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Friendly Persuasion
Alternate Title: Mr. Birdwell Goes to Battle
Director: William Wyler (Dir)
Release Date:   25 Nov 1956
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 1 Nov 1956
Production Date:   early Sep--mid-Dec 1955
Duration (in mins):   137 or 139
Duration (in feet):   12,368
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Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Gary Cooper (Jess Birdwell)  
    Dorothy McGuire (Eliza Birdwell)  
    Marjorie Main (Widow Hudspeth)  
    Anthony Perkins (Josh Birdwell)  
    Richard Eyer (Little Jess Birdwell)  
    Robert Middleton (Sam Jordan)  
    Phyllis Love (Mattie Birdwell)  
    Mark Richman (Gard Jordan)  
    Walter Catlett (Professor Quigley)  
    Richard Hale (Elder Purdy)  
    Joel Fluellen (Enoch)  
    Theodore Newton (Army Major Harvey)  
    John Smith (Caleb)  
    Elna Skinner (Widow Hudspeth's daughter)  
    Marjorie Durant (Widow Hudspeth's daughter)  
    Frances Farwell (Widow Hudspeth's daughter)  
    Samantha, the Goose (Herself)  
    Mary Carr (Quaker woman)  
    Jean Inness (Mrs. Purdy)  
    Everett Glass (Elder)  
    Charles Halton (Elder)  
    Russell Simpson (Elder)  
    Nelson Leigh (Minister)  
    Helen Kleeb (Old lady)  
    Diane Jergens (Young girl, Elizabeth)  
    Ralph Sanford (Businessman)  
    William Schallert (Young husband)  
    John Craven (Band leader)  
    James Lilburn (Forager)  
    Frank Sully (Forager)  
    Wright King (Forager)  
    LeRoy Johnson (Forager)  
    Frank Jenks (Sharper)  
    James Anderson (Tough guy)  
    Harry Hines (Barker)  
    Kid Chissell (Barker)  
    Henry Rowland (O'Hara)  
    Ivan Rasputin (Billy Goat)  
    Edmund Cobb (Operator)  
    Jimmy Goodwin (Coward)  
    Joseph Turkel (Newcomer)  
    King Karlo (Fire eater)  
    Murray Parker (Sword swallower)  
    Donald Kerr (Manager)  
    Frank Hagney (Lemonade vendor)  
    Steve Warren (Haskell)  
    Jack McClure (Soldier)  
    Edward L. Andrews (Soldier)  
    Ralph Gamble (Medicine man)  
    Earle Hodgins (Shooting gallery operator)  
    Robert Fuller (Soldier next to Josh at shooting gallery)  
    Charles Courtney (Reb courier)  
    Tom Irish (Young rebel)  
    Ron Hargrave (Farmer)  
    Tom London (Farmer)  
    John Dierkes (Farmer)  
    Irvin Ashkenazi (Farmer)  
    Charles Morton (Farmer)  
    William Vedder (Farmer)  
    Gene Roth (Farmer)  
    Tyler McVey (Farmer)  
    Dennis Moore (Farmer)  
    Hart Wayne (Farmer)  
    John Pickard (Ex-sergeant)  
    James Seay (Rebel captain)  
    John Compton (Rebel lieutenant)  
    James Dobson (Rebel soldier)  
    Richard Garland (Bushwacker)  
    Norman Leavitt (Clem)  
    Don Kennedy (Buster)  
    Mary Jackson (Country woman)  
    William J. Tannen (Supply sergeant)  
    Jack Sterling (Rebel)  
    Charles Delaney (Drinker)  
    Bill Engle    
    Jack Macy    

Summary: The Birdwells, a prosperous Pennsylvania Quaker family, try to remain detached from the Civil War that is raging to the south. As the family prepares to go to Sunday meeting, daughter Mattie primps and fantasizes about her sweetheart, Gard Jordan, while older brother Josh plays war with younger brother Little Jess, but warns that their preacher mother Eliza does not like war talk. While father Jess hitches his horse Red Rover to a surrey, he laments to black farm hand Enoch that the horse is not as fast as he appears. On the way to town, Gard’s father, neighboring farmer Sam Jordan, rides up alongside the Birdwells, initiating their Sunday racing ritual. Eliza strongly disapproves of racing but is unsuccessful in convincing the amiable Jess to stop. After Sam’s horse once again wins, the Birdwells go to their meetinghouse, while Sam and Grad attend Methodist services. A few minutes later, Maj. Harvey of the Union Army enters the meetinghouse to urge the Quaker men to take up arms against the South. Although some men, including Jess and Josh, admit doubts about their pacifist beliefs, Harvey is unable to change anyone’s mind. A few days later, Gard, who is an army officer, comes to call on Mattie and ask the family if they plan to go to the county fair. When the excited children lament that Eliza’s strictness will prevent their attending, Jess intercedes. At the fair, while Eliza visits a quilting booth, Little Jess enjoys the sideshows, Josh and his friend Caleb watch a wrestling match, Jess and Sam peruse Quigley’s organ emporium and Gard convinces Mattie to dance with him on the pavilion. When Eliza sees Mattie dancing, she is shocked and orders her daughter home, despite Gard’s plea that he wants to spend his last day of leave with Mattie. Meanwhile, Caleb enters a wrestling match but suddenly quits because he thinks he has hurt the other wrestler. A few men who had bet on Caleb start to intimidate and hit him and Josh, who refuse to hit back. The incident is stopped by Jess, who grabs the most abusive man and pushes him into a rain barrel, in full view of the disapproving Eliza. Soon Jess, who sells nursery stock, leaves on a business trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio. Josh has never accompanied his father before and looks forward to the adventure, despite Eliza’s concerns for their safety. On the last day of their trip, Jess stops at the farm of the Widow Hudspeth, whose three man-hungry daughters are delighted to have the bashful Josh and Jess spend the night. While riding with the widow, Jess is impressed by her ugly mare “Lady,” who refuses to let other horses pass her. Because the widow does not want her daughters’ potential suitors to be upstaged by Lady, she trades Lady for Red Rover. When Jess and Josh return home, Eliza is delighted that Josh has traded Red Rover for a “good, plain animal,” but her happiness turns to anger when Quigley delivers an organ that Jess had purchased without her knowledge. Eliza stands in the doorway and forbids Jess to bring in the organ. Jess, who does not like the word “forbid,” moves the organ inside, prompting Eliza to leave for the barn. That night, after the children have gone to bed, Jess goes into the barn and speeds the night there with Eliza. The next morning, as the pair lovingly walks arm-in-arm toward the house, Eliza makes Jess promise that the organ will stay in the attic and not be played on meeting day. On Sunday, Jess makes an excuse to take their smaller carriage to town and hitches up Lady. For the first time, he is able to best Sam in the race, much to Eliza and Sam’s chagrin. That night, Gard, who has returned to organize the home guard after sustaining a battle wound, comes to see Mattie. As Mattie, Josh and Little Jess question Gard about his experiences, Josh says that he wants to join the home troops, but Gard asks him to think more about his decision. Later, as Gard and Mattie kiss, Josh and Enoch assist as the family cow gives birth, and Enoch worries when Josh wonders aloud what death would be like. A few days later, Gard comes to visit Mattie, who is at the river with Little Jess. She is angry when she realizes that Gard has overheard her talking aloud about his handsomeness and runs back to the house. Just then, Josh rides home and reports that Confederate soldiers are less than thirty miles away and will overrun their farm by tomorrow. Gard pleads with Jess and Eliza to take the children and hide in the woods, but Eliza says that if it is God’s will, there is nothing they can do. Enoch then asks Gard for a gun, confessing that he is a runaway slave and would not have a chance with the Confederates. When Mattie, who is listening from her room, overhears Gard say that he is leaving to join the home guard, she runs after him. They confess their love for each other and promise to marry. The next morning, after talking with Jess, who understands how he feels, and Eliza, who has urged him to pray, Josh takes a shotgun and rides off on Lady to join the home guard. While Josh nervously takes position at the river, where the home guard will try to prevent the Confederates from crossing, Elder Purdy rides to the Birdwell farm and angrily relates that his farm has been looted and his crops burned. Although Jess offers to share what he has, Purdy, who previously had boasted that he would never betray his principles, lashes out at Jess for not taking up arms. His tirade is interrupted when Sam arrives and tells Purdy that he will fight for both himself and Jess and is glad that someone is holding out for a better way of settling differences. When the Confederates start to cross the river, the battle begins. Seeing the killing of a man who had been kind to him, Josh repeatedly loads his shotgun to fire at the approaching Confederates, as tears roll down his cheeks. A short time later, Lady arrives at the farm riderless, causing Eliza to break down, sure that her son is dead. When she sees Jess take his shotgun and ride out, she is hurt but does not try to stop him. Soon some Confederate soldiers arrive at the Birdwell farm, and Eliza surprises them by offering food and hospitality. However, when one of the soldiers grabs Eliza’s beloved pet goose Samantha, she becomes hysterical and repeatedly hits the soldier with her broom. The soldier lets Samantha go and apologizes, then departs with the others, leaving an ashamed Eliza, who asks her children not to say anything to their father. Meanwhile, as Jess approaches the river, he encounters the mortally wounded Sam and reminisces about their races before his friend dies. Just then, a lone Confederate soldier takes a shot at Jess, who is only grazed, but pretends to be dead. Concluding that both men are dead, the soldier walks away to reload his rifle, but Jess stands up and struggles with him. Jess has a clear shot at the soldier but, grabbing his gun, tells him that he will not kill him and to walk away. A few minutes later, Jess comes upon the scene of devastation at the river. Among the dead bodies, he finds Josh, alive, but heartsick at having killed. Jess takes his son home, where Eliza welcomes them. Some time later, after the battles are over, Enoch hitches up the surrey for Jess, Josh, Eliza and Little Jess to ride to Sunday meeting as Gard and Mattie ride behind in their carriage. 

Production Company: Allied Artists Pictures Corp.  
Production Text: William Wyler's Production
Distribution Company: Allied Artists Pictures Corp.  
Director: William Wyler (Dir)
  Austen Jewell (Asst dir)
  Claude Binyon Jr. (Asst dir)
  William O'Donnell (Asst dir)
Producer: William Wyler (Prod)
  Robert Wyler (Assoc prod)
  Harry Hogan (Asst prod)
Writer: Michael Wilson (Scr)
  Robert Wyler (Contr wrt)
  Jessamyn West (Contr wrt)
  Henry Kleiner (Contr wrt)
Photography: Ellsworth Fredricks (Dir of photog)
  Al St. Hilaire (Stills)
Art Direction: Edward S. Haworth (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Swink (Film ed)
  Edward A. Biery Jr. (Film ed)
  Robert A. Belcher (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Joe Kish (Set dec)
  Jimmy West (Const supv)
  Tommy Plews (Props)
Costumes: Dorothy Jeakins (Cost des)
  Bert Henrikson (Ward)
  Norman Martien (Ward)
  Sid Mintz (Ward)
  Adolph Seidel (Ward)
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin (Mus comp and cond)
  Richard C. Harris (Mus ed)
Sound: Ralph Butler (Rec eng)
  Del Harris (Sd ed)
  Gordon R. Gelnnan (Sd dir, Westrex Sound Serices, Inc.)
  Gordon Sawyer (Sd dir, Samuel Goldwyn Studios Sound Department)
Special Effects: August Lohman (Spec eff)
  Charles Duncan (Spec eff)
  Hank Morland (Spec eff)
Make Up: Emile LaVigne (Makeup artist)
  Glen Cavender (Makeup)
  John Holden (Makeup)
  Agnes Flanigan (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Allen K. Wood (Prod mgr)
  Stuart Millar (Asst to the prod)
  Richard Maybery (Prod asst)
  Jessamyn West (Tech adv)
  Harry Hogan (Scr supv)
  Cosmo Genovese (Scr supv)
  Robert Gary (Set cont)
  Clarence Marks (Consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love)," music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, sung by Pat Boone, Dot Recording Artist; "Mocking Bird in a Willow Tree," "Marry Me, Marry Me," "Coax Me a Little" and "Indiana Holiday," music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.
Composer: Paul Francis Webster
  Dimitri Tiomkin
Source Text: Based on the book The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West (New York, 1945).
Authors: Jessamyn West

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
B-M Productions 1/10/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP7089

PCA NO: 17955
Physical Properties: Sd: Westrex Sound System
  col: De Luxe
  gauge: 1.85:1

Genre: Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Civil War
  with songs
Subjects (Major): Family life
  United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
  United States--History--Social life and customs
Subjects (Minor): Barns
  Death and dying
  Mothers and daughters
  Officers (Military)

Note: During pre-production, the film briefly had the working title of Mr. Birdwell Goes to Battle . The film’s opening credits appear as words stitched onto 19-century needlepoint samplers. Following the names of the principle actors, there is a title card that reads, “also co-starring Marjorie Main, as the Widow Hudspeth.”
       Jessamyn West's 1945 book Friendly Persuasion was a collection of short stories she had written in the early 1940s for various popular magazines, including Prairie Schooner , Colliers , Harper's Bazaar , Atlantic Monthly , The Ladies' Home Journal , New Mexico Quarterly and Harper's Magazine . Although the film is set in Pennsylvania, the original stories were set in Indiana.
       The film retained some of the incidents recounted as individual stories in the book, but was more suggestive of the theme and mood of the original stories than a close adaptation. One of the stories in the book, "The Battle of Finney's Ford" provided much of the basis of the film's action surrounding the battle of the local home guard troops against Confederate soldiers and provided the central moral dilemma for the Quaker Birdwell family, who were pacifists. Some characters within the film were not in the book, and many characters within West’s short stories were not portrayed in the film, including another Birdwell son, "Labe," who was similar to the character of "Caleb" in the film.
       The adaptation of the book into a motion picture, and credit for the film’s screenplay, has been the subject of considerable controversy since the production’s completion. Contemporary information reveal the following information about the film’s screenplay: According to a Var news item on 20 Sep 1956, and a NYT article on 21 Sep 1956, Allied Artists became the first studio to invoke a then little-known “anti-Communist” clause inserted into the basic Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) agreement in 1952, by deciding to release the film without a screenwriting credit. The decision was made by Allied Artists following arbitration by writer Michael Wilson, who had written a screen adaptation of West’s book in 1946. According to information in a 8 Apr 1946 HR news item, rights to West’s stories were purchased by director Frank Capra for Liberty Films, which Capra co-owned with director William Wyler, George Stevens and Samuel J. Briskin. According to Capra's autobiography, he intended to adapt the stories as a vehicle for Bing Crosby and Jean Arthur.
       In 1951, Wilson became an “un-friendly witness,” who refused to testify before the United States House of Representatives Committee for Un-American Activities (HUAC). Wilson was subsequently blacklisted. According to various contemporary news items in 1955, Harry Kleiner was hired to work on a screenplay of Friendly Persuasion , and West herself, as well as Wyler’s brother Robert, collaborated on the film’s shooting script. Just prior to the film’s release, Wilson sought WGA arbitration to have his name included on the film’s credits. Although Wilson was awarded sole screenwriting credit by the WGA, Allied Artists released with picture without a screenplay or adaptation credit, with the only writing credit reading “From the book by Jessamyn West.” Several modern sources have stated that the completed film reflected the work of Robert Wyler and West's work as much, if not more, than Wilson's. Modern sources postulate that, because of contemporary WGA rules forbidding the inclusion of more than two screenwriters' names on the film's credits, and because of sympathy for Wilson, the WGA determined that Wilson should receive sole screenwriting credit.
       On 15 Feb 1957, when Academy Award nominations were about to be announced, AMPAS issued a press release headed "Statement to be issued if ‘ Friendly Persuasion ’ receives a writing nomination as Best Screenplay (Adapted).” The press release noted that at a 6 Feb 1957 meeting of the AMPAS Board of Governors, a revision of one of the organization’s by-laws had been approved. The revision read: "Any person who before any duly constituted Federal legislative committee or body, shall have admitted that he is a member of the Communist Party (and had not since publicly renounced the party) or who shall have refused to answer whether or not he is, or was, a member of the Communist Party, or who shall have refused to respond to a subpoena to appear before such a committee or body, shall be ineligible for any Academy Award so long as he persists in such refusal."
       Although the press release did not specifically name Wilson, it indirectly referred to him as "the writer credited with this achievement by the Writers' Guild of America, West." The picture did earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but Wilson’s name was not on the ballot. Instead, the film’s title was listed last, with the wording proscribed in the 15 Feb 1957 AMPAS press release: “Achievement nominated, but writer ineligible for Award under Academy By-Laws.” The award that year was given to James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perelman, who adapted Around the World in 80 Days (see above). According to modern sources, Wilson sued Allied Artists, Robert and William Wyler, as well as West and others, but the details and disposition of the suit have not been ascertained.
       The film's association with the Hollywood blacklist resulted in further controversy in 1988 when President Ronald Reagan gave a videotape of Friendly Persuasion to then Soviet Premiere Michail Gorbachev. In a toast at a dinner in Moscow’s Kremlin, Reagan declared that the film expressed “not just the tragedy of war, but the problem of pacifism, the nobility of patriotism, as well as the love of peace.” Newspapers throughout the world reported the story, assailing Reagan's words as sadly ironic. Wilson's credit was officially restored by the WGA in 2001. The print viewed contained a title card designed in the same style as the other credits that read “Screenplay by Michael Wilson, from the book by Jessamyn West.” For additional information on HUAC, the Hollywood Blacklist and the 1952 WGA ruling, please consult the entry for the 1947 RKO production Crossfire in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 and see the entry below for the 1952 RKO film The Las Vegas Story .
       Other contemporary sources reveal the following information on the production: Friendly Persuasion was director William Wyler’s first film shot in color. Although a 20 May 1955 HR news item stated that the picture was to be shot in Pennsylvania and New England, and mid-Jul 1955 news items noted that Wyler and production assistant Richard Maybery had scouted locations in Indiana and Kentucky, where the film was to be shot, the picture was filmed entirely in California. According to news items and production charts, much of the film was shot in Chico, Triunfo and near Sacramento in Northern California and in Southern California at the Rowland V. Lee Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. A 2 Nov 1955 HR news item noted that the county fair sequence was shot at Republic Studio's Stage 11, as Allied Artists' sound stages were already occupied by other Friendly Persuasion sets. As noted in his article in the Apr 1956 issue of AmCin , inspirations for cinematographer Ellsworth Fredricks' use of lighting came from the Dutch Master painters of the 17th century, whose works Fredricks viewed with Wyler while on a location scouting trip prior to production.
       According to various HR news items, Eva Marie Saint was to test for the role of "Eliza" but withdrew. HR news items include the following actors in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: Stanley Adams, Dorothy Adams, Don Marlowe, Lane Chandler, Dorothy Ford, John Hoyt, Dorothy Phillips, Gertrude Astor, Jean Acker, Rose Ann Fuller and Fern Barry.
       As noted in an Apr 1956 HR news item, composer Dimitri Tiompkin conducted a benefit performance, with a thirty-piece orchestra, in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the first public performance of his score for the film. The film's title song (also titled "Thee I Love"), with music by Tiompkin and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, was one of the biggest hits of singer Pat Boone's career. According to a 29 Aug 1956 Var article, its predicted popularity caused consternation among several record companies that wanted to have the song officially released prior to the announced 1 Sep date. Even though the song's publisher, Robbins, Feist and Miller, moved the release date up to 24 Aug, various recordings of the song were sent to disc jockeys and played on the radio prior to its official release date.
       In addition to Academy Award nominations for Best Song and Best Adapted screenplay, the film received nominations in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler), Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Perkins) and Sound Recording (Westrex Sound Services, Inc, Gordon R. Glennan, sound director and Samuel Goldwyn Studios Sound Department, Gordon Sawyer, sound director). The film won the top prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, receiving the Palme d'Or for Best Film, and was selected as one of the top ten films of the year by NYT and the National Board of Review. Samantha, the "Birdwell" family's irrascible pet goose, was given the Patsy award by the American Humane Society for her performance.
       In 1957, Harcourt, Brace published a journal that West had kept during the film’s production, discussing her role as technical advisor and writer. That book, entitled To See the Dream , was an expansion of an article on the same subject that appeared in The Ladies' Home Journal in Nov 1955, around the time of the film’s premiere. In 1969, West published a companion volume to her earlier book of stories about the Birdwell family, Except for Me and Thee . A 1975 television movie entitled Friendly Persuasion was based on both of West's books. That version, which retained Tiompkin's popular musical theme, was directed by Joseph Sargent and starred Richard Kiley and Shirley Knight. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Apr 1956   pp. 216-17, 250-52.
Box Office   29 Sep 1956.   
Box Office   6 Oct 1956.   
Daily Variety   26 Sep 1956   p. 3.
Film Daily   27 Sep 1956   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 1946   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Apr 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 May 1955   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 1955   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jul 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Aug 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Aug 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Aug 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Sep 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Sep 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Sep 1955   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Sep 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 1955   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Oct 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Oct 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Nov 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Dec 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 1955   p. 2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 1955   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Apr 1956   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Aug 1956   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Aug 1956   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Sep 1956   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 1957   p. 28.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 1996.   
Los Angeles Herald Express   2 Jun 1988.   
Ladies Home Journal   Nov 1956.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   29 Nov 1956   p. 89.
New York Times   21 Sep 1956.   
New York Times   2 Nov 1956   p. 30.
New York Times   31 May 1988.   
Variety   29 Aug 1956.   
Variety   20 Sep 1956   pp. 1-2.
Variety   26 Sep 1956   p. 6.

Display Movie Summary
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