boone puts the icing on the cake. This is a 5-star classic. You'll want to watch "Friendly Persuasion" again and again.*****
Heartwarming, funny (sometimes hilarious), serious, beautifully filmed -
many shots are so perfectly framed you could hang them on your wall. Every
performance is perfect for the character in the story, including the goose,
The change of pace provided by the interweaving of the characters' different stories, the appropriate & beautiful music for the various scenes, the sense of getting to know interesting people, genuine married love between two strong characters as well as the awakening of young love in a setting which has not had sex thrust in their faces, real friendship, the respect paid to religious convictions along with gentle humor at personal foibles - everything adds up to a wonderful film which sticks in the memory and needs just the opening bars of the title song to be brought back gloriously to mind.
Truly, one of the all-time great movies.
"Friendly Persuasion" is the second best movie about the Civil War. "Gone
With The Wind" is the first. This movie is about the Quakers living in
Indiana in 1862 and how they are trying to cope with the Civil War. They
live a peaceful life until the war happens in their backyard and they must
decide whether to fight or follow their religion and sit back.
The Quaker family consists of: Jess Birdwell, head of the family (Gary Cooper); his wife, Eliza, a Quaker minister (Dorothy McGuire); two sons, and a daughter. The rest of the cast was perfect. This is my favorite of Gary Cooper's movies. The whole family can enjoy it.
The movie received many Academy Award nominations except for Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire as best actor and best actress. My favorite character is the Widow Hudspeth (Marjorie Main). Widow Hudspeth is similar to Ma Kettle. It must have been hard for Gary Cooper to keep a straight face when working with Marjorie Main. They were both funny and delightful together. Ms. Main made one more movie and retired in 1957; she refused to do television because the pace was too fast.
A beautiful and sensitive film of a Quaker family whose peaceful existence is disrupted by the Civil War. Beautifully photographed with superb performances by Cooper and McGuire. Anthony Perkins gives an exceptional performance as the son who wrestles with the notion of fighting over his pacifistic views. William Wyler's direction is brilliant. A real gem!
As I recall this movie was unofficially black-listed because of who wrote the screenplay. Such a shame as this is one of the few perfect movies ever made. Every frame is measured and presented perfectly. Every role is played perfectly. Just watch the opening scene and you will be hooked. It is a truly magically experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Up until a couple of years ago I used to be a member of the
environmental movement and the modern environmental movement owes much
of its genesis to the Quaker faith , Greenpeace for example was founded
in 1970 by Canadian Quakers opposed to nuclear testing . Without going
into much detail I eventually left the environmental movement due to
disillusionment and I have little good words to say about Quakers /
pacifists and their dubious moral stance . When I learned about the
plot of FRIENDLY PERSUSION which centres around a Quaker family who
find themselves caught up in the American Civil War and having to find
themselves choose between practical necessity and principal I just knew
I'd have to see it . Here is a movie that personifies what great drama
is all about where the protagonists have to make deep decisions and
hopefully illustrates the hypocrisy of pacifism , but after seeing the
movie I was aghast at its lack of drama and complexity. Worse still it
lacks moral courage
The opening scene is straight out of a Walt Disney production . Filmed in glorious and beautiful technicolor we see a young child little Jess Birdwell being attacked by a goose with entirely human mannerisms . The character interaction between goose and child is amusing and becomes something of a running theme in the movie . The story continues as the Birdwell family and their Quacker friends discuss the war and how they're going to stick to their self righteous principles and not take part in it and you just know that they'll have to discard their principles and take part by the end . Alas as the film continues I started to notice more and more wasted potential as to the drama
What is the film trying to say ? Is it saying that war is wrong or is it saying pacifism is wrong ? . We see large portions of the running time dedicated to the pacifist characters self righteously saying they'll not take part in the conflict then the most self righteous critic Purdy takes up arms when is farm is burnt down by the Rebs . Is Purdy condemned as a hypocrite ? Possibly but it's understandable he wants revenge , what's not so understandable is why the elder Birdwell son Josh joins the Union home guard , especially since he's watched his parents condemn Purdy's actions . When Jess Birdwell Snr realises his son might be dead he picks up arms in a character arc that's not entirely convincing and it's here that the movie starts to fall down .Jess narrowly survives being killed by a Reb who he overpowers but eventually sets free . Wouldn't it have been more dramatic if he'd killed his prisoner ? And while he's away his homestead is visited by Confederate forces ! Oh no his wife and daughter will get gang raped before they're murdered with young Jess ! Actually they won't because these soldiers are very polite and appreciate Mrs Birdwell looking them dinner , they're so appreciative they even apologise for thinking of the family goose as lunch . And the movie ends with with the Birdwell family intact except for Josh who has his arm in a sling
The problem with all this is that there's little involving the fundamental core of drama - Internal conflict . People easily pick up guns but their motives for doing so are not always convincing . When they come back from the war nothing as really changed from a dramatic viewpoint , they're still alive and everything they hold dear is still there . It might involve making changes to the original book but wouldn't it have been far more poignant if a couple of the Birdwell's had died thereby illustrating the cruelty of war along with the need to fight ? Director William Wyler and many of the contemporary audience of FRIENDLY PERSUSION had seen the first hand horrors of war , whilst here the movie points out that the enemy are not brutal and everyone goes home to their family after a conflict . What a dangerous and hypocritical message to send out
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