Sergeant York (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

Sergeant York (1941)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

When World War I hero Alvin York agreed to sell the movie rights to his life story to Warner Bros., it was on three conditions: (1) That the film contains no phony heroics, (2) that Mrs.York not be played by a Hollywood "glamour girl" and (3) That Gary Cooper portray York on screen. All three conditions were met, and the result is one of the finest and most inspirational biographies ever committed to celluloid. When the audience first meets young farmer Alvin York (Cooper), he's the cussin'est, hell-raisin'est critter in the entire Tennessee Valley. All of this changes when York is struck by lighting during a late-night rainstorm. Chalking up the bolt from the blue as a message from God, York does a complete about-face and finds Religion, much to the delight of local preacher Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan). Despite plenty of provocation, 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). When America goes to war in 1917, York elects not to answer the call when drafted, declaring himself a conscientious objector. Forced to go to boot camp, he proves himself a born leader, yet still he balks at the thought of killing anyone. York's understanding commanding officer Major Buxton (Stanley Ridges) slowly convinces the young pacifist that violence is sometimes the only way to defend Democracy. Later on, while serving with the AEF in the Argonne Forest, Sergeant York sees several of his buddies, including his Bronxite best pal Pusher Ross (George Tobias), killed in an enemy ambush. His anger aroused, York personally kills 25 German soldiers, then single-handedly captures 132 prisoners. As a result, York becomes the most decorated hero of WW1, celebrated by no less than General John J. Pershing as "the greatest civilian soldier" of the war. The film won Gary Cooper his first Academy Award, and also picked up an Oscar for Best Film Editing. Not surprisingly, it ended up as the highest-grossing film of 1941.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Tom Skeyhill, Alvin C. York, Abem Finkel, Harry Chandlee, Howard Koch
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 7, 2006
Warner Bros. Pictures


Gary Cooper
as Alvin C. York
Walter Brennan
as Pastor Rosier Pile
Dickie Moore
as George York
Charles Trowbridge
as Cordell Hull
David Bruce
as Bert Thomas
Charles Esmond
as German Major
Joe Sawyer
as Sgt. Early
as German Major
Joseph Sawyer
as Sgt. Early
Pat Flaherty
as Sgt. Parsons
Margaret Wycherly
as Mother York
Robert Porterfield
as Zeb Andrews
Erville Alderson
as Nate Tompkins
Frank Wilcox
as Sergeant
Don Douglas
as Capt. Tillman
Lane Chandler
as Cpl. Savage
Frank Marlowe
as Beardsley
Jack Pennick
as Cpl. Cutting
Guy Wilkerson
as Tom Carver
Tully Marshall
as Uncle Lige
Jane Isbell
as Gracie's Sister
Frank Orth
as Drummer
Arthur Ayleswofth
as Marty, Bartender
Rita La Roy
as Saloon Girl
Lucia Carroll
as Saloon Girl
Jo Gilbert
as Fat Woman
Kay Sutton
as Saloon Girl
Elisha Cook Jr.
as Piano Player
Joseph W. Girard
as Gen. John Pershing
William Haade
as Card Player
Jody Gilbert
as Fat Woman
Frank Faylen
as Gunnery Spotter
Murray Alper
as Gunnery Spotter
Selmar Jackson
as Gen. Duncan
Theodore von Eltz
as Prison Camp Commande...
Roland Drew
as Officer
Jean Del Val
as Marshal Foch
Selmer Jackson
as Gen. Duncan
George Irving
as Harrison
Edward Keane
as Oscar of the Waldorf
Gig Young
as Soldier
Walter Sande
as Sergeant
Clyde Cook
as British Soldier
Douglas Wood
as New York Spokesman
Si Jenks
as Man at Church
Ray Teal
as Marching Soldier
Lee "Lasses" White
as Luke, the Target Kee...
Kit Guard
as Soldier on Rifle Ran...
Carl Esmond
as German Major
Donald Douglas
as Capt. Tillman
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Sergeant York

Critic Reviews for Sergeant York

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (4)

The performance of Gary Cooper in the title role holds the picture together magnificently, and even the most unfavorable touches are made palatable because of him.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The first half is quite good, documenting York's rural upbringing with great simplicity and charm. But the second part -- the war -- degenerates quickly and grotesquely.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 27, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Even given a nest of flaws, the basic arc works beautifully: Cooper's abashed, aw-shucks demeanor is a perfect fit for the part.

Full Review… | June 7, 2014
Antagony & Ecstasy

Moving, memorable, great Warner Bros. biography of WWI hero York, with fine Cooper performance--an Oscar winner.

February 22, 2008

Audience Reviews for Sergeant York

A "simple" Appalachian converts to Christianity and then goes to WWI.
There is a scene in which York is struck by lightning, which propels him to "find God." While it purports to be based on a true story, shit like that makes me doubt its veracity. What's worse is the film's treatment of York, who is portrayed without even enough sense to tie his shoes, yet by the end of the film, we're supposed to revere his bravery and conversion from conscientious objector to violence. This characterization - I balk at calling anyone in this film a "character" - not only paints Americans and Appalachians as decidedly anti-intellectual, but it also suggests that Christianity is mutable enough to be jettisoned at the first call of violent duty.
Overall, this film is both insulting and ridiculous.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


I liked Sergeant York but wasn't absolutely floored by it. The first half of the movie where York is a hell-raising yokel was entertaining, even if it did feel kind of forced. The second religious half was good even if there weren't enough of the WWI battles I'd expected and storywise it was more interesting, too. I'm not the world's biggest Gary Cooper fan but he was pretty good here. The hickishness of Sergeant York got kind of annoying after awhile but consider the source. Overall, it wasn't what I expected but it was still good.

Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

I don't want to be a soldier. I don't want to go to war. I would seriously consider dodging the draft if there still was one. I identified with Gary Cooper's character. Yet, the movie's message is strongly supporting war and a soldier's work. Somehow I still enjoyed the film, and can appreciate it for the things it does well.

Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

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