Friendly Persuasion: The Movie
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.
2/16/2021 05:19:23 am
Quakers show up in a number of movies of varying quality. A keyword search for Quaker on IMDB lists 62 films. Many of the films are well known, e.g. The Angel and the Badman or Deep Six.However, the list does include Alvin and the Chipmunks. I'm not sure what Alvin's connection to Quakerism is.
2/16/2021 08:04:30 am
I remarked that "Friendly Persuasion" is a picture of Quaker life in the past. However, the film is apparently inaccurate in giving the impression that 19th Century Quakers were opposed to music in general. Although meetings might be unprogrammed and unmusical, it was fine for individual Quakers to like music and to play or listen to music in the home. So, when Eliza tries to keep husband Jess from putting an organ in their house, that must be her individual preference rather than a Quaker custom. The idea that Quaker elders would consider music in the home to be sinful is probably not true. However, I haven't researched all this. I'd be glad to hear from someone who is well-informed about 19th Century Quakerism.
3/2/2021 07:35:24 am
My Hicksite great-great-great grandfather was said to have loved music and “substantially rewarded” his grandchildren for singing “Rally Round the Flag” and other Civil War songs. On the other hand, about my Orthodox Quaker great-great-great grandfather: “our Mother loved to [sing]…But Grandfather was coming! She would not have him hurt! So she said ‘During Grandfather’s visit, we will just keep the piano locked, children.’ Not long after his arrival, he spied the new piece of furniture. His square-built frame was soon perched on the round, revolving, old-style piano stool, and he tried to open it. Not being successful, he called out, ‘Walter, how does this thing open?’ Shyly Walter produced the key and exposed the keyboard… using one blunt forefinger he struck one key after another at random…while we children were awed observers. While no melody was made, when Grandfather said, ‘Well, Walter, thee may shut it up again,’ the tension was off…no word of criticism did he utter.”
3/4/2021 07:52:09 am
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