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Friendly Persuasion

From Academic Kids

Friendly Persuasion stars Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins, Richard Eyer, Robert Middleton and Phyllis Love.

This 1956 film tells the story of a pacifist Quaker family during the American Civil War.

The proteganist of the story is Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper) the patriarch of the Birdwell family. Jess's faith is challenged by ever nearing Confederate forces.

Jess's wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) is a deeply religious woman and is steadfast in her refusal to engage in violence of any sort.

Jess's daughter Maddie (Phyllis Love) wants to remain a Quaker but has fallen in love with a dashing cavalry officer (a love that horrifies her mother).

Jess's youngest child "Little" Jess (Richard Eyer) is a feisty child whose feud with his mother's pet goose cause her nothing but heartache.

Jess's son oldest son Josh (Anthony Perkins) is torn between his hate for violence and the knowledge that to protect his family he must join the military and fight the invaders.

Memorable quotes regarding violence include:

  • "God is love."
  • "I often ask myself what I would do if I saw my family threatened, my wife and children's lives in danger."
  • "I wonder what it feels like to die?"
  • "I'm going down fight'n."
  • "Any man who kills innocent women and children is my enemy, my mortal enemy."
  • "I hate fighting...I don't want to die!..I don't know if I could kill anyone if I tried!...but I have to try so long as others have too!"
  • "A man's life an't worth a hill of beans 'cept he lives up to his own expectations."
  • "I wish someone would hold out for a better way."
  • "He's not very old...I killed him."
  • "Thee did what thee had to."

The movie was adapted by Michael Wilson from the 1945 novel by Jessamyn West, and was directed by William Wyler.

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Anthony Perkins), Best Director, Best Music, Song (Dimitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster for "Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love)"), Best Picture, Best Sound, Recording and Best Writing, Best Screenplay - Adapted.

The film won the 1957 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival.

The movie was originally released with no screenwriting credit because Wilson was on the Hollywood blacklist. His credit was restored in 1996.

Friendly Persuasion was remade for television in 1975, starring Richard Kiley, Shirley Knight, Clifton James and Michael O'Keefe. It was adapted by William P. Wood and directed by Joseph Sargent. This version also included material from Jessamyn West's sequel novel, Except For Thee and Me.

Jessamyn West was a cousin of President Richard M. Nixon and it is widely believed that the Birdwell family in the story was loosly based on the Milhous family, Nixon's maternal great grandparents.

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