Monday, September 17, 2007

Cinema Still Life: Howard Hawks directs the Coop

Howard Hawks (seated to the left of the arc light) directs Gary Cooper (three guesses which one he is) in Sergeant York, the highest grossing film of 1941. Cooper played Alvin York, a real life war hero who took up arms after years of pacifism. And this Cinema Still Life proves one thing without a doubt: I don't have to like the movie to find the photo interesting, and I have never liked Sergeant York.

It's one of the few Howard Hawks films I don't like. Maybe it's all the blathering on about the "good book" or the naive huckleberry routine of Cooper. But mainly it's this: I don't like Alvin York.

Raised a christian until his father died when he was eleven, he abandoned his faith until later in life becoming a fundamentalist born-again. He tried to exempt himself from fighting in World War I as a conscientious objector but was enlisted anyway. Apparently he was swayed that fighting in a war could be endorsed by the Bible. How in the hell could it not? There's enough slaughter and mass murder in that book, and done by God for the most part, to fill the Grand Canyon with blood and entrails from end to end. So he fought, killed 25 Germans, captured over a hundred others and came back a hero. Hooray for pacificst ideals! Years later he refused to let Hollywood make a movie about him... unless Gary Cooper played him. Lord, what an ego. And thus came Sergeant York, a jingoistic movie about a phony, egotistical fundamentalist fraud. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

But hey, pretty cool photo, huh?