Per IMDb: “A hillbilly sharpshooter drafted in WW1 despite his claim to be a pacifist, who ends up becoming a war hero.”
Gary Cooper stars as Alvin York, a drunken and rowdy young Tennessean man, who upon his mother’s behest starts straightening up and then falls in love with the lovely Gracie Williams (Leslie) and does what he can to secure a track of bottom land to call his own
farm so he can marry Gracie and provide for her. He makes a deal with a local land owner to raise enough money in sixty days to pay the balance owed on the purchase. He misses it and the land owner agrees, verbally, to give him four days to get it. Alvin participates in a beef and turkey shoot to raise the money but the land owner sells the land to someone else, Zeb Andrews (Robert Porterfield), who buys it just to spite Alvin.
Alvin flips out and somehow staggers into a church meeting during a violent storm and finds the lord. He goes back to the land owner and apologizes for freaking out and threatening him and asks to buy the mule he traded in as a down payment for the land he didn’t get. The man sells it back to him cheaper than he bought it because of his “new life.” Alvin then goes to Zeb and asks if he can work on the farm. Everything is just fine until the US enters into World War I.
Alvin tries to get out of the draft by being a conscientious objector but to no avail because his church isn’t officially recognized. Alvin is a master marksman and teaches the others to shoot and they promote him to corporal. He doesn’t want the position because of his religion, but after some convincing, he realized it was okay to serve. How does he do in the war? Does he make it out alive or get back home to his girl? You’ll have to watch to find out.
The film was part comedy, part war film. The whole first hour and a half is only the bad-boy-turned-good story and the last hour is about the war. It has plenty of light-hearted moments and plenty of serious tones. It’s supposedly based on a diary of a real soldier but some of it seems a bit far-fetched. I don’t know how much is true but I’m sure much of it is fabricated. Still, it’s a good watch.
It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards: Best Actor, Film Editing, Picture (then called Outstanding Motion Picture), Director, Writing, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, Music and Sound Recording. Sergeant York won Best Actor for Cooper and Best Film Editing. It is also one of the 400 nominees for the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies which is why I watched it.
Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 84% Fresh with an Audience Score of 86%. IMDb has it at 7.8 stars out of 10. It is only available on Amazon Prime and not on Netflix or DVD.com. I own it as part of a collection of Gary Cooper films but had never seen it. I have now. I rate it 4.25 stars out of 5. Have you seen it? What do you think? Do you agree? What would you like to see/hear me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I ain’t a-goin’ to war. War’s killin’, and the book’s agin’ killin! So war is agin’ the book!” – Alvin York