AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Sergeant York
Director: Howard Hawks (Dir)
Release Date:   27 Sep 1941
Duration (in mins):  134-135
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Cast: Gary Cooper  (Alvin C. York)
  Walter Brennan  (Pastor Rossier Pile)
  Joan Leslie  (Gracie Williams)

Summary: The Valley of the 3 Forks of the Wolf, located in the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee, is the home of the Yorks, a family of poor mountain farmers. In the spring of 1916, a drunken Alvin C. York, the oldest son, interrupts a church service attended by his mother, sister Rosie and brother George, when he and two friends take potshots at a nearby tree. Later, at Mother York's request, Pastor Rossier Pile speaks to Alvin, but has little influence on the hell-raising young man. One day, while hunting, Alvin encounters Gracie Williams and instantly decides to marry her. When he tells this plan to Gracie, however, she turns him down cold. Convinced that Gracie's objections would be overcome if he had more money, Alvin determines to buy a rich piece of bottomland to farm. He works day and night to earn the money, collecting the final amount after winning a shooting contest, but when he brings the money to Nate Tompkins, the owner, he learns that Nate sold the land a few minutes earlier to Zeb Andrews, his rival for Gracie's hand. Alvin proceeds to get very drunk and then, on his way to kill Zeb, is hit by lightning. Taking this as a sign from God, Alvin starts to attend church and makes his peace with Zeb and Nate. Soon, a surprized Zeb offers to let Alvin sharecrop the land he just bought. When the United States enters World War I, Alvin refuses to register for the draft, believing that killing, even as a patriotic duty, is against the Bible. Pile convinces him to register as a conscientious objector, but Alvin's request for "C.O." status is denied and he is drafted. At Camp Gordon in Georgia, Alvin's shooting so impresses his superiors that they promote him to corporal and make him an instructor. Although he agrees to teach, Alvin turns down the promotion because of his religion. His superior officer, Major Buxton, counters by arguing the importance of defending freedom, and gives Alvin a furlough to think over the proposition. In the end, Alvin decides to accept the promotion, and later, his unit sails for France to fight in the Argonne offensive of 1918. As the men advance through an area surrounded by Germans, Alvin single-handedly kills twenty Germans and convinces 132 more to surrender. Together with the seven men remaining from his unit, Alvin brings the German prisoners back to headquarters. He is awarded a French medal, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor. After returning to a hero's welcome in New York, Alvin wants nothing more than to go back to Tennessee. He refuses all the money offered to him, explaining that he did what he did because he had to and is not proud of what happened. Back in Tennessee, Alvin is reunited with his family, his beloved mother, and Gracie. Despite Alvin's wish not to gain by his actions, the people of Tennessee have purchased the bottomland farm and paid for a house to be built on the land where Gracie and Alvin will start their married life. 

Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Director: Howard Hawks (Dir)
  Jack Sullivan (Asst dir)
  John Prettyman (2d asst dir)
  William R. Lasky (3d asst dir)
  Vincent Sherman (Addl dir)
Producer: Jesse L. Lasky (Prod)
  Hal B. Wallis (Prod)
Writer: Abem Finkel (Orig scr)
  Harry Chandlee (Orig scr)
  Howard Koch (Orig scr)
  John Huston (Orig scr)

Subject Major: Christian ethics
  Mothers and sons
  Alvin C. York
Subject Minor: Argonne, Battle of the, 1918
  Conscientious objectors
  Conversion (Religious)
  Pacifism and pacifists
  Romantic rivalry
  United States. Army
  World War I

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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