July 1941: Sergeant York

Sergeant York. Howard Hawks. 1941.

This is a big-budget huge sentimental Hollywood movie written by John Huston and directed by Howard Hawks and starring just about everybody.

This was nominated for all the Oscars and won a couple, and neither is surprising. This is one of those national myth-building American films that pop now and then. It’s Howard Hawks, so it looks good, but coming off of a Fritz Lang high, the huge vistas somehow seem pedestrian.

But it’s just downright disturbing seeing a slightly balding 40-year-old Gary Cooper playing a teenager. He goes for 16-year-old dopey but hits developmentally challenged instead.

Still, it’s an interesting movie. It’s set during the previous war, and the protagonist is a pacifist farmer (well, he’s read the bible and the bible is apparently agin’ it), but he still has to go. Is that a comment on the US’ stance during the current war (so far)? It’s a sub rosa agitation for the US to get involved in the fight against Hitler? But set in the previous war to avoid having the Senate Committee on Hollywood Pro-British Activities come down on them like a ton of rocks?

It’s not a movie for strident atheists.

Unfortunately there’s no documentary extras on this DVD, because I kinda wanted to know what they were thinking when they made this.


Some of the response to the film divided along political lines, with advocates of preparedness and aid to Great Britain enthusiastic (“Hollywood’s first solid contribution to the national defense”, said Time) and isolationists calling it “propaganda” for the administration.

Hm… Oh! This is based on a real person, and all the weird stuff in here really happened? I didn’t see that one coming. And Alvin was 30 in 1917, which makes more sense than him being a teenager.

Lots of weird acting choices in here.

Popular movies in July 1941 according to IMDB:

sc-tt0034167.jpg126827.8Sergeant York
sc-tt0034027.jpg9207.3‘Pimpernel’ Smith
sc-tt0033432.jpg21967.1The Bride Came C.O.D.
sc-tt0034182.jpg13507.1The Shepherd of the Hills
sc-tt0033457.jpg4077.0Charley’s Aunt
sc-tt0033369.jpg2066.0Bad Men of Missouri

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

Leave a Reply