Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Mr Birdwell Goes to Battle

Friendly Persuasion was nominated for six Academy Awards, and it won the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Sweet, gentle and hilarious, Friendly Persuasion is simply a superior entertainment. William Wyler is one of the most consistently brilliant directors from old-school Hollywood, and his work here is first-class, expressing the beauty and innocence of the Birdwells’ country life with an honest directness. As is usual with Wyler, the balance and handling of the perfect cast makes all the difference. McGuire is just dotty enough to be unaware of the very un-Quakerish human natures of her own family; Gary Cooper strikes a good balance between his ‘cute’ and serious personae. The handling of the supporting cast is also exemplary. In only his second film, Anthony Perkins is remarkably adept in his portrayal of the conscience-stricken Josh. Richard Eyer’s Little Jess is an antidote for all those cutesy moppets that plague American movies, a stubborn, imaginative little ankle-biter. Less acclaimed but equally impressive are the delightful Phyllis Love (this seems to be her only notable film) and Robert Middleton, a stock villain who here gets a rare opportunity to play a tolerant non-Quaker character. Marjorie Main has a familiar but welcome comedy scene

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