Thursday, November 3, 2016

Classic Hollywood Celebration: Friendly Persuasion Review

I am linking up here again.

Former friends introduced me to Friendly Persuasion years ago. I watched it by myself first and enjoyed it and then more recently watched it several times with my mom and sisters. This 1956 film features actors Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins and actress Dorothy McGuire (whom we've seen in the 1960 The Swiss Family Robinson which we also love). The film is very loosely based on Jessamyn West's novel of the same name.*

The story is set in Civil War era Indiana and features a rural Quaker family trying to live in a quiet way and being forced to come to terms with the fact that the forces of war are approaching close to home.** Each of the mature or maturing members of the Birdwell household has his or her own particular views and connections to the war, and this produces some familial discord. Despite all this family love, faith, and honor prevail.

Although the overarching plot leads to conflict with marauding Rebel troops, much of the film depicts the day-to-day struggles, activites and idiosyncries in this Quaker household. I love the depictions of the familial, neighborly, and outside world interactions of the Birdwells and how differently each member reacts to their Quaker responsibilities. Each person is a distinct individual and yet the conflicts tend to be small and humorous (until the end) and are always resolved.

As an older movie, the film posseses some drawbacks frequent to this period including noticeably fake scenery, not noticeably period accurate clothing, etc. The music underwhelmed me, nothing unique or heart-stirring. The plot is more a string of vignettes leading to a climax as the war touches the Birdwells with graduating intensity than a perfectly wrough plot, so at times some scenes can feel a bit random. Nevertheless, I love the portrayal of the simple, homespun daily life interspersed with plenty of humor and a little love.

If you need drama or a comprehensive Civil War plot, this movie is not for you. But if you enjoy simple, sweet stories and are interested in this unique perspective of mid-19th century American life and its gentle perspective on the war, you may enjoy the film. I had no knowledge at all of the story (a level of ignorance which I often love for books and movies) and love "homey" stories and so I appreciated the simple portrayal of Quakerism** and the war. Nothing too complicated or nuanced needing an intellectual conversation, but resting sweetness and simplicity.



*I loved the movie, so I got the book from the library, but after looking through it, I could see very little connection to the story I liked and decided I wasn't interested enough to try reading it.
**Because I must ALWAYS give a history lesson, I must point out that Quakers were not traditionally formal pacifists; they did place a greater value on overall kindness and humanness, but the stringent pacifism came far later. I learned this from Albion's Seed, and I truly cannot recommend that book enough.

5 comments :

  1. Have you ever read They Loved To Laugh?

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    1. No, but now I'm marking it for my library list.

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  2. As one who is very interested in 19th century America, I think this movie sounds very interesting:)
    Thanks for making it aware of its existence.

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    1. I love learning about new movies and books via blogs; I added a couple to my list this event too.

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  3. This is a movie my hubby grew up with and then introduced me to when we were dating. It's so sweet and fun! We love to quote Coop from it, especially, "Well, by sugar, that's news!" :-)

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