For more than 20 years studios sought permission to film the heroic World War deeds of Sergeant York. And for as long a period York refused the necessary cooperation for a film of his heroism on the early morning of 8 October 1918, when he single-handed killed 20 Germans and compelled the surrender of 132 of the enemy in the Argonne sector.
Lauded, praised, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, York side-stepped all proffers to benefit from the acclaim. He returned from army service to his home in Pall Mall, Tenn, where he devoted himself to farming and educational work.
It is film biography at its best. The writers have paid more attention to character, and the backgrounds and associations which create it, than to incident.
For Gary Cooper the role is made to order. He convincingly portrays the youthful backwoodsman, unruly as a youth, who in time gains mastery over his wildness. The romantic passages played with Joan Leslie are tender and human. But Cooper is best, perhaps, in the scenes of early camp training when his marksmanship, learned in the woods, attracts attention. Among the featured players the reliable Walter Brennan is splendid as the combination village pastor and storekeeper.
1941: Best Actor (Gary Cooper), Editing.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supp. Actor (Walter Brennan), Supp. Actress (Margaret Wycherly), Original Screenplay, B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Sound