Sunday, May 03, 2009

5/2/09: Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Day two of AFCA Week brings us the William Wyler film of Jessamyn West's novel The Friendly Persuasion, the recommendation of my Internet acquaintance MC Hamster. Think of it as The Civil War Waltons, with gentle Quakers Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire as the head of the deeply religious Birdwell family, who say "thee" and "thy" a lot. The nation at war is filled with untold temptations—blood lust and sexual lust heading the list. While the South's confederate soldiers begin to invade the valleys of Indiana, Cooper and his family must decide whether to join the good guys and fight to protect their home or stand by their staunch principles of anti-violence. Son Anthony Perkins decides to heed the call to arms, while daughter Phyllis Love flips for a neighborhood Union soldier...and actually kisses him on the lips!

It's a grand old story with a very picturesque backdrop and a lovely musical soundtrack, occasionally slow moving but filled with enough good scenes to ward off boredom. The film features a goose that out-acts half the members of the cast, including Gary Cooper. And Perkins, four years prior to Psycho, actually has a scene in the attic with his mother! My favorite sequence, occurring early in the movie, involved Cooper and McGuire settling a dispute in their barn over the purchase of an organ. I reckon I enjoyed Friendly Persuasion more than its star did; supposedly Cooper hated the film, describing it as a "boring piece of crap." Whatever thee say, Coop. Rating: 4/5.

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