Top critical review
on 26 May 2011
Alvin York (Gary Cooper) lives in a small farming community and doesn't bother with things like going to church. He works hard and likes to wind down by getting drunk and fighting until one day, after a talk with Pastor Pile (Walter Brennan), he gets his hallelujah moment and becomes religious. But what a time to discover God....he's needed to join the army and go killing people. We see Alvin brooding over the matter before he goes to war and becomes a hero. This is a true story.
This film is way too long and the first hour is boring and unnecessary. I'm afraid that Alvin's life is just not very interesting and the characters that live in his world are stupid and slow. A special mention for annoying goes to Margaret Wycherly who plays his mother. Every time she appears, we get this patronizingly wholesome and dull music accompanying her as she plays her part with a slowness and deliberation that will have you cringing. Unless you are a moron.
Gary Cooper is watchable, as always, but he is way too old for the part. It is completely unbelievable that he has a younger brother "George" as played by Dickie Moore who is so young. Walter Brennan is good as the preacher man despite his crazy eyebrows. Both these actors give the film a touch of humour here and there, eg, when they are discussing how to get out of the draft via immunity but the whole film is annoyingly underplayed by Cooper and he comes across as a simpleton. I understand that the war scenes did actually occur and that is to the real Sergeant York's credit. This needs to be understood before seeing the film or you will just dismiss his actions as Hollywood sensationalism as Cooper pretty much wins the war single-handedly.
The music for this film is terrible - imagine playing the dreary English National Anthem.....repeatedly.....on purpose. The guy in the music department was obviously mental. Despite having a dull, goody-two shoes script, the performance of Cooper keeps you watching and the name "Alvin York" now takes a new significance when it comes to famous "Alvins". To an Englishman, he's up there in the top 3, just ahead of Alvin and the Chipmunks but just behind Alvin Martin the West Ham defender, although he is still way behind the legendary 1970's singer Alvin Stardust (won't you be my "Coo Ca Choo").