Cautions: some violence, slang and minced oaths, brief mild sensuality, and mild ethical confusion
Sergeant York is the drawly, black-and-white story of backwoods Tennessean Alvin York, once a violent drunk, then a radically converted Christian pacifist, then, much to his dismay, a drafted soldier in France in 1918. Ultimately reconciling the use of force with obedience to God’s Word, Alvin goes on to take thirty-two German machine guns, kill twenty-eight enemy soldiers, and capture four officers and one hundred and twenty-eight troops—all on the same day, all by himself.
1941 | Howard Hawks | 129 min
Machine guns, shrapnel and bayonet fighting take out several men, though gore is at a minimum. A few of the deaths are more personal, but not emotionally intense.
Before his conversion, Alvin gets into a fight that results in destruction of property. This is resolved. His younger brother comes to fetch him with a gun in his hands.
At one point, Alvin contemplates killing a man in revenge. His wrong attitude is resolved, however.
Slang and Minced Oaths
I’ll be danged
I’ll be danged
I’ll be danged
I’ll be blowed
An American soldier refers to the Germans as “Heinies”.
Brief Mild Sensuality
An unmarried couple kisses a couple of times.
A girl shyly flirts with Alvin.
Couples are seen dancing in a non-sensual manner.
A side character finds a “big woman” attractive, and makes a joking comment about her.
A salesman peddles ladies’ bloomers.
Mild Ethical Confusion
The portrayal of Christianity in Sergeant York is positive, and usually theologically correct. There are, however, a few minor questionable statements.
An unconverted Alvin says that “Religion’s just got to come to a man,” (“religion” and “Christianity” are used as synonyms throughout the movie), as an excuse for his not seeking after God. The pastor appears to go along with it. The pastor also says that between Alvin and God, they’d have Satan beat. A prayer includes “Lord, if ye can.” The phrase “a little religion” is used.
When Alvin is faced with the draft, he tells his pastor, “War is agin’ the Book,” and the pastor agrees, though their perspectives seem to change later on.
It is said that Alvin’s church leaves each of its members to have any interpretation of the Bible they see fit, but it does not appear that any of the members hold heretical beliefs, or even very different beliefs from one another.
Alvin’s mother doesn’t condone his wild behavior before his conversion, but downplays it apparently for the sake of her own dignity. One person asks “who’s to blame him if he busts loose every now and then?”
The movie’s dedication to the faith “that a day will come when man will live in peace on earth,” could be taken a couple of different ways.
Sergeant York is based on a true story and is a faithful retelling of all the major events, though some details were altered.
Alvin and his friends are seen drinking and drunk, but this is portrayed negatively.
There is occasional smoking.
Alvin obtains a sixty-days note on a property deal.