Friendly Persuasion Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Wonderfully funny and engrossing comedy-drama.
Friendly Persuasion Screenshot for Review

William Wyler directs another heartwarming and wonderfully involving comedy-drama in Friendly Persuasion.

Friendly Persuasion (1956)
Released: 25 Nov 1956
Rated: Passed
Runtime: 137 min
Director: William Wyler
Genre: Drama, Family, Romance
Cast: Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins
Writer(s): Jessamyn West, Michael Wilson
Plot: The pacifist attitude of a Quaker family is tested as a result of the American Civil War.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 17 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 05/14/2024
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 4/5

In a decade already filled with his sterling achievements (Detective Story, Carrie, Roman Holiday, and The Desperate Hours with The Big Country and Ben-Hur still to come), William Wyler’s Friendly Persuasion stands tall among them. A charming comedy-drama filled with warmth and singular pleasures, Friendly Persuasion is a genuinely likeable movie just to watch and enjoy.

In 1862 Indiana, the Birdwell family upholds its pacifist Quaker traditions though with the Civil War intruding peripherally in their lives, it’s difficult for Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper) to know just exactly what to advise his children to do even though wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) is adamantly opposed to violence. Older son Joshua (Anthony Perkins) feels like it’ll be his duty to fight if the family is threatened, but he wrestles daily with his own inner conflicts. Daughter Mattie (Phyllis Love) is sweet on non-Quaker Gard Jordan (Mark Richman) who’s an officer for the Union army and comes home on occasional furloughs, sometimes wounded but hoping for a future with Mattie. And Little Jess Birdwell (Richard Eyer) is more at war with the family goose Samantha than with any rebel soldiers. Life goes along its leisurely way until word comes that a renegade rebel squadron is marauding the countryside bringing the war to the Birdwells’ very doorstep.

Adapted from Jessamyn West’s novel The Friendly Persuasion by the blacklisted Michael Wilson (with notable assists by the author herself and the director’s brother Robert), the screenplay spends the first ninety minutes with slice-of-life sequences involving the escapades of the Birdwell family: Jess’ friendly racing-to-church rivalry with good-natured neighbor Sam Jordan (Robert Middleton), a family outing to the county fair where temptations like gambling, dancing, organ music, and wrestling tantalize the family and their friends, a very amusing sequence with father and older son Birdwell encountering four man-hungry females: a mother (Marjorie Main) and her three voracious, near Amazonian daughters (Edna Skinner, Marjorie Durant, Frances Farwell), and a standoff between Jess and Eliza over having a pump organ in the house (Quakers are supposed to be opposed to music but even Eliza can tap her toes and get in the swring of the dancing at the county fair). Later, when real danger from the war threatens the family, things do turn dark as each member of the family handles the impending threats in his or her own way. Director William Wyler quite beautifully captures both the homespun family joys and the action sequences as the neighborhood farmers band together to set up an ambush of the rampaging rebels. It’s all quite engrossing since by the time of the attack, we’ve become so attached to the family and friends that we wish to see no ill will to come to them, and we know deep down that it’s impossible.

Gary Cooper was never very happy with his performance in this movie, but he’s a wonderful head of the household, filled with a spry sense of play and yet a firm enough hand when decisions have to be made. Dorothy McGuire lends solid support as Eliza, and her confrontation with the marauders late in the movie is one of the film’s most dramatic sequences and a definite highlight. Anthony Perkins scored his only career Oscar nomination for his performance as Joshua, conflicted between Quaker non-violence and a sense of duty to his family. Phyllis Love plays Mattie as part dreamer and part realist, but she gets really dewy-eyed whenever Mark Richman playing solidly Gard Jordan is around. Richard Eyer is a funny, feisty Little Jess. Marjorie Main as usual steals the scenes from one and all when she appears as the widow Hudspeth. Likeable turns are also offered by Robert Middleton as Jess’s friendly rival, Walter Catlett as a determined organ salesman, Joel Fluellen as the Birdwell’s hired hand Enoch, and Samantha the Goose who’s the real star of the show.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though most of the DVD’s dated color and brittle digital appearance is gone in this lovely Blu-ray rendering, there are still faint touches of digital shots, sometimes slightly chalky color, and occasionally soft long shots. The image nevertheless is immaculately clean of dust, dirt, splices, and scratches. The movie has been divided into 28 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is typical of the era, but it’s still engrossing and a fine achievement. Dialogue has been well-recorded, and it’s been combined with Dimitri Tiomkin’s beautiful score (with its Oscar-nominated “Thee I Love” theme song exquisitely presented throughout) and the various sound effects to make a compelling soundtrack. There are no instances of hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter to disrupt one’s attention.

Special Features: 2/5

Wide Wide World (10:22, HD): host Dave Garroway visits the location shooting for Friendly Persuasion and lets us watch a rehearsal of a couple of scenes from the movie with Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins, Mark Richman, and Phyllis Love going through their paces.

Theatrical Trailer (1:51, HD)

Overall: 4/5

Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes and nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, William Wyler’s Friendly Persuasion remains one of the director’s singular achievements and a most watchable and highly enjoyable movie experience. Highly recommended!

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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