Patton (film)

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Patton
70 patton.jpg
film poster
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Produced by Frank McCarthy
Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola
Edmund H. North
Based on

Patton: Ordeal and Triumph 
by Ladislas Farago

A Soldier's Story 
by Omar Bradley
Starring George C. Scott
Karl Malden
Michael Bates
Karl Michael Vogler
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Fred J. Koenekamp
Edited by Hugh S. Fowler
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s)
  • April 2, 1970 (1970-04-02)
Running time 170 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12,625,000[1]
Box office $61,749,765[2]

Patton is a 1970 American biographical war film about U.S. General George S. Patton during World War II. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a script by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, who based their screenplay on the biography Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and Omar Bradley's memoir A Soldier's Story. The film was shot in 65mm Dimension 150 by cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp and has a music score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Patton won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The opening monologue, delivered by George C. Scott as General Patton with an enormous American flag behind him, remains an iconic and often quoted image in film. The film was a success and has become an American classic.[3]

In 2003, Patton was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".

Plot[edit]

The film's beginning has General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) giving a speech to an unseen audience of American troops (based on his speech to the Third Army), with a huge American flag in the background. The scene then shifts to North Africa at the start of 1943, where Patton takes charge of the demoralized American II Corps in North Africa after the humiliating defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. After instilling discipline in his soldiers, he leads them to victory at the Battle of El Guettar, though he is bitterly disappointed to learn afterward that Erwin Rommel (Karl Michael Vogler), whom he respects greatly as a general, was not his opponent. Patton's aide, Captain Jenson, is killed in the battle and replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Codman who assures Patton that, though Rommel was absent, that if Patton defeated Rommel's plan, then he defeated Rommel.

Patton is shown to believe in reincarnation, while remaining a devout Christian. At one point during the North Africa campaign, he takes his staff on an unexpected detour to the site of the ancient Battle of Zama. There he reminisces about the battle, insisting to his second in command, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden) that he was there.

After North Africa is secured, Patton is involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily. His proposal to land his Seventh Army in the northwest of the island is rejected in favor of the more cautious plan of British General Bernard Law Montgomery, in which the British and American armies are to land side-by-side in the southeast. Frustrated at the slow progress of the campaign, Patton defies orders, racing northwest to capture the city of Palermo and then narrowly beats Montgomery in a race to capture the port of Messina in the northeast. However, Patton's aggression is regarded with increasing disquiet by his subordinates Bradley and Truscott, and he is eventually relieved of command for slapping and threatening to shoot a shell-shocked soldier, whom he accuses of cowardice, in an Army hospital.

For this incident and for his tendency to speak his mind to the press, he is sidelined during the long-anticipated D-Day landings, being placed in command of the fictional First United States Army Group in southeast England as a decoy. German General Alfred Jodl (Richard Münch) is convinced that Patton will lead the invasion of Europe.

Fearing he will miss out on his destiny, he begs his former subordinate, General Omar Bradley, for a command before the war ends. He is given the Third Army and distinguishes himself by rapidly sweeping across France until his tanks are halted by lack of fuel. He later relieves the vital town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He then smashes through the Siegfried Line and drives into Germany itself.

Patton has previously remarked to a British crowd that the United States and Great Britain would dominate the post-war world, which is viewed as a slight to the Russians. After the Germans capitulate, he insults a Russian officer at a celebration; fortunately, the Russian insults Patton right back, defusing the situation. Patton then makes an offhand remark comparing the Nazi Party to the political parties in the US. In the end, Patton's outspokenness loses him his command once again, though he is kept on to see to the rebuilding of Germany.

The film ends with Patton walking his dog, a bull terrier named Willie, and Scott relating in a voice over that a returning hero of ancient Rome was honored with a victory parade in which "a slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Script preparation[edit]

Attempts to make a film about the life of Patton had been ongoing for over fifteen years, commencing in 1953.[5] Eventually, the Patton family was approached by the producers for help in making the film. The filmmakers desired access to Patton's diaries, as well as input from family members. However, by unfortunate coincidence, the producers contacted the family the day after Beatrice Ayer Patton, the general's widow, was laid to rest. After this encounter, the family refused to provide any assistance to the film's producers.

In the end, screenwriters Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North wrote the script based largely on the biographies Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley.

Omar Bradley served as a consultant for the film, though the extent of his influence and input into the final script is largely unknown. While Bradley knew Patton personally, it was also well known that the two men were polar opposites in personality, and there is evidence to conclude that Bradley despised Patton both personally and professionally.[6][7] As the film was made without access to General Patton's diaries, it largely relied upon observations by Bradley and other military contemporaries when attempting to reconstruct Patton's thoughts and motives.[8] In a review of the film, S.L.A. Marshall, who knew both Patton and Bradley, stated that "The Bradley name gets heavy billing on a picture of [a] comrade that, while not caricature, is the likeness of a victorious, glory-seeking buffoon. ... Patton in the flesh was an enigma. He so stays in the film. ... Napoleon once said that the art of the general is not strategy but knowing how to mold human nature. ... Maybe that is all producer Frank McCarthy and Gen. Bradley, his chief advisor, are trying to say."[8]

The opening shown here is not the original one as envisaged and created by Francis Ford Coppola.

That began with the entire screen filled with the American flag and nothing else. Then, without being able to see him, we hear General Patton begin to deliver his "Pep Talk", and from a low POV the camera begins to very slowly rise, whilst all the time we can hear the General's voice. Very gradually we ascend, until the shiny dome of the general's helmet is revealed to us over the top of The Stars and Stripes. Next, the three stars on the front of his beloved head gear come into view; then its peak; and still higher, until eventually we see his face, in close up.

In the version shown here, the flag is in mid field, and General George Patton walks up some steps onto a stage, and we see him commence his delivery in mid shot.

Hence most of the visual richness and dramatic suspense of the original Coppola creation is lost. A creation which inspired a friend of the screen writer's to suggest that he design a distinctive opening to another of his films; The Godfather.

The opening[edit]

The opening scene of the movie.

Patton opens with Scott's rendering of Patton's famous military "Pep Talk" to members of the Third Army, set against a huge American flag.[9] Coppola and North had to tone down Patton's actual words and statements in this scene, as well as throughout the film, to avoid an R rating; in the opening monologue, the word "fornicating" replaced "fucking" when criticizing The Saturday Evening Post. Also, Scott's gravelly and scratchy voice is the complete opposite of Patton's high-pitched, nasal and somewhat squeaky voice, a point noted by historian S.L.A. Marshall.[8] Yet Marshall also points out that the film contains "too much cursing and obscenity [by Patton]. Patton was not habitually foul-mouthed. He used dirty words when he thought they were needed to impress."[8]

When Scott learned that the speech would open the film, he refused to do it, as he believed that it would overshadow the rest of his performance. Director Franklin J. Schaffner assured him that it would be shown at the end. The scene was actually shot on the stage of the theater at the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station in Los Alamitos California.

All the medals and decorations shown on Patton's uniform in the monologue are authentic replicas of those actually awarded to Patton. However, the general never wore all of them in public and was in any case not a four-star general at the time he made the famous speeches on which the opening is based. He wore them all on only one occasion, in his backyard in Virginia at the request of his wife, who wanted a picture of him with all his medals. The producers used a copy of this photo to help recreate this "look" for the opening scene. However, the ivory-handled revolvers Scott wears in this scene are in fact Patton's, borrowed from the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum.

In The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne's Political Odyssey, author Steven Travers offers the theory that the opening monologue, which was not really found in Patton's biography, was influenced in part by a speech John Wayne made to alumni and then the USC football team during the 1966 USC-Texas football weekend. Wayne was up for the role before dropping out to make The Green Berets. According to Travers, USC assistant coach Marv Goux began "channeling" Wayne's speech to the Trojans in subsequent pre-game pep talks. USC film student John Milius (Dirty Harry, Red Dawn) is said to have either snuck in and heard Goux or heard about Goux through his friend, another film student named Ron Schwary, the USC football team manager and later an Oscar-winning producer. Milius is then said to have told his friend Francis Ford Coppola, writing the screenplay for Patton, to use this language in the script. In addition, a confrontation between Wayne and Nikita Khrushchev in 1958 so closely parallels the argument between Patton and the Russian general at the end of Patton that Travers theorizes that since Wayne was a USC alum this story made its way to their film school, and to Milius, who then relayed it to Coppola for use in the movie.

Locations[edit]

Most of the film was shot in Spain. One scene, which depicts Patton driving up to an ancient city that is implied to be Carthage, was shot in the ancient Roman city of Volubilis, located in Morocco. The early scene, wherein Patton and Muhammed V are reviewing Moroccan troops including the Goumiers, was shot at the Royal Palace in Rabat. One unannounced battle scene was shot the night before, which raised fears in the Royal Palace neighborhood of a coup d'état. One paratrooper was electrocuted in power lines, but none of this battle footage appears in the film. Also a scene at the dedication of the welcome center in Knutsford, England was filmed at the actual site. The scenes set in Africa and Sicily were shot in the south of Spain (Almeria ), while the winter scenes in Belgium were shot near Segovia (to which the production crew rushed when they were informed that snow had fallen).[10]

It has been noted that in the scene where Patton arrives to establish his North African command, a supposedly "Arab" woman is selling "pollos y gallinas" (chickens and hens) in Spanish, which is not normally spoken by local people in Tunisia (though it is in the north of Morocco, Spanish Protectorate from 1912 to 1956).

Use of footage[edit]

A sizeable amount of battle scene footage was left out of the final cut of Patton, but a use was soon found for it. Outtakes from Patton were used to provide battle-scenes in the made-for-TV film Fireball Forward which was first broadcast in 1972. The film was produced by Patton producer Frank McCarthy and Edmund North wrote the screenplay. One of the cast-members of Patton — Morgan Paull — appeared in this production alongside Eddie Albert, Ben Gazzara and Ricardo Montalban. The plot featured a general taking command of a U.S. infantry division with a high casualty rate, a reputation as a hard-luck outfit and a suspected traitor hiding in its midst.[11]

Music[edit]

The critically acclaimed score for Patton was composed and conducted by the prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith used a number of innovative methods to tie the music to the film, such as having an echoplex loop recorded sounds of "call to war" triplets played on the trumpet to musically represent General Patton's belief in reincarnation. The main theme also consisted of a symphonic march accompanied by a pipe organ to represent the militaristic yet deeply religious nature of the protagonist.[12] The music to Patton subsequently earned Goldsmith an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score and was one of the American Film Institute's 250 nominees for the top twenty-five American film scores.[13] The original soundtrack has been released three times on disc and once on LP; through Twentieth-Century Fox Records in 1970; through Tsunami Records in 1992, through Film Score Monthly in 1999, and a two-disc extended version through Intrada Records in 2010.[12][14]

2010 Intrada Records Album[edit]

Disc One[edit]
Disc Two[edit]

Distribution[edit]

First telecast[edit]

Patton was first telecast by ABC-TV as a three hours-plus color film special in the fall of 1972, only two years after its theatrical release. This was highly unusual at the time, especially for a roadshow theatrical release which had played in theatres for many months. Most theatrical films at that time had to wait at least five years for their first telecast. Another unusual element of the telecast was that very, very little of Patton's profanity-laced dialogue was cut (only two sentences, one of which contained no profanity, were cut from the famous opening speech in front of the giant U.S. flag).

Home media[edit]

Patton was first released on DVD in 1999 featuring a partial audio commentary by a Patton historian. Then again in 2006 with a commentary by screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola and extra bonus features.

The film made its Region A (locked) Blu-ray debut in 2008 to much criticism for its excessive use of digital noise reduction on the picture quality. In 2012, a remaster was released with much improved picture quality.[1] In June 2013 Fox UK released the film on Region B Blu-ray, but, incredibly, used the discredited 2008 transfer.

Reaction[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Roger Ebert said of George C. Scott, "It is one of those sublime performances in which the personalities of the actor and the character are fulfilled in one another."[15] Online film critic James Berardinelli has called Patton his favorite film of all time[16] and "...to this day one of Hollywood's most compelling biographical war pictures."[17]

According to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book The Final Days, it was also Richard Nixon's favorite film. He screened it several times at the White House and during a cruise on the Presidential yacht. Before the 1972 Nixon visit to China, then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai specially watched this film in preparation for his meeting with Nixon.

Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 98% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 41 reviews, with an average score of 8.4/10. The film is currently No. 100 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of best rated films.[18] Rotten Tomatoes summarizes the critical consensus as, "George C. Scott's sympathetic, unflinching portrayal of the titular general in this sprawling epic is as definitive as any performance in the history of American biopics."[19]

Accolades[edit]

Scott's performance won him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1971. He famously refused to accept it, citing a dislike of the voting and even the actual concept of acting competitions.[20] He was the first actor to do so.

The film won six additional Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound (Douglas Williams, Don Bassman), and Best Art Direction (Urie McCleary, Gil Parrondo, Antonio Mateos, Pierre-Louis Thévenet).[21] The Best Picture Oscar is on display at the George C. Marshall Museum at the Virginia Military Institute, courtesy of Frank McCarthy.

It was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Music, Original Score.[22]

In 2006, the Writers Guild of America selected Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North's adapted screenplay as the 94th best screenplay of all time.

American Film Institute Lists

Sequel[edit]

A made-for-television sequel, The Last Days of Patton, was produced in 1986. Scott reprised his title role. The film was based on Patton's final weeks after being mortally injured in a car accident, with flashbacks of Patton's life.

See also[edit]

In 2005, Patton's wife's "Button Box" manuscript was finally released by his family, with the posthumous release of Ruth Ellen Patton Totten's book, The Button Box: A Daughter's Loving Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton.[23]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
  2. ^ "Patton, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  3. ^ Rabin, Nathan (May 24, 2006). "Patton". AV Club. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  4. ^ Cornwell, Rupert (2002-07-10). "Rod Steiger, 'brooding and volatile' Hollywood tough guy for more than 50 years, dies aged 77". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  5. ^ The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne's Political Odyssey, by Steven Travers
  6. ^ D'Este, Carlo. Patton: A Genius For War, New York: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-016455-7 (1995), pp. 466-467
  7. ^ D'Este, Carlo, Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, New York: Henry Holt & Co. (2002), pp. 403-404
  8. ^ a b c d Marshall, S.L.A. (March 21, 1970). "Great Georgie Redone". The Charleston Gazette 4: 4. 
  9. ^ ≠°Travers, Steven. The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne's Political Odyssey."
  10. ^ http://www.in70mm.com/news/2003/patton/index.htm
  11. ^ "Fireball Forward - Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Clemmensen, Christian. Patton soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  13. ^ AFI's 100 Years Of Film Scores from the American Film Institute. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  14. ^ "Patton". Intrada Records. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  15. ^ Roger Ebert (March 17, 2002). "Patton (1970)". rogerebert.com. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  16. ^ "#1: Patton". reelviews.net. 
  17. ^ James Berardinelli. "Patton". reelviews.net. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Top 100 Movies Of All Time". RottenTomatoes.com. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Patton". RottenTomatoes.com. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  20. ^ Entertainment Weekly
  21. ^ "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  22. ^ "NY Times: Patton". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  23. ^ Washington Times - Gen. Patton's wife, a New York citizen

Travers, Steven. The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne's Political Odyssey, 2014.

External links[edit]