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|Index||94 reviews in total|
Howard Hawks directed Gary Cooper(in an Academy Award winning best actor performance) as Alvin C. York, a Tennessee man who starts off as a drunken hell raiser who is a source of embarrassment to his mother, who still steadfastly stands by him. He turns his life around when, after an accident in a thunderstorm, he sees the light, and converts to his grateful pastor(played by Walter Brennan) becoming a fervent follower, which means a pacifist. He also buys some bottom land, and marries the girl he loves, named Gracie. When WWI breaks out, York is drafted into the army, and does a great deal of soul-searching before deciding to go, and ends up becoming the most decorated soldier of the war, singlehandedly capturing a group of German soldiers by using the same technique applied to winning Turkey shoots! Excellent direction and performances, good script combine to make a memorable film, that is all true, even if it does seem incredible.
Howard Hawks is truly shaping up to be a director who can bring out
timeless movie magic out of any genre. It's easy to see his influence
everywhere in the most charming contemporary mainstream movies. While
this is a war film, the war doesn't come into it until the last hour,
devoting the first to character development. It's almost as if the
character, who begins the film a hopeless brute, proves himself to the
audience and then to the world with his heroic act. He's a very
compassionate and modest character, and with a redemption story behind
him, he's very easy to support, even if there's a hint of silliness
with Gary Cooper playing a character around 15 years younger than
It's a film with a good heart, and although it can be melodramatic, it's very emotional and rarely sentimental. While it's known for being released at a point where American's were going to World War II, there's a debate about whether it's a pro or anti-war film, while it at once encourages Americans to fight, the character argues that it's wrong throughout. I think it's neither, and rather an anti-violence film and tries to prove that wars shouldn't be fought with violence. While it's patriotic nature can be up for debate and despite its heavy-handed religious side, Sergeant York is classic filmmaking and definitely bumps Howard Hawks into being one of my favourite directors of all-time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie about the famous Sergeant Alvin York is a Gary Cooper movie I would be able to see, as I have, repeatedly. Cooper parlays well his versatile acting ability as a hillbilly from waaaayy back is the sticks of Tennessee who proved himself as an adept soldier. As a minister, I am always impressed by stories about people who have strong Christian convictions, as did York. Gary Cooper portrays that type of person very convincingly. At the same time, Walter Brennan was excellent in the role of the mentoring pastor who was very much of a help and encourager toward the perplexed man. Not only could potential GI's learn how to be in character and military ability, but this movie does strongly show forth the fact that any one, no matter what type of environment in which he is raised, can better himself and, of course, prove himself. Not only are there exciting World War I scenes in this cinematic piece, but it is also a warm and inspiring movie.
I find it amazing that there are foreigners who seem to take any
American-made war movie as an opportunity to bash the United States,
even when it was not America that started the war. With "Sergeant
York," it's their loss.
Alvin York was a real person, and this is a 95 percent true story. When this movie came out, it was seen not only by his friends and family, but by a nation that knew his story from the news accounts two decades before.
From Bosley Crowther's New York Times film review of July 3, 1941:
"While the real-life hero himself sat among the audience, 'Sergeant York,' the Warner Brothers film on the life of the Tennessee mountaineer who became America's greatest hero of the last war, held its prèmiere last night at the Astor, attended by delegations from Sergeant Alvin C. York's home State, notables of the screen world and government and Army officials ....
"Accepting the applause of the audience on behalf of his comrades in the Meuse-Argonne exploit resulting in the capture of 132 Germans, Sergeant York later expressed the wish that the film would contribute to 'national unity in this hour of danger,' adding that 'millions of Americans, like myself, must be facing the same questions, the same uncertainties which we faced and I believe resolved for the right some twenty-four years ago.' "
York was one of the greatest war heroes of our country, a man of genuine modesty who sought to use his fame not for personal profit, but to help others, including the building of a road and school for his neighbors. You can read more about his life online.
It is said by those who knew her that Margaret Wycherly bore a remarkable resemblance in looks and manner to York's mother. Though worn down like a river pebble in an Appalachian stream, she understood a thing or two, like when Alvin put a handful of soil on a plate:
"That there's bottom land soil, ain't it?
"Queer how the folks that lives on the bottom looks down on the folks on top.
"'Twere always that way. Ain't no changin' it."
Alvin sets out to change it, and fails. But he never gives up, and never forgets his roots. This is not just a war movie about courage in battle; it is about the courage of character.
York started out life as a "hillbilly": a poor, uneducated person who lives in a rural, mountainous area, in this case, Tennessee's Cumberland hills of the Appalachian range. The term has become stereotyped, in part from "The Beverly Hillbillies," but archaeological research has shown that many of these families were more affluent and better read than most knew; they just happened to like living a quiet life in the mountains, in areas that now often host luxury homes.
These real hillbillies were good, hard working, honest people. Here is what Crowther said in his review:
"The picture has all the flavor of true Americana, the blunt and homely humor of backwoodsmen and the raw integrity peculiar to simple folk."
Alvin York brought a pure, simple integrity into the heart of battle: the European trenches of World War I. He didn't scheme, he didn't calculate, he just did what was right.
York's purity of soul brings to mind another simple country lad: England's King Arthur, who was able to pull the sword from the stone because of his pure heart. But York, when he was offered money and power, turned them down.
Sergeant York is one of America's great heroes. But I hope others can find inspiration in him, too, and in this wonderful movie.
Best Real Life Depiction of Simple Christian People,, not wealthy, not
proud.. far from the TV evangelist kind..
Hard working dedicated folk to their family, land, and church.
Farm life depicts the cascading ups and downs of real life.. you plant, you water, you wait patiently for the increase.
these people had no want ads.. computers, cell phones.. they talk with each other, depend on each other, real grass roots..
we could use some of that in 2011. Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan and Joan Leslie give me the encouragement to imitate them,, they model real honest, genuine, transparent people.. no hype.. no facades,, the kind of people you want as neighbors and co workers as well as friends!!
Being a history buff, I had read the story of Sergeant York, and so was
interested in seeing the portrayal of it. Gary Cooper was super at
creating such a reluctant hero. His mannerisms, even his speech, really
set the tone for who the character would become. I also fell in love
with his mother. What a sweet lady! June Lockhart was phenomenal in
I thought the backdrop of the film from the mountains to the war theatre was actually done very well. I have watched some old films where it looked like a backdrop. I don't know much about how they did these things before computer animation, but this film's scenes were well set.
The story itself was great. I love seeing a true story come to life and enjoyed the happy ending. I highly recommend this film, but be sure to read the story of Alvin York for yourself.
This film is one of the few films that's known to be completely
accurate. And it's an excelelnt film. both as a film and as a
biography. Mr. Cooper puts in a splendid, well deserved Best Actor
Oscar winning performance. He did Alvin York complete justice in his
brilliant portrayal of him. In fact...Alvin York himself wanted Coop to
play him. I know York was honored with Coop's portrayal. York started
off as a simple farm boy then became a hero. I truly do recommend this
film to anyone.
Everything about this film is perfect: the script, the performances/the cast, the score and the direction.
Coopers Oscar-winning performance is among his best, also great
The first half of it is a masterpiece, but when ´he became a soldier it
some of its spirit, but a great movie - GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION
Of course behind the blatant war propaganda and shameless
just-converted preacher's talk, in the end, what the producers wanted
was making money.
Hence the hodge-podge of other things they throw into their concoction: romance, a strong-minded matriarch (but not even close to Ma Joad from "The Grapes of Wrath") rivalry, et al - which made them end up with a movie which might as well have been two or three different ones (talk about bad editing!)and, as I mentioned on the title, it ends up not achieving one of them skillfully enough to be taken seriously.
After all, I dare even the most hard-core fan/advocate of this movie not to admit even they were wondering by the end of its second third, whether they were watching the right movie or not or when the war bit was actually going to start and how! The question "When is the sergeant finally taking over?" was constantly at the back of my mind by then.
To mention a few flaws, and as much as I am a huge fan of, say Screwball comedy and the odd romance threw in, and still a great admirer of Hawks's, I fail to understand how on earth it could amass so many academy awards in spite of the gigantic competition that year (Citizen Kane et al).
Maybe Gary Cooper, as usual, deserved his statuette in the end, as the truly convincing redneck simpleton who always goes about life with a naive look on his face (Mr. Deeds, anyone?).
Also (and this is still the huge Howard Hawks fan speaking) the director/writers were just trying to be faithful to the book. As I can't vouch for it simply because I didn't read it, I'll have to quote someone else's review when they say this was a blatant case of an autobiography in which the author seemed to give more emphasis to promoting his deeds and achievements than actually worrying about whether his book would be a pleasant read or not. I very much doubt that Rambo-like scene actually happened that way! As far as my weak war tactics knowledge go, they threw it all through the window in that particular scene!
But the film editing award!? Come on! Does the war effort really put people so out of their minds!? Do they suddenly start awarding people for simply saying what they want the population to hear and ignoring the great minds who don't comply to all that brain washing!?
Finally, making war look like a turkey shooting (and fun!) wasn't IMHO a wise move.
After watching this faux-pas I'm in desperate need of watching more sober films such as "Citizen Kane"; "All Quiet in The Western Front" for what a real WWI movie should look like, or even Hawks's sublime Screwball masterpiece "Bringing Up Baby" for laughs only, not an all-in- one concoction of a movie!
PS: For Christ's sake, sharpshooters are meant to do just that in the trenches, not just chatting about between ducking here and there!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alvin York is a good-for-nothing hoodlum in his Tennessee hometown. At
least, that's what most of the townsfolk think. The most they ever
really see of Alvin is when he and his buddies get boozed up and ride
around hootin' and hollerin' on horseback, shooting their guns and
generally being a dangerous nuisance.
But Alvin's mother knows the truth, that there is a different side to her son. His drinking problem and his violent temper aside, he's done a commendable job of looking after the York family ever since the death of his father, working their farm and pretty much singlehandedly taking care of his mother and his two younger siblings. He's also one of the finest sharpshooters in town. When he's sober, anyway. Unfortunately, the times when Alvin is sober are few and far between lately.
Desperate, Mrs. York asks their cousin, local preacher Pastor Rosier Pile, to try and talk some sense into her hellraising son. It doesn't go so well - Alvin isn't in much of a mood to listen. During one of his rare moments of sobriety, Alvin meets and falls in love with local girl Gracie Williams, but his brutish and antagonistic nature, including beating up and driving off a fellow suitor, aren't exactly endearing him to her. Not quite getting the hint, Alvin gets it into his head that if he can own his own piece of land, Gracie will come around and agree to marry him, so he swears off the booze for a while and starts doing odd jobs in an effort to buy some land.
However, when the man selling the land swindles him and sells it to the suitor Alvin beat up, a despairing Alvin hits the bottle again and becomes worse than ever. One dark and stormy night, he drunkenly decides to get his rifle and go and murder the land salesman for cheating him, over the objections of his buddies. On the way, though, a bolt of lightning strikes his gun, and an instantly sobered-up Alvin comes to the conclusion that this is a sign from God.
He swears of drinking and becomes a pacifist. He begins making amends with everyone he's ever wronged and everyone who's ever wronged him impressing Gracie with his new ways and making her fall in love with him. But just as things are looking up for Alvin, the US enters the Great War against Germany. Alvin, who now considers violence and killing morally wrong, tries to opt out as a conscientious objector, but the military isn't having it. His sharpshooting skills are just too good for them to pass up.
Fortunately, his life in the Army isn't all that bad. His superior Major Buxton is sympathetic to his views, and Alvin also meets and befriends "Pusher" Ross and Bert Thomas. His shooting skills soon earn him a promotion to corporal as well. All too soon, though, they're being shipped off to Europe. They aren't there long before Bert gets killed by enemy mortar fire, and, under the command of Sergeant Early, they storm a heavily-fortified German machine gun position.
An attempt to flank the Germans goes disastrously wrong. Although they capture the Germans' commanding officer Major Vollmer, enemy fire forces everyone to take refuge in a trench, where they're pinned down. A wounded Early gives Alvin command and tasks him with taking out the machine gun nests. Can the conflicted Alvin find a way of winning the battle by killing as few enemy soldiers as possible? Is there a way to stop the killing but still hold true to his pacifist beliefs? Leaving the captive Vollmer with Pusher, Alvin gathers his courage and charges across the battlefield towards his destiny.
Sergeant York is an amazing movie that shows how a man can change himself to become a better person, and take this betterment with him to use his pacifist ideals to bring a conflict to as non-violent a conclusion as possible, actions for which he'd earn the Medal of Honor.
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