Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Stanley Ridges, Margaret Wycherly, Ward Bond, Noah Beery Jr., June Lockhart, Dickie Moore, Clem Bevans, Howard Da Silva, Charles Trowbridge, Harvey Stephens, David Bruce
Written by: Abem Finkel, Harry Chandlee, Howard Koch, John Huston, based on the diary of Alvin C. York
Directed by: Howard Hawks
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 134
Date: 07/02/1941
IMDB

Sergeant York (1941)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

True 'York' City

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In his early pictures, Gary Cooper showed a surprising masculine sensuality, especially opposite Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's great Morocco (1930), and a playfulness in Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living (1933). Like other 20th century actors (Gregory Peck and Meryl Streep are the most notable examples), he had greatness thrust upon him with an Oscar nomination (for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, in 1936) and found himself stuck in very important pictures, trying to win Oscars each time out. This restricted Cooper, and sometimes left him with that bewildered, wooden performance. Howard Hawks' Sergeant York (1941) is another example of this. Hawks was one of the two or three greatest directors of the studio system, able to treat his pet themes (friendship between sexes, codes of honor, etc.) across all types of genres. Sergeant York brought him his one and only Oscar nomination for Best Director, and it's arguably his least interesting film. Based on the true story of World War I hero Alvin York, Cooper stars as a man who becomes a hillbilly marksman before finding religion. When the war comes, he refuses to fight because the Bible states "Thou shalt not kill." But fight he does, and his sharp-shooting skills make him a hero. Hawks was under pressure to turn in a propaganda film, tuned in to the mood of World War II, and it went against his best instincts. The film begins well, but gets more and more preachy as it goes. Fortunately, Hawks and Cooper were able to make up for it a few months later with the wonderful screwball comedy Ball of Fire, in which Cooper's stiffness was put to good use in the role of an out-of-touch professor.