Sunday Matinee: Sergeant York

Propaganda movies are nothing new. They have been around since the beginning of the film industry. With WWII looming, producer Jesse Lasky decided to make a movie about real life WWI hero Alvin York. York was a conscientious objector who ended up becoming a hero when he and the remains of his unit captured 132 German prisoners.

Alvin York was a hillbilly farmer who found religion and stopped his wild ways. The 1941 film was directed by Howard Hawks and starred a clearly older Gary Cooper as York. The age difference was clearly noticeable when the 40 year old Cooper starts romancing the 16 year old Joan Leslie. Creepy.

Like all propaganda movies – this film is preachy. After finding religion, York doesn’t want to fight in the war. The Bible tells him not to kill but he is drafted into the army anyway. An awesome marksman, York’s superiors want York to teach the men on how to shoot. The job comes with a promotion, which York refuses because of his religion. His superior officers give a him a big speech about understanding his point of view but they need to uphold the ideals of the United States and how it was founded , etc, etc. After a while – York agrees and goes to war becoming the most decorated American soldier of WWII.

Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his role in the film but he’s done better movies. The message of the film is far from subtle and it makes for a boring movie experience until you get to the battle sequences. Fritz Lang’s 1941 propaganda film Man Hunt is far more entertaining movie.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.