It’s certain to be well before your time and it’s certainly well before mine. But if you are looking for a great classic war film that might not well known beyond the baby boomer generation, Sgt. York is one of the best. The biggest selling film of 1941 starred one of cinema’s greatest actors in Gary Cooper, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the legendary World War I hero Alvin York. The American actor gained even more prominence with other films like High Noon and Pride of the Yankees. In fact it was Alvin York himself who demanded that Gary Cooper be the actor for the movie.
For those unfamiliar with the story of Sgt. Alvin York, the Tennessee hillbilly was the most decorated American soldier from that war and a recipient of the prestigious Medal of Honor. Sgt. York is credited for leading his fellow American soldiers in an attack in the historic Meuse-Argonne battle, which resulted in the killing of 25 and the capture of 132 German soldiers, while silencing 35 machine guns. The movie pretty much shows that he singlehandedly knocked off soldiers one by one until the remaining Germans surrendered and waved a white flag. However Alvin York himself says he was only responsible for at least nine of the deaths, but there is no question he stood out amongst his colleagues. Sgt. York became a national hero after a story about his exploits was published in the Saturday Evening Post 1919.
In the movie, Alvin York was an excellent marksman in civilian life and a conscientious objector, due to his strong Christian beliefs but still was drafted by the U.S. Army. After a passionate conversation with his pastor, he decided to enter military service. He was one of the best shooters in his small town of Pall Mall and won a turkey shoot by imitating the turkey’s gobble. It was his hilarious rendering of a turkey gobble that allowed him to shoot most of the Germans in the classic movie, as the German helmets kept popping up when they heard the noise.
The movie featured a number of famous actors of that era including Walter Brennan as the pastor, George Tobias, Ward Bond, Noah Berry Jr. and June Lockhart as his sister Rosie York. If you are having a hard time remembering these actors or don’t even know who they are, let me help you, but I’m fairly certain that any baby boomer knows who they all are. Walter Brennan was a three-time Oscar winner but perhaps his most famous role was on television in the role of the patriarch of The Real McCoys comedy that aired in the 60s. George Tobias was a well known character actor best known for his performance as Abner Kravitz the neighbor of Samantha in the original Bewitched comedy show. Ward Bond’s most famous role was also in one of the longest running and most popular television shows in history: Wagon Train. Noah Beery Jr. also had a long career in movies and television and his most recognizable role was in the popular 70s show The Rockford Files, which starred James Garner. Lastly June Lockhart, who is the only actor still living that I’ve mentioned, starred in three memorable television shows: Lassie, Lost in Space and Petticoat Junction.
Chances are you might not bother with seeing this old movie, especially since it definitely looks dated and doesn’t have any of the modern special effects that you’ll see in current movies like Transformers or Spider Man. But the entire movie is available for free on You Tube. You can also to get a brief preview of this highly regarded classic, just by checking out the video below. The real action starts about two minutes into the clip and about nine minutes into it, you’ll see how he is able to how Sgt. York is able to capture over a hundred Germans by himself. If you do decide to spend a few hours to watch the movie in its entirety, I doubt you will not enjoy one of the best movies in theaters just before America entered World War II.