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|Index||85 reviews in total|
I love every aspect of this movie, especially Coop's performance. This is (in my opinion) his greatest performance because he was the perfect representative of America's veteran's coming home from a major war and stating clearly that he is not proud of what he did in his service to his country. In the film (as well as the real Sergeant York) he is offered several thousands of dollars (possibly millions) and he refuses it for those reasons stated above. This is my idea of a true hero and what better role model to have than Gary Cooper.
This movie was made in 1941. The US had not entered WWII yet, and until
Pearl Harbor in December 1941, a lot of people still remembered WWI.
Unlike today, Hollywood was at the head of the line churning out
pro-war propaganda. It was aided by British private and public funding,
as well as private American money. What's surprising about this movie
is that despite the story behind how and why this movie was made, this
is a great film. For those who want a lot of action, it may disappoint.
My favorite part of the movie is the beginning, showing how York turned
from rascal, to Sunday school pacifist and how he reacted to the draft.
I came of age during the Viet-Nam draft, and I know from personal
experience of the angst that causes. This inner struggle between the
moral questions about being a soldier when it goes against your
personal beliefs was a struggle that millions of young men have to face
every time your country goes to war.
The best part of the movie, and probably why Gary Cooper won the Academy award is his depiction of this inner struggle. That's the part of the story that the public didn't know. York's combat record was real and had to part of the story. Without the story of how he became a soldier, this would have been a run of the mill movie.
Despite some of the negative remarks about the cast; this film has a great supporting cast, including some who won Oscars themselves. The screen play allegedly was based on York's diary, with the usual liberal interpretations. What is surprising is that it seems like a committee wrote what ended up being a good yarn. The only thing that bothers me about this movie was when York "wetted" his sights. I don't believe York ever did that in real life, and basic training would have ended that practice.
This movie just reinforces the spirit of patriotism that has gripped this country. It should be re-released on DVD. It is very hard to find it, even as a rental. I think this is one of the best movies ever made. The message is one of patriotism, morality, and true soul-searching to determine what is the RIGHT thing to do. This is an exercise everyone would do well to implement.
If you allow for the era, Sgt. York stands the test of time. Way better than any John Wayne war movie. Another example of the film-making skills of Howard Hawks. It was one of the first war films to address difficult issues such how a pacifist can reconcile his religious beliefs with serving his country. Even though sentiment was running against Germany, this movie couldn't have been a propaganda flick because we wouldn't get into the war until the very end of 1941, and only because Germany declared war on the United States.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Smoothly directed by Howard Hawks along Hollywood lines, the film is
the biography -- or maybe "biography" -- of Alvin York, a hillbilly who
engineered the survival of his unit and the capture of a massive number
of Germans, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Historically it serves as an inoculation, giving the American audience of early 1941 just a touch of what it's like for the country to be at war, so that we can all get used to the idea.
The country was full of isolationists at the time, Lucky Lindbergh, an American hero, among them. Few people wanted to "pull England's chestnuts out of the fire" again in 1941. Besides, while war waged in Europe, where it had been going on for a couple of years, American business was doing rather well in producing weapons. They'd pulled that off for a full three years during World War I.
But many people, including President Roosevelt, saw war as ultimately inevitable and it looks like the Warner Brothers did too. This film reminded us that, although war may be hell, we win in the end, as usual.
But it's not a stupid movie by any means. The conflict between living peacefully and making war is presented starkly. Gary Cooper, as York, shows us a man who can be either dissolute and bitter or dedicated and honorable. (He's born again when lightning strikes his rifle and mule in Tennessee.) He's a conscientious objector who does everything possible to avoid the draft because killing is against his religion. The Army gives him an American history book and sends him back home to think things over. He jest studies hisself right up to the dead edge of yonder. Then a breeze ruffles the pages of his Bible and opens it to, "Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's, and unto God those things that are God's." Bingo. He goes to war, excels with the Springfield '03 "rifle gun", and avenges the deaths of his friends by daring and marksmanship -- played partly for laughs, although the shootings would be funny most to boys under the age of fourteen. His behavior under fire and the capture of that horde of Germans is historically accurate though, and it was an astounding feat.
Back home they offer Cooper all kinds of rewards for endorsing products that will cure jock itch, dandruff, hangnails, or whatever, but he refuses to sell his name because he is not proud of the killing he did in France. He prefers to settle down quietly as a farmer in the hills with his family. This is also accurate. The guy must have been a demon of virtues. Joan Leslie provides the requisite love interest but I ain't so sartain she war necessary to thet there a-plot. He winds up happily with his sweetheart in a cottage covered with flowers and surrounded by a white picket fence in the idyllic hills, the kind of place that only exists in fantasies.
It's a rather long movie, and some parts are a little sketchy, especially those dealing with his initial introduction to the Army. But it doesn't drag. Hawks evokes the poverty of the Upland South in the early years of the last century without seeming to strain while doing so. Cooper's disappointment when his Herculean efforts to acquire bottom land fail is almost palpable. Cooper's varying moods are helped along by Max Steiner's sprightly song, which dips into a minor key while we witness misery on the screen.
Given its theme, its obviously pedantic intent, it ought to be dated and boring but it's not. It's a pretty good job.
In this day and age of FRAUDS like Jessica (The 8 day POW) Lynch, this movie is like an oasis in the desert! "Coop" does a flawless job as Sgt. York, portraying his sincere humility like a champ and telling the story like it was! And I love Mr. York's quote; "this is Uncle Sam's Uniform, it ain't for sale!" Mr. York turned down more than $250,000.00 in endorsement offers, and was finally GIVEN 100 acres of land in Tennesse by the grateful people of that state; which was all he wanted. Jessica (The 8 day POW) got more than $3,000,000.00 for her "Heroism" York was a TRUE hero, even though it happened more than 85 years ago. I wish we had more soldiers like him!!!!! A truly great film with great acting and a story line that sticks very close to the truth. And c'mon, Hollyweird, please try to get this one on DVD before the NEXT millennium. It's one of the BEST films ever made.
This movie is not a complete waste of time but I do not believe it can
justify the high ratings it receives here. Sergeant York actually
picked up some Academy Awards so it is interesting to note the movies
it competed with at the time: Citizen Kane, Suspicion, The Little
Foxes, The Maltese Falcon, Yankee Doodle Dandy, How Green Was My
Valley--In short, some of the greatest movies ever made. The stilted
acting and predictable script makes the movie appear older than it
actually is. Made in an era before the discovery of irony, the heavy
handed wartime propaganda film seems cartoonish today. The idea that
Gary Cooper beat out Walter Huston (All that Money Can Buy) or Orson
Welles (Citizen Kane) for best actor says more about Hollywood's
patriotism at the time than it did their ability to recognize or reward
a great performance. A similar observation could be made about it's
Film Editing award.
I found Max Steiner's score to be particularly disappointing. For an interesting comparison look at Sea Hawk, a wartime film made by the British two years earlier as they prepared to enter WWII (with music by Korngold). For a great movie from the era, see any of the movies listed above. For an exercise in tedium see Sergeant York.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sergeant York is a true story based on the life and times of a simple Tennessee farmer with an affinity for hard work, whiskey and a natural ability to shoot a gun. Alvin C York played by Gary Cooper is the town hell raiser who works like a dog to support his mom, Mother York played by Margaret Wycherly and two siblings while spending his weekends drinking and fighting at the local watering hole that sits on the Tennessee and Kentucky state line due to the fact that one was a dry state and you had to walk across the bar to get a bottle. . Alvin is a poor farmer by trade making his meager living by farming the top land, which is poor in comparison the nutrient rich and more fertile bottom land. This is a film depicting a man's greatest struggle, doing what's right and what you believe in or not. Alvin is for the most part a violent alcoholic with tendencies for violence. This all starts to change when he runs across Gracie Williams played By Joan Leslie while chasing a red fox. Alvin spends his every waking moment in pursuit of the money to by his land. With the deadline coming due he concocts a plan to win the turkey shoot and also win the "Beef Critter" which he does in the end only to have the land sold out from under him to Nate Thompkins Played by Erville Alderson. Flying into a murderous rage he heads to the Bar, where he utters his last truly hateful words "I'm a drinkin agin Nate Thompkins". Leaving the bar he is struck by lightning and he has an epiphany and turns his life completely around. With the onset of WWI and the draft, Alvin files for Conscience Objector status only to be turned down and sent to boot camp. He faces dilemma after dilemma whether it be from the Drill instructors giving him grief or his fellow soldiers razzing him for being so backward. He pursues his religious objections while serving, but with a lot of soul searching and reading the book given to him by the major. He comes to the realization sometimes the right things don't seem right at first. You could give something of a comparison between Alvin C. York and Audie Murphy. They are two great American Hero's from two different World Wars. They were both from poor backgrounds in the south and came out of their respective wars as highly decorated Hero's. Two items that stand out are the lighting and the dialogue. The lighting in this movie really sets apart the roles and moods that each character is portraying at the time whether it's the over illumination of Gracie's face the first time she see Alvin or the dark shadows that seem to roll across his face as he is charging the machine gunners in the trenches. I feel the dialogue was very fluidic in the movie, going between the different characters was seamless it did not seem forced or uneasy. Once Alvin turned his life around in the movie he saw that the fruits of his labors and struggles had come to light, he survived by doing what had to be done in order to protect his soldier whatever the cost. He finally got the girl and with the help of the great state of Tennessee he got his bottom land.
"Sergeant York" tells the story of Alvin York, a Tennessee hillbilly
who ended up becoming the most decorated American soldier of WWI; this
despite his original stance as a conscientious objector. That being
said, I wouldn't necessarily categorize it as a war film since the plot
spends as much (or more) time focusing on York's life outside of the
One of the film's eleven Oscar nominations went to the screenwriters, who were certainly deserving in my eyes. Sure, a few liberties were taken with York's story but, in general, the script stays pretty close to the truth. To be honest, the real story is compelling enough, what with the interesting juxtaposition of pacifism and wartime heroics.
The cast deserves a lot of the credit for making the film work. Gary Cooper was the ideal choice for the title character and his performance doesn't disappoint. That he won an Oscar for this role isn't surprising at all. Perhaps even more deserving, though, was fellow Oscar nominee Margaret Wycherly, as York's mother. There are scenes of her's where her expression alone conveys more than words ever could. Another standout is Walter Brennan, who picked up the last of his four Oscar nominations here. I won't single out any more of the supporting cast but suffice to say that they are wholly dependable.
Howard Hawks' direction landed him the sole Oscar nomination of his career. He does a fine job throughout, from rustic set-pieces to the heat of battle. The film garnered several nominations in technical categories, including cinematography and scoring. The capper was the Best Picture nomination, certainly warranted given the film's all-around polish.
Ultimately, "Sergeant York" is a stirring film that has held up nicely. The war scenes, while gritty for the time, may seem a bit sanitized to today's viewers but I'd say that the strength of the film's emotional content makes this complaint a minor one. Whether you like war films or not, I recommend giving "Sergeant York" a try.
Usually I like to share with you interesting details about the film,
like SERGEANT YORK was director Howard Hawks most successful film ever.
Or point out the wonderful performances by Walter Brennan as the
preacher or the amazing Margaret Wycherly as the mother. All three of
these folks were rightly Oscar nominated.
I want to tell you short story from my childhood that my grandfather told me. My grandfather, Elias Alexander Lee knew Alvin York. My grandpa grew up in Livingston, Tennessee the next county over from the tiny town of Pall Mall --Alvin's home town. And after World War One, Alvin York would have my granddad come to pick him up because my Grandfather's mules were the only ones that could cross the deep creek safely on the road to Nashville for the annual VFW fundraisers he would attend once a year. Grandpa told me Alvin was shy, soft spoken and just about as nice & polite a guy you would ever hope to meet.
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