Many in Old Chatham Meeting are probably already familiar with Friendly Persuasion, a 1956 movie based on Jessamyn West’s book of (almost) the same name. Starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards. Nevertheless, Friendly Persuasion is no great work of art, suffering from melodrama and a broad humor that sometimes verges on slapstick.
That’s not to say that the movie isn’t entertaining; and it’s especially interesting for Friends who are curious about the lifestyle of rural, 19th Century Quakers. Set in the lush countryside of Indiana (the San Fernando Valley), this picturesque film is complemented by Dmitri Tiomkin’s musical score and the song “Thee I Love.” And while the film is syrupy sweet and overemotional, I admit that I personally enjoyed those qualities. Relevant enough to hold the attention of adults, Persuasion is also an ideal children’s film. Kids will enjoy Little Jess’s battle with Samantha the Goose and his rivalry with an older sister. Teens who are not jaded by our consumer culture will be charmed by the tender romance between Mattie and a dashing cavalry officer.
The main motif of the film deals with Quaker pacifism in the time of the Civil War, when Rebel raiders were attacking peaceful Indiana farmers. Will Jess the father or Josh the elder son defend the family with arms? Will the mother, Eliza, remain uncorrupted by the violence erupting around her? Will principle or expediency prevail? And what role will love play in all this chaos?
Whatever its shortcomings, I highly recommend Friendly Persuasion, which is rated a respectable 7.3 by IMDb. The film may be rented from Amazon Prime for a mere $2.99.
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