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Sergeant York

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Sergeant York (1941) starring Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie
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Sergeant York (1941) starring Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie

Synopsis of Sergeant York

Sergeant York is the story of World War I hero who captured German position single-handedly. It begins with his early life, and conversion, and his inner conflict over going to war.

Review of Sergeant York

I truly enjoyed Sergeant York on multiple levels.  It’s a (fairly) accurate biography of the actual Sergeant Alvin York.  And, it doesn’t whitewash or pull any punches.  At the beginning of the movie, York is living in the backwoods of Tennessee.  His family farm is on rocky ground, and it’s hard work to make a living there.  And Alvin’s hard working, hard drinking, fighting man.  An angry man, who nearly kills a man in revenge.

And then, Alvin York literally has a come-to-Jesus moment.  And he becomes a changed man.  A man who bows to the Bible in everything, and becomes a pillar of his community.  When World War I breaks out, he refuses to defy the Bible and kill the enemy. His pacifist views prevent him from enlisting. However, after being drafted, he’s faced with Biblical truths that he hadn’t thought of.  It’s an honest, well-depicted struggle by a man of conscience.

Eventually, Alvin realizes that duty to his fellow soldiers and his country are important as well, and he goes off to war.  It sounds like a joke, but he actually succeeds in capturing more than 100 Germans almost single-handedly at the Battle of Argonne.  The military then tries to capitalize on the public relations value of the young soldier …

In short, Sergeant York is an excellent film, which I highly recommend.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Cast of characters

Editorial review of Sergeant York courtesy of

Gary Cooper plays Alvin York, the real-life country lad and sharpshooter drafted to fight during World War I but blocked from killing by his pacifist sentiments. Howard Hawks makes a rousing, heroic film out of the tale, and Cooper gives one of his best performances (for which he won an Oscar). The 1941 feature seems as much a valentine to wartime America (and a not-so-subtle piece of propaganda) as anything, with Hawks capturing splendidly shot scenes of life in York’s home state of Tennessee, which in turn provide a striking contrast to the battlefield. A key scene in the film, in which York is presented with an argument in favor of killing in war, is still thought provoking. –Tom Keogh

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