Friendly Persuasion (1956)

WILLIAM WYLER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB.  USA, 1956.  Allied Artists Pictures, B-M Productions.  Screenplay by , based on the book by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , , .  Academy Awards 1956. Cannes Film Festival 1957.  Golden Globe Awards 1956.  

William Wyler’s excellent drama about a Quaker family seems on the surface simply an enjoyable period epic, but careful examination reveals something much more meaningful going on.  Gary Cooper leads the cast as father to a household who, along with his wife (Dorothy McGuire in her finest performance), is trying to keep the desires of modern living out of home life. Civil war is imminent and many of the townspeople have decided that their religion’s pacifism is to be put aside temporarily in order to protect their town. Cooper and clan object, insisting that their beliefs are meant for just these circumstances, but eventually even his own son (Anthony Perkins) gets bitten by the desire to go off in search of adventure; the allegory to McCarthyism is not subtle but the timeless nature of the story hits deep even if you have knowledge of Hollywood in the fifties. A fantastic sequence involving soldiers invading the homestead and McGuire’s subsequent generosity to them is one of the most powerful examples of admirable morality ever put on film.

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