Sargeant York

Sergeant York is a 1941 biographical film about the life of Alvin York, the most-decorated American soldier of World War I. It was directed by Howard Hawks and was the highest-grossing film of the year.


Alvin York (Gary Cooper), a poor Tennessee hillbilly, is an exceptional marksman, but a ne’er-do-well prone to drinking and fighting, which doesn’t make things any easier for his patient mother (Margaret Wycherly). He undergoes a religious awakening when he is struck by lightning during a late-night rainstorm and turns his life around, assisted by Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan). York vows never to get angry at anyone ever again, determining to be a good husband and provider for his sweetheart Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie).

York tries to avoid induction into the Army for World War I as a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs but gets drafted into the Army nonetheless. His status as a true conscientious objector is rejected since his church has no official standing, and he reluctantly reports to Camp Gordon for Army basic training. During basic training, his superiors find out that he is a phenomenal marksman and promote him to corporal.

York still wants nothing to do with the Army and killing. Major Buxton, his sympathetic commanding officer, lectures York about history from a U.S. history book. He gives York temporary leave to go home and think about fighting to save lives. York wants to read the U.S. history book and the officer gives it to him. He tells York that after his leave if he still doesn’t want to fight he will discharge him from the Army. York reads the book, decides he will serve his country and reports back for duty. York decides to leave it in God‘s hands, but still doubts he can kill someone because of his interpretation of the Bible.

His unit is shipped out to Europe and participates in an attack during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Pinned down by German fire and seeing his friends being shot down all around him, his self-doubt disappears. Owing to the large number of casualties, York suddenly finds himself the last remaining Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) and thus placed in charge. He works his way around behind German lines and shoots with such deadly effect that the Germans surrender. Then, York forces a captured German officer (Charles Esmond) at gunpoint to order the Germans still fighting to surrender. He and the handful of other survivors end up with 132 prisoners. York becomes a national hero and is awarded the Medal of Honor.

York later explains that he did what he did to hasten the end of the war and minimize the killing.

Returning to Tennessee, after a ticker tape parade and celebration, the people of Tennessee have purchased the bottomland farm he tried to get before the war and paid for a house to be built on the land where Gracie and Alvin will start their married life. (wikipedia)

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