On September 20, 1956, director William Wyler‘s Friendly Persuasion was released in theaters in the United States. Based on the book by Jessamyn West, the story revolves around a Quaker family in 1862, whose faith and belief in non-violence is tested when Confederate troops come sweeping through their land and the family must decide whether to fight or to remain complacent. The film was written by screenwriter Michael Wilson (A Place in the Sun, Planet of the Apes), and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenwriting. It wasn’t until 2002, however, that Wilson would receive legitimate recognition for his work on the film.
Wilson’s name had been removed from the credits by the film’s distributor, Allied Artists. The reason? A 1952 Screen Writer’s Guild ruling that stated anyone who was communist or who refused to appear before the House Committee on Un-Americans Activities was ineligible to work in Hollywood or be included in film credits. Following the ruling, a massive number of Hollywood screenwriters were henceforth banned from working on Hollywood films. Writers like Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, The Brave One), Lester Cole (Blood on the Sun, Objective Burma!), Albert Maltz (Broken Arrow, The Beguiled), and Samuel Ornitz (Little Orphan Annie, Three Faces West) nevertheless continued their careers under various pseudonyms. But when Friendly Persuasion received the Screenwriting nomination, instead of having a “no-name” Oscar contender, the category was simply listed as “ineligible”.
Despite his position on the infamous Hollywood Blacklist, Wilson continued to have a successful career. He penned screenplays for such films as A Place in the Sun (1951), 5 Fingers (1952), The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Planet of the Apes (1968), winning Oscars for his writing on A Place in the Sun and Bridge Over the River Kwai. Although Friendly Persuasion was a big disappointment, and is far from a Hollywood classic, it has earned its place in American cinematic history and will be remembered for years to come.