Friendly Persuasion (1956)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jessamyn West, Friendly Persuasion is set in Southern Indiana in the early days of the Civil War. Gary Cooper plays Jess Birdwell, patriarch of a Quaker family which does not believe in warfare. Birdwell's son Josh (Anthony Perkins) wishes to adhere to his family's pacifism, but is afraid that if he doesn't sign up for military service, he'll prove to be a coward. Josh joins the Home Guard, which disturbs his mother Eliza (Dorothy McGuire). But Jess Birdwell realizes that his son must follow the dictates of his own conscience. Josh proves his courage to himself when he is wounded during a Rebel raid, while the elder Birdwell is able to stay faithful to his religious calling by not killing a Southern soldier when given both a chance and a good reason to do so. Allegedly, writer Jessamyn West nearly scotched her deal with producer/director William Wyler and distributor Allied Artists when Gary Cooper, taking his fans into consideration, insisted upon including a scene in which he forsakes his pacifism and takes arms against the Rebels. If true, then wiser heads prevailed, since no such scene exists in the final release print. Though uncredited due to his status as a blacklistee, Michael Wilson wrote the screenplay for Friendly Persuasion--and even won an Oscar nomination. Also nominated was the film's chart-busting theme song, "Thee I Love" (by Dmitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster). The story was remade as a 2-hour TV pilot film in 1975.
Classics , Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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Gary Cooper
as Jess Birdwell
Dorothy McGuire
as Eliza Birdwell
Anthony Perkins
as Josh Birdwell
Marjorie Main
as Widow Hudspeth
Richard Eyer
as Little Jess
Phyllis Love
as Mattie Birdwell
Robert Middleton
as Sam Jordan
Peter Mark Richman
as Gard Jordan
Walter Catlett
as Prof. Quigley
Richard Hale
as Elder Purdy
Theodore Newton
as Army Major
John Smith
as Caleb
Mary Carr
as Emma, Quaker Woman
Edna Skinner
as Widow Hudspeth's Daughter
Marjorie Durant Dye
as Widow Hudspeth's Daughter
Frances Farwell
as Widow Hudspeth's Daughter
Richard Garland
as Bushwhacker
James Dobson
as Rebel Soldier
John Compton
as Rebel Lieutenant
James Seay
as Rebel Captain
Diane Jergens
as Young Girl Elizabeth
Earl Hodgins
as Shooting Gallery Operator
Ralph Sanford
as Businessman
Jean Inness
as Mrs. Purdy
Nelson Leigh
as Minister
Helen Kleeb
as Old Lady
William Schallert
as Young Husband
John Craven
as Leader
Frank Jenks
as Shell Game Man
Jack McClure
as Soldier
Chuck Courtney
as Reb Courier
Tom Irish
as Young Rebel
Jean Innes
as Mrs. Purdy
Mary Jackson
as Country Woman
Joseph Turkel
as Poor Loser
James Anderson
as Poor Loser
Harry Hines
as Barker
Henry Rowland
as O'Hara
Ivan Rasputin
as Billy Goat
Donald Kerr
as Manager
Steve Warren
as Haskell
Earle Hodgins
as Shooting Gallery Operator
John Pickard
as Ex-Sergeant
Frank S. Hagney
as Lemonade Vendor
Dan Kennedy
as Buster
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Critic Reviews for Friendly Persuasion

All Critics (8)

While painting one of the better portraits of Quaker life, the film's sober, Civil War-focused intentions are constantly undermined by slapstick situations and erstwhile tomfoolery.

Full Review… | January 10, 2016

Exceptional Civil War-set story of religious differences.

Full Review… | December 24, 2010
Common Sense Media

In Wyler's Civil War drama, Gary Cooper's most popular film of the 1950s, the star plays his quinessential role, a pacifist family man who needs to probe his soul before using physical violence.

Full Review… | February 6, 2008

Heartwarming account of Quakers during the Civil War

February 11, 2005
Film Journal International

Warm, gently satiric portrait of a family of the "Friendly persuasion" living in the shadow of the Civil War… does justice neither to Quakerism nor to just-war theory, but its warm affection for its subjects makes it worthwhile viewing.

Full Review… | September 12, 2003
Decent Films Guide

A big, colorful, entertaining movie that could only have been made in the 1950s.

Full Review… | February 9, 2003
Goatdog's Movies

Audience Reviews for Friendly Persuasion

Gary Cooper brings his usual dull self into a film about a righteous man who doesn't want to do battle during the Civil War. It likely would have been picked up a notch if a Gregory Peck had have been chosen. Instead we must endure.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

This movie is very predictable, and sometimes boring, but the drama is pretty intense, especially towards the end, and there are good actors in this movie too.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


This film is about a family of Quakers who struggle with their beliefs during the Civil War. It's interesting to see how the Quakers lived and their religious beliefs. The film goes into great detail on this and you realize how horrible it would be to be a Quaker. At times the movie is too cute with too many rear projections(the CGI of the 50's) The acting is great (Cooper does his aw shucks character) and the story is a good one. The film gets real good when the war is in their back yard and they must choose between protecting themselves or follow their religion and do nothing.

cody franklin
cody franklin

Super Reviewer

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