"Friendly Persuasion" Is Released
Friendly Persuasion is a 1956 Palme d'Or-winning Civil War film starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins, Richard Eyer, Robert Middleton and Phyllis Love.
The screenplay was adapted by Michael Wilson from the 1945 novel The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West, and was directed by William Wyler. The film was originally released with no screenwriting credit because Wilson was on the Hollywood blacklist. His credit was restored in 1996.
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jessamyn West, Friendly Persuasion is set in Southern Indiana in the early days of the Civil War. Gary Cooper plays Jess Birdwell, patriarch of a Quaker family which does not believe in warfare. Birdwell's son Josh (Anthony Perkins) wishes to adhere to his family's pacifism, but is afraid that if he doesn't sign up for military service, he'll prove to be a coward. Josh joins the Home Guard, which disturbs his mother Eliza (Dorothy McGuire). But Jess Birdwell realizes that his son must follow the dictates of his own conscience. Josh proves his courage to himself when he is wounded during a Rebel raid, while the elder Birdwell is able to stay faithful to his religious calling by not killing a Southern soldier when given both a chance and a good reason to do so. Allegedly, writer Jessamyn West nearly scotched her deal with producer/director William Wyler and distributor Allied Artists when Gary Cooper, taking his fans into consideration, insisted upon including a scene in which he forsakes his pacifism and takes arms against the Rebels. If true, then wiser heads prevailed, since no such scene exists in the final release print. Though uncredited due to his status as a blacklistee, Michael Wilson wrote the screenplay for Friendly Persuasion--and even won an Oscar nomination. Also nominated was the film's chart-busting theme song, "Thee I Love" (by Dmitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster). The story was remade as a 2-hour TV pilot film in 1975. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide