Friendly Persuasion

After I finished with work and stopped to get a hamburger, I came home and sat down to watch “Friendly Persuasion,” the movie directed by William Wyler and starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins.  Cooper is Jess Birdwell, a Quaker whose peaceful life is being threatened by the Civil War, which is closing in on his community.  I found it rather hard to think of Cooper as being a pacifist, particularly after “Sergeant York.”  I wouldn’t say that it was impossible, however.  I thought this movie was something of a predecessor of “Witness” with Harrison Ford.  Dorothy McGuire was not really like Kelly McGillis, but she did remind me of Michelle Pfeiffer at times.  Jess isn’t quite like the other Quakers, as he’s competitive with the horses and racing, and he’s willing to buy an organ and have it in his house despite his wife’s objections.  The humor is a bit too broad, and it goes on for the first hour.  One thing Wyler couldn’t do was have his character get drunk and start a brawl.  He didn’t show that he handled women very well, in the manner of George Cukor, as he showed the three daughters hungry for male attention.  Anthony Perkins was supposed to be a new James Dean, although that seems laughable now.  His character has the slightest bit of Norman Bates in him, gentle on the outside but capable of killing someone.  I don’t think that pacifism and religion make for very good subject matter for movies.  We don’t want to hear character talk about what they are NOT going to do.  The movie did earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but when I think of William Wyler, I definitely do not think of “Friendly Persuasion.”  It’s more like “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Ben-Hur,” and “Funny Girl.”  I liked watching it and gave credit to Wyler for being a great director for this.  This DVD edition did not make the film look too good, however.  Perhaps a Blu-ray edition will make it look better.  I kept thinking about how difficult it must have been to deal with the goose.  I wasn’t sure that Jess’ daughter was such a prize that a young man would want to marry her.  Ronald Reagan liked the movie and gave a copy to Mikhail Gorbachev as a gift.  Some of the people who died on April 13 include Wallace Stegner (1993), Muriel Spark (2006), Mark Fidrych (2009), and Günter Grass (2015).  Today is a birthday for Caroline Rhea (53), Ron Perlman (67), and Al Green (71).

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