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4.8 out of 5 stars
Sergeant York (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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205 of 212 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
Gary Cooper was 40 years old when he made "Sergeant York," and his Southern accent is weak at best, but those things do not end up detracting all that much from his performance or this film. Directed in 1941 by Howard Hawks, "Sergeant York" has strong propagandistic elements. A whiskey-drinking hell-raiser, Alvin C. York undergoes a religious conversation when lighting strikes his gun and almost kills him. His goal in life becomes getting himself a piece of bottom land so he can propose to Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie). Things go against him, but Alvin holds his temper and does what the Good Book tell him to do. Then World War I breaks out and Alvin is drafted. Unable to get status as a conscientious objector because of his religious beliefs, Alvin has to come to terms with the obligations of citizenship versus the dictates of scripture. The film is surprisingly even handed in showing Alvin debating the matter with his superiors. In the end he comes to the only conclusion possible for men of conscience forced to go to war: killing is justified to save lives.
On the Argonne Forest battlefield Alvin, made a corporal because of his marksmanship, becomes a hero when his unit is trapped and he single-handedly kills 25 and captures 132 prisoners. Called the "greatest civilian solider of the war" by General Pershing, York received the Medal of Honor, France's Croix de Guerre, and basically every high medal the Allies could bestow upon him. But while the film does a first-rate job of showing York's heroic exploits, ultimately it is more about the man that the solider. Cooper's sense of dignity is well-suited to the role, which gives more weight to York's life in the hills of Tennessee than to the war in Europe. What he learned back home clearly stands Alvin in good stead on the battlefield.
The supporting cast of "Sergeant York" is truly outstanding, with George Tobias as "Pusher" Ross, Ward Bond as Ike Botkin and Robert Porterfield as Zeb Andrews. Both Walter Brennan as Pastor Rosier Pile and Margaret Wycherly as Mother York received well deserved Oscar nominations in the supporting category. Brennan marvelously underplays his role as Alvin's spiritual leader while Wycherly is simply the anchor for the entire film. Mother York says little and moves slowly, but everything comes out through her eyes. The scene where Alvin finally gets home from the war and sees his mother at the train station is especially touching: his face lights up completely and her "I'm right glad to see you, son" is the equivalent of other people crying and screaming for joy. In addition to Cooper winning his first Oscar as Best Actor, William Holmes receives one for Film Editing. This is one of those movies I never get tired of seeing and it remains the ideal film to watch on Memorial Day.
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
I can't give it 6. This is probably one of the top 5 movies ever! Cooper is phenomenal. The real Alvin York, probably America's least known hero, told Hollywood that he would allow them to make the movie if Cooper portrayed him, they told the whole story, and no glamour girl portrayed the women. This movie hits the mark. While it does show how President Wilson abused the rights of the religions that are against fighting and war, I believe the message of a man's convictions and how he must kill to save other lives is powerful and applicable in today's society. Believable presentation of York's life before, during, and after the war is the hallmark of the movie. A classic for generations to come.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This review applies to newly manufactured Warner dvds sold after Dec. 5, 2009.

First off, let me make this absolutely clear -- I love this movie, and my gripe is not with the film, or the artists or technicians who originally made this wonderful picture.

My gripe is with the modern-day, greedy studio executives, who have just schemed a new way to stuff even more money into their greedy hands by cheapening the quality of their product.

Apparently, it just wasn't profitable enough for Warner's to make their new dvd cases with the thinnest of plastic, but now Warner's has cheapened the dvd cases even more, by adding huge punched-out hole sections to the front and back of their dvd cases.

I don't know about you, but when I like a movie enough to buy it, I also want to be able to protect it, so I can watch it again in the future.

That might not be as easy as it used to be.

Now, when you open one of these dvd cases, you'll have to remind yourself to adjust your grip to the lightest touch, else you find yourself putting a finger right through the paper jacket, because the plastic that used to be there for support ain't there anymore, and with these ultra thin plastic cases, how many times will you be able to open and close them before they completely fall apart?

This is truly a disgrace, and a great film like Sergeant York deserves better treatment than this!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is one of the best American films ever. It stands out as a monument to America's greatest era. It has the most representative American actor of all times, Gary Cooper, and possibly the second best American director ever, Howard Hawks. It's a piece of Americana. It's a religious, patriotic, social, and political film, but above all, it's a masterpiece. Its key moment (truly beautiful) is when York is rummaging about his dilemma between God or Country. Then he finds those illuminating verses: "to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's". Ask yourself if in 2007 Americans are giving each its due (or rather stealing from them).

The film is respectuful to the religious beliefs of people. It portrays the commonsense and hardships of hardworking country folk with no abuse or ridicule; it is emotional and funny; it is realistic and sensitive. It has great trench war scenes, wonderful family gathering scenes, and beautiful settings in the country. Nobody but Hawks (or John Ford) could have risked making this complicated film, and come up with something so perfect. It's embarrassing to think of what could be done today with a story like this one, especially when political, social and religious elements are involved. Hawks handles every thread of the story amazingly.

Curiously enough the real Alvin York requested that Cooper play the leading role, and would not accept anyone else (to allow the rights for the story), and he also requested that the girlfriend didn't "drink, smoke or swear"; and she does a splendid performance too (she was only 16).

The extra disc comes with 2 documentaries, one 1/2 hour long, about the story of the real York, and another, some 50 minutes about Cooper's career, and hosted by Clint Eastwood. Pretty good both.

The value of the film itself is enough for any classic film collector to rush to get it. But, as I said already, it is also a piece of Americana, worth using as an educational tool in towns that have forgot how truly great America once was.

With God & Country you have Gary Cooper.
No God & Welfare, you have Michael Moore.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This movie is based on a real life story about a man who is saved by Jesus Christ and then goes off to war. Unlike the war movies made today, the plot revolves around the man's faith in God, (which might be why they never show this movie on the networks, although its a classic).
Sergeant York gets saved in a church after being struck by lightening, and after he is saved he is drafted, and spends time reconciling doing what Christ commands with killing people during time of war. (This isn't an easy thing to reconcile, and perhaps especially for a newly saved person, even if most movies act like its nothing.)
After reading the bible however, York finds the answer, and goes to war, becoming one of America's great heroes, and in the end, he and his future wife are greatly blessed by God.
If all this sounds too heavy, it isn't. Sergeant York is from Tennessee and the movie is actually quite light hearted. I also enjoyed hearing the hymn 'Give me that Old Time Religion'.
One of my favorite movies, and worth getting if you are tired of the trash they put on tv, and want some films with Christians in them.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
For anyone sick of the "nauseating MTV culture," then this is the movie for you. It perfectly portrays American culture and values in a way that is entertaining and meaningful. Gary Cooper is perfectly cast as Alvin York and gives an Academy Award winning performance. Though Coop was 40 when this was made and is obviously too old for the part (and his Southern accent isn't so good), his acting skills carry him through.
Walter Brennan, always outstanding in any role, supports brilliantly and Joan Leslie is believable as York's girlfriend.
Yes, this movie is sappy and contrived in spots, but it's wonderful anyway. The musical score is also memorable and integrated well throughout the film. If you love Gart Cooper or American, it's hard not to like this movie.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Based on the true story of the life of Alvin C.York. Despite the picture on the box, this movie is not about war so much as it is about the unique character of this back-woods Kentucky sharpshooter and farmer. (The real Alvin York insisted that Gary Cooper play his part or refuse to sell the story. The result was on the money as Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of Sergeant Alvin York in probably the best performance of his life.) Though he signed on as a consciencious objector, the young York reluctantly served in World War I ~ only to go on to become a decorated war hero who astounded the world with his fearless bravery, leadership and winning humility.
You'll cheer, and you'll laugh at the many humorous scenes seeded throughout the movie (some pretty funny 'a courtin' scenes with his bride to be!) and love the part of the old pastor played by Walter Brennen who takes York under his wing. There are some sad and intense war scenes you may not want the little ones to see, but this is one classic you won't want to miss!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2001
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
Although there were more than a few details of this movie that were not accurate, overall it is a wonderful piece. The stereotypical back-hills Tennessee accents were perhaps a bit much, but the real Alvin York didn't seem to complain when the movie was made (although he did chastize Gary Cooper for being photographed for a publicity shot holding a cigarette, something York would never do).
The story is of a rough-necked young mountain man who finds religion right before WWI and then struggles with his conscience as to whether or not he can kill and still live up to his Christian ideals. Well, God was on his side as he became an international hero (quite by accident) then went home. the movie ends there, but I would also recomend reading a recent biography of York to see what a truly extraordinary man he was. He wouldn't capitalize on his fame to make money, and he used what little he did have to try to build schools to bring education to the rural hills of Tennessee.
Alvin York is one of the greatest examples of an American hero that we have, not because of his actions in war, but because of his actions in peace and his devotion to God, His country, and his neighbors.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Gary Cooper's first Academy Award winning performance (his other award was earned from "High Noon") is in one of the most memorable films to come out of Hollywood. World War I had been one of the most unpopular wars ever fought by the United States. Even though President Woodrow Wilson promised to keep the country out of the war, the pressures to enter were just too great. Even near the war's conclusion in 1918, uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict was quite prevalent; the United States was in need of a hero to keep the morale up. This film is based on the true life story of Alvin York, a Tennessee native who at first objected to his induction into the army due to religious beliefs. This gifted sharpshooter played a significant role in helping to win the war for the Allies. This film has everything needed to be a cinematic classic whose popularity will endure for generations to come.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
This is one of the nicest film's I have ever seen. I have no idea why the studios have not put this on DVD given it is likely one of the best creations ever in Hollywood. Hollywood studios seem almost totally detached from the market they serve.
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