Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1941. Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Abem Finkel, Harry Chandlee, Howard Koch, John Huston, based on the diary of Alvin C. York, edited by Tom Skeyhill. Cinematography by Sol Polito. Produced by Jesse L. Lasky, Hal B. Wallis. Music by Max Steiner. Production Design by John Hughes. Costume Design by S. Kring, Ted Schultz, Jeanette Storck. Film Editing by William Holmes. Academy Awards 1941.
Even the corniest of corny American propaganda movies won’t prepare you for the cheesiness that is Sergeant York, an attempt to make an eternal legend out of a World War II hero. Raised in the hills of Tennessee, York is a country bumpkin who dreams of little more than owning a rich plot of land upon which to raise a family until the war comes along and he is drafted. Attempting to avoid service by voicing his objections to battle on religious grounds, the army refuses his exemption and he is pressed into service, doing so well as to win the Congressional Medal of Honour for single-handedly wiping out the entire German army. Gary Cooper gives an adorably awshucks performance in the lead, but it was probably the public adoration of the character that won him his Best Actor Oscar more than any actual skill involved in his making dopey faces for two hours. The depiction of rural Americans is hilariously quaint, while the film’s ideology, that pacifists should fight in wars even when they don’t want to, is hopelessly narrow. Director Howard Hawks is capable of much more though, not surprisingly, this was the only time he was ever nominated for an Academy Award.