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|Index||88 reviews in total|
Perhaps because my grandfather was born  in the same part of Tennessee as Alvin York I have always enjoyed this movie. As a boy I discovered a book in my grandfather's library about Alvin York and therefore I knew his story long before I saw the movie. Several years ago when I lived in California I bought the movie. However, I am now living in China and my copy of the movie is buried somewhere in storage. I recently enjoyed seeing this wonderful movie here in Beijing on TCM. I have also always enjoyed watching the performances of Gary Cooper. He must have had to spend many hours trying to sound like the movie makers must have thought Alvin York sounded like. I particularly enjoyed listening to the actress who played Ma York who sounded just like my grandmother. I also thought Joan Leslie was beautiful and I enjoyed her performance very much. I also enjoyed Walter Brennan, Harry Caray and Ward Bond. This is not a movie about a sophisticated man. I don't have a positive view of the sort of fundamentalist religion portrayed in this movie and hope that the real Alvin York later learned in his life what a load of crap "old time religion" really is. Neverthelesss, I very much enjoyed this movie and recommend it as a view of history many people have forgotten.
To truly appreciate this film one must have an understanding of the period in which the film was made and of the events depicted in the movie itself. That being said, let me say that I find the film worthy of its acclaim and a true Hollywood classic.
Drunken hillbilly Gary Cooper (as Alvin C. York) is the sharpest
shooter in his Tennessee town, but he doesn't want to fight, after
World War I breaks out. With bushy-eyebrowed parson Walter Brennan (as
Rosier Pile) as a sponsor, Mr. Cooper seeks to become a "conscientious
objector". Older man Cooper has a hankerin' for nubile young Joan
Leslie (as Gracie Williams); he wants to buy some land and settle down
with her, but is drafted. In the United States Army, a sobered and
saved Cooper is reluctant to kill nasty Germans, due to his strong
Christian beliefs. Can "Uncle Sam" make Cooper a real warrior?
Proximity resulted in this film being elevated far above its ration. When Cooper and his hound dog go to a mountaintop, God helps him reconcile Christianity and killing. At least, Cooper's performance is earnest. Staid Margaret Wycherly (as Mother York), Dickie Moore (as George York), and June Lockhart (as Rosie York) keep the home fires burning. She has relatively little to do, but lovely Ms. Lockhart essays the film's most natural performance. Expressive George Tobias (as Pusher Ross), later "Abner Kravitz " on TV's "Bewitched", provides "comic relief" during wartime.
***** Sergeant York (7/2/41) Howard Hawks ~ Gary Cooper, Joan Leslie, Walter Brennan, Margaret Wycherly
The lives of folks in the back-hills of Tennessee are authentically portrayed in perhaps Hollywood's best-ever war movie. Rich in patriotism, religion, morality --- all the things that made America great --- the story concentrates mostly on Sergeant York as a young man and gives viewers an idea how the South has provided the backbone of US military, and not a trace of Hollywood's usual hatred for all things Southern. Rarely seen today, this 1941 film circulated in theaters for years. Too bad these days young audiences never receive reinforcement of traditional American values but instead are fed tripe such as Pearl Harbor --- which justified the Japanese attack on America within the first 60 seconds of the film; or Saving Private Ryan --- wherein the Veterans of D-Day and the Normandy Invasion were trashed by Steven Spielberg, a man who would not recognize patriotism or moral backbone if he tripped over it on his way to the toy store. Please do seek this out at video specialty outlets or eBay. Watching it might just make your day.
Gary Cooper and an otherwise undistinguished cast take a simple plot
(based on a real-life character) and imbue it with enough charm, humor
and mild drama to be well worth the watch. Die-hard fans of war films
might be disappointed if they're expecting a lot of shooting and
bombing, as the film doesn't enter the war until about 90 minutes is
gone, and the war action is sparse, but this doesn't detract from its
Cooper isn't at his best in this film (I imagine it's hard to give much depth to such a simple role), but he definitely stamps it with his trademark integrity, determination and old-school approach to life. The film does drag in spots; some aggressive editing could have reduced this to two hours and improved the more tedious scenes, but overall this is a fine project and very well deserving of the three stars it received.
Audiences loved this biopic about good 'ol boy Alvin York, fresh from
the hills of Tennessee, who entered World War I despite his pacifist
beliefs and then carried out an almost unbelievable act of bravery. It
probably helped that the film came out just as America was entering
WWII, and a message about someone devoting himself to God and country
was just the rallying cry needed.
Seen all these years later, the film is virtually intolerable. It's got the "Forrest Gump" factor. Gary Cooper plays York as such a simpleton that his bravery seems to come more from a general state of oblivion rather than courage. York and the movie spend most of their time reconciling a belief in the Bible and its pacifist teachings with the necessity of killing during wartime, and the countless sanctimonious speeches and aw-shucks American downhome-ness made me want to gag after a while.
Cooper won one of his two Oscars for this, and Walter Brennan and Margaret Wycherly were nominated for playing the town preacher and York's salt-of-the-earth mom, respectively.
Story about an ordinary man who did extraordinary action in
extraordinary times of war. Alvin York (Gary Cooper) was a hillbilly
from Tennessee who was a moral objector of war. But when he engaged the
Germans in WWI, he succeeded in capturing 132 men on his sharp shooting
First 2/3 of the movie is rather slow, and all the actions are concentrated in the last part of the movie. The beginning part tells the story of York's up bringing, or lack of it as not so disciplined young man. But his heart is righteous, and during the battle of Argonne, he single handedly took down the entire German machine gun positions with his marksmanship. Maybe they could have shortened the movie a bit and it would have had a better focus. I'm sure the movie is a highly stylized version of Sgt. York's career to help the war effort during WWII.
It's a mediocre movie by today's standard, but a good story none the less. Joan Leslie who played York's love interest looked like American version of Brigitte Bardot, and was stunning in her role. Gary Cooper was his usual self, as the reliable front man.
Oddly enough, it was while watching this movie I finally had to admit that
Gary Cooper was a poor actor. Cooper's Oscar for his role in Sergeant York
is proof that the Academy Members were as bad at picking Oscars in the 40's
as they are today. As is often the case, the Oscar here seems to have been
awarded for the ROLE and not the PERFORMANCE. And it is after all a very
Hollywood of course adjusted the facts. The bolt of lightning in particular is one of the worst fabrications ever seen in a biographical movie.
Otherwise, it is an often fun movie with some fine supporting performances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Superb biography of Alvin York, a drunkard in old Tennessee, who
experiences a revelation and becomes a Lord fearing individual. His
religious beliefs are put to the test when he drafted into the army
with the outbreak of World War 1. He faces a moral dilemma with his
conscientious objector's beliefs, only to go to the military and become
quite a war hero at the Battle of the Argonne Forest.
No wonder that Gary Cooper received the best actor Oscar award for his genuine performance in totally capturing the spirit of Alvin York.
Though ably supported by a wonderful cast, Cooper is literally a one-man show here. Am very surprised that Walter Brennan and Margaret Wycherly received Oscar nominations here. Their performances were not Oscar-worthy and in the case of Brennan, Donald Crisp was far better in his winning performance of "How Green Was My Valley."
Otherwise, this is a superb film capturing the human spirit. As for Gary Cooper, aw shucks, he was never better.
More than anything, what I saw in "Sergeant York" is that competent
people ran WWI, as opposed to what we see today. But as for the movie
itself, no one can deny that Gary Cooper did quite an impressive job as
simple Alvin C. York, suddenly thrust into a situation against his
religious principles and ironically becoming one of the war's biggest
Still, I have to say that the religious stuff comes across as sort of silly; following a "sinful" streak, he found Jesus (how many people make that sort of claim?). Moreover, he claims that he knows certain things to be true because the Bible says so (so everything started with Adam and Eve, and humans didn't evolve from apes?). I guess that at this point in time, we were trying to get out of the Depression by imagining the whole country as a bunch of ultra-nice small town folk. But in response to "Give me that old-time religion", I say "Give me that Einstein-level science, Hollywood-style depravity, and full-scale world knowledge".
As for the pro-war aspect, it fits into the USA's impending entry into WWII. I try to wonder what Alvin York would think about things were he alive today. Overall, I recommend the movie. At the very least, it remains an indelible part of cinema history. Also starring Joan Leslie and Walter Brennan.
Oh, and the links to "Bewitched"? Playing Pusher is George Tobias, better known as clueless old Abner Kravitz. Gary Cooper later starred in "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell" (also about a WWI hero), co-starring Elizabeth Montgomery. Finally, "Jeopardy!" once had a category called "Sargent/York", in reference to Dick York and Dick Sargent.
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