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Sergeant York
Alternate Title: The Amazing Life of Sergeant York
Director: Howard Hawks (Dir)
Release Date:   27 Sep 1941
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 2 Jul 1941
Production Date:   3 Feb--1 May 1941
Duration (in mins):   134-135
Duration (in feet):   12,056
Duration (in reels):   14
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Cast:   Gary Cooper (Alvin C. York)  
    Walter Brennan (Pastor Rossier Pile)  
    Joan Leslie (Gracie Williams)  
    George Tobias ("Pusher" Ross)  
    Stanley Ridges (Major Buxton)  
    Margaret Wycherly (Mother York)  
    Ward Bond (Ike Botkin)  
    Noah Beery Jr. (Buck Lipscomb)  
    June Lockhart (Rosie York)  
    Dickie Moore (George York)  
    Clem Bevans (Zeke)  
    Howard Da Silva (Lem)  
    Charles Trowbridge (Cordell Hull)  
    Harvey Stephens (Captain Danforth)  
    David Bruce (Bert Thomas)  
    Charles Esmond (German major)  
    Joseph Sawyer (Sergeant Early)  
    Pat Flaherty (Sergeant Harry Parsons)  
    Robert Porterfield (Zeb Andrews)  
    Erville Alderson (Nate Tompkins)  
    Frank Wilcox (Sergeant)  
    Donald Douglas (Captain Tillman)  
    Lane Chandler (Corporal Savage)  
    Frank Marlowe (Beardsley)  
    Jack Pennick (Corporal Cutting)  
    James Anderson (Eb)  
    Guy Wilkerson (Tom)  
    Tully Marshall (Uncle Lige)  
    Lee "Lasses" White (Luke)  
    Jane Isbell (Gracie's sister)  
    Si Jenks (Mountaineer)  
    Herbert Heywood (Mountaineer)  
    Eddy Waller (Mountaineer)  
    Frank McGlynn (Mountaineer)  
    Charles Middleton (Mountaineer)  
    Henry Hall (Mountaineer)  
    Frank Orth (Drummer)  
    Arthur Aylsworth (Marter)  
    Elisha Cook Jr. (Piano player)  
    William Haade (Card player)  
    Jody Gilbert (Fat woman)  
    Victor Kilian (Andrews)  
    Mickey Rentschler (Zeb's brother)  
    Sammy McKim (Boy)  
    Sonny Bupp (Boy)  
    Joseph King (Draft board chairman)  
    Pat West (Sergeant)  
    Harry Strang (Sergeant)  
    Bill Phillips (Sergeant)  
    Walter Sande (Sergeant)  
    Frank Faylen (Butt boy)  
    Murray Alper (Butt boy)  
    Gaylord Pendleton (Scorer)  
    Charles Drake (Scorer)  
    Ray Cooke (Orderly)  
    Paul Phillips (Orderly)  
    Clyde Cook (Cockney soldier)  
    Will Stanton (Cockney soldier)  
    Frederick Giermann (German lieutenant)  
    Arno Frey (German soldier)  
    William Yetter (German)  
    Rolf Lindau (German)  
    Sigfried Tor (German)  
    Eugene Beday (German)  
    James Bush (Private)  
    Victor Zimmerman (Private)  
    William Forrest (Officer)  
    Theodor von Eltz (Officer)  
    Roland Drew (Officer)  
    Russell Hicks (General)  
    Joseph Gerard (General Pershing)  
    Jean Del Val (Marshal Foch)  
    Selmer Jackson (General Duncan)  
    Edwin Stanley (Editor)  
    Jack Mower (Reporter)  
    Eddie Graham (Reporter)  
    Frank Mayo (Reporter)  
    Al Lloyd (Reporter)  
    Nat Carr (Reporter)  
    John Dilson (Reporter)  
    Creighton Hale (A. P. man)  
    George Irving (Harrison)  
    Ed Keane (Oscar of the Waldorf)  
    Douglas Wood (Mayor Hylan)  
    Byron Barr (Soldier)  
    Pat McVeigh (Soldier)  
    Ray Teal (Soldier)  
    Ralph Urmy (Soldier)  
    Wallace Scott (Soldier)  
    Rita La Roy    
    Lucia Carroll    
    Kay Sutton    

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. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Howard Hawks Production
Brand Name: A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
Distribution 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)
Photography: Sol Polito (Dir of photog)
  Arthur Edeson (Battle seq photog)
  Albert Greene (2d cam)
  Frank Evans (Asst cam)
  Charles O'Bannon (Gaffer)
  Mac Julian (Stills)
Art Direction: John Hughes (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Holmes (Film ed)
  Tom Reilly (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Fred MacLean (Set dresser)
  Lou Hafley (Props)
  Lou Dolgin (Asst props)
  Jack McConaghy (Asst props)
Costumes: Smoke Kring (Ward)
  Ted Schultz (Ward)
  Jeanette Storck (Ward)
Music: Leo F. Forbstein (Mus dir)
  Max Steiner (Mus)
  Hugo Friedhofer (Orch arr)
Sound: Oliver S. Garretson (Sd)
Make Up: Perc Westmore (Makeup artist)
  Ern Westmore (Makeup)
  Al Greenway (Asst makeup)
  Paul Malcolm (Asst makeup)
  Edith Westmore (Hair)
  Ethel Griswald (2d hair)
Production Misc: Donoho Hall (Tech adv)
  Paul Walters Capt, F.A.R. (Tech adv)
  William Yetter (Tech adv)
  Captain Chester Carlisle (Tech adv)
  Joe Cramer (Best boy)
  Harold Noyes (Grip)
  Eric Stacey (Unit mgr)
  Eugene Busch (Scr clerk)
  William Guthrie (Loc mgr)
  Carl Voss (Trainer of battle troops)
Stand In: Slim Talbot (Stand-in)
  Ray Meeker (Stand-in)
  George Bookasta (Stand-in)
  Everett Sullivan (Stand-in)
  Lucille Anderson (Stand-in)
  Rita Ross (Stand-in)
  Teddy Blue (Stand-in)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the book Sergeant York: His Own Life Story and War Diary by Alvin C. York, as edited by Tom Skeyhill (New York, 1928).
Authors: Tom Skeyhill
  Alvin C. York

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 27/9/1941 dd/mm/yyyy LP10720

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Rural
  World War I
 
Subjects (Major): Christian ethics
  Farmers
  Heroism
  Mothers and sons
  Alvin C. York
 
Subjects (Minor): Argonne, Battle of the, 1918
  Conscientious objectors
  Conversion (Religious)
  Drunkenness
  Fistfights
  Lightning
  Ministers
  Pacifism and pacifists
  Romantic rivalry
  Sharecroppers
  Sharpshooters
  Tennessee
  United States. Army
  World War I

Note: The film opens with the following written statement: "We are proud to present this picture and are grateful to the many heroic figures still living, who have generously consented to be portrayed in its story. To their faith and ours that a day will come when man will live in peace on earth, this picture is humbly dedicated."
       During the battle of Argonne (8 Oct 1918) the real Alvin C. York (1887--1964) led a detachment in attack on a German machine gun nest and after the detachment was pinned down by enemy fire, he charged another machine gun nest and, though alone, captured ninety men. While marching with his prisoners, he captured forty-two more prisoners at a third machine gun nest. York explained his exploits by revealing that he used a strategy learned from shooting turkeys. In that strategy, he would shoot the last turkey first and thus was able to eliminate most of the turkeys before the ones in the front realized what was happening. (The film's Alvin York used the same technique.) York was promoted to sergeant and later was awarded the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre. On his return to the United States, he received the gift of a farm in Tennessee and donated money to the York Foundation for support of an industrial school and a Bible school in Tennessee. Shortly before his death, York, whose only income was Social Security, disability and a small monthly stipend granted to Medal of Honor holders, was almost destitute and owed the U.S. government over $80,000 in taxes on the money he received for film rights. General John J. Pershing called York "the greatest civilian soldier of the war," and Marshal Ferdinand Foch said to him, "What you did was the greatest thing acomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe."
       The film's working title was The Amazing Life of Sergeant York . HR news items add the following information about the production: A minimum budget of $2,000,000 was allotted for the film. William Keighley was scheduled to direct, but when the starting date was postponed, he went on to another film. According to memos in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, Jesse Lasky suggested Jane Russell for the part of "Gracie" and Helen Wood, Linda Hayes and Suzanne Carnahan tested for the role; Mary Nash tested for "Mother York," and Pat O'Brien and Ronald Reagan were tested for the role of "Sergeant York." Charles Root was also considered for a role in the film. According to the daily production reports included in the film's file at USC, Vincent Sherman directed some scenes while Howard Hawks went to a racetrack.
       A press release adds the following information: Technical advisor Donoho Hall was an author and authority on the dialects and customs of the Southern mountaineers. Eugene P. Walters was head military technical director and William Yetter, former Sergeant Major of the Imperial German Army, advised the filmmakers on the German military. A revolving mountain set was built on Warner Bros.' largest sound stage. The set represented a section of the Tennessee Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf, where Alvin York was born. The mountain, which was covered by cedar, pine and oak trees, and which included a 200 ft. stream, was designed to present sixteen different basic camera angles. Some of the battle scenes were filmed in the Simi Hills, forty miles from Hollywood. Additional location footage was shot in the Santa Susana Mountains and at the Warner Bros. Ranch. A contemporary source states that some of the mountain scenes were filmed in back of York's house in Pall Mall, TN. Because of the 1941 draft, the filmmakers had difficulty finding enough young male actors to play the soldiers and were forced to hire students from local universities. York had been approached by producer Jesse Lasky several times, beginning in 1919, to allow a movie to be made of his life, but had refused, believing that "This uniform ain't for sale." Lasky convinced York that, with war threatening in Europe, it was his patriotic duty to allow the film to proceed. Gary Cooper was York's own choice for the role.
       The NYT review notes that the premiere at the Astor Theater was attended by delegates from Tennessee, government and army officials, as well as Gary Cooper and Alvin York. York was greeted by Colonel George Buxton, the wartime commander of the 82nd division of the United States Army. Later York said, "Millions of Americans like myself must be facing the same questions, the same uncertainties which we faced and I believe resolved for the right some twenty-four years ago." A HR news item reports that in general release, the film showed at higher than usual admission prices that ranged from $.75 to $1.10.
       This highly regarded film was chosen as one of the FD Ten Best Pictures of the Year. It received numerous Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Sound Recording, Original Screenplay, Music, Black and White Art Direction, Interior Decoration and Black and White Cinematography. Walter Brennan and Margaret Wycherly were nominated as Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, and Howard Hawks was nominated for Best Director. Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of Sergeant York, and William Holmes received an Academy Award for film editing. Cooper also was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Distinguished Citizenship medal for his portrayal.
       A 18 Feb 1941 HR news item notes that Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan recreated their roles on the Veterans of Foreign Wars tenth anniversary "Hello America" radio program on 2 Feb 1941 over the NBC Blue network. A press release dated 2 Jul 1941 states that Sergeant York was the first motion picture to be made into a stage play. The film was transcribed by Robert Porterfield, who made his debut in this film. No information about the play's production was found. The film was reissued in Apr 1949. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   12 Jun 1941.   
Film Daily   3 Jul 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Apr 1940.   
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 40   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Oct 40   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Oct 40   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 40   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jan 41   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jan 41   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 41   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 41   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jul 41   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jul 41   p. 9.
Los Angeles Times   9 Oct 1960.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   19 Apr 41   p. 111.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   6 Sep 41   p. 250.
New York Times   3 Jul 41   p. 15.
Time   11 Sep 64   p. 26.
Variety   2 Jul 41   p. 12.

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