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William WylerThe Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director$
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Gabriel Miller

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813142098

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813142098.001.0001

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The Pacifist Dilemma

The Pacifist Dilemma

Friendly Persuasion (1956), The Big Country (1958), Ben-Hur (1959)

(p.335) 15 The Pacifist Dilemma
William Wyler

Gabriel Miller

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter deals with three films Wyler made after leaving Paramount, all of which explore the limits of pacifism. The first, Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper, deals with a Quaker family's reaction to the Civil War. Wyler's evolving friendship with Jessamyn West, who wrote the book and whom he hired to write the script, is examined, as well as the director's influence over the screenplay and his significant departures from the source material. Also recounted is Michael Wilson's lawsuit against the studio for failing to credit him for his contributions to the script. The second film examined here is The Big Country, a pacifist western that Wyler co-produced with co-star Gregory Peck; the chapter also covers the film's script and production problems. The final film discussed is Wyler's third Oscar winner, Ben-Hur, about a man who disavows violence yet ultimately becomes aggressive and vengeful.

Keywords:   Friendly Persuasion, Gary Cooper, Jessamyn West, Michael Wilson, The Big Country, Gregory Peck, Ben-Hur

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