Friendly Persuasion (1956)
His warm charisma may have been overshadowed at times by Clark Gable's grinning he-man brawn or Cary Grant's blindingly elegant charm, but Gary Cooper (whose 100th birthday is this week) nevertheless continues to cast his glow down the years as one of Hollywood's most magnetic--and jaw-droppingly handsome--leading men. Like Grant, Cooper never had trouble getting parts as he aged; five years before his untimely death from cancer, he gave one of his most appealing performances as the head of a clan of Civil War-era Indiana Quakers in this adaptation (by blacklisted writer Michael Wilson, uncredited) of Jessamyn West's novel. Cooper brings a sense of puckish boyishness and mature strength to the role of Jess Birdwell, trying to raise his family and keep himself above the powerful temptations of modernity (county fairs, musical instruments) and the encroaching war. Director William Wyler draws performances of tender good humor and dramatic tension not only from Cooper, but from Dorothy McGuire as Jess' stoic but loving wife; Anthony Perkins as their eldest son, struggling with his pacifism as the fighting closes in; and Marjorie Main, "Ma Kettle" herself, in a memorably mirthful bit as an elderly widow. A true Cooper classic that's a sheer delight every time.