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This grand World War II epic explores the tribulations and triumphs of one of America's greatest Army tank commanders, General George S. Patton, from his command assignments in Africa, in Italy, and to his command of the 3rd Army in Europe.
The cast includes: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Ed Binns, Stephen Young, Lawrence Dobkin, John Doucette, James Edwards, Frank Latimore, Karl Michael Vogler, Richard Munch, Morgan Pauli, and Siegfried Rauch.
Patton won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.
The award winning screenplay was written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North.
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner.
Best Picture Oscar Winner / Best Picture Index
During World War 2, General George S. Patton, had the powerful ability to prepare and motivate the men he led, and was a genius when it came to tank battle tactics which terrified the Germans, who called him the "pure warrior." His tremendous gift of battle strategy combined with intelligent thought was a terrific asset to the Army in which he served whole-heartedly, passionately. Patton also had some big faults, such as his mouth, his hot temper, his controversial methods, and his tendency toward insubordination, especially when it came to obeying the orders given that fostered good will among the Allies, which not necessarily, in his opinion, helped their battle against the Germans.
The opening of the film sets the tone for the whole story. One sees a huge, stage-size American flag, hanging on the back wall of the stage. Patton (George C. Scott) comes up on the stage, where he salutes while a trumpet plays a traditional military tune. He then begins his motivational speech to his troops. He starts off with a blunt fact. "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
He goes on to explain in his own unique way that the Army fights as a team, and explains his battle philosophy. "We are advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy! We're going to hold on to him by the nose, and we're gonna kick 'em in the ass!" He assures them that they will know what to do when they find themselves on the battlefield, after describing a gruesome scenario. He ends his speech by saying: "I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle, anytime, anywhere!"
The film then goes to a wide shot of the dessert in Tunisia, and in one continuous pan, it slowly shows us the landscape; the hills, a ruined village, goats, and finally a battlefield at Kasserine Pass, which is strewn with overturned jeeps, disabled /destroyed "purple heart" American tanks, and finally we see close-ups of dead American soldiers, in various stages of undress. Arab nomads were busy taking off their clothes to sell elsewhere, as their only means of surviving the times. This was one entire 1,800 troop division, that was no match for this first encounter with the superior German tank and infantry force. The Arabs are scared away by an approaching 2 star general jeep, which carries General Bradley and company to see this awful site.
Meanwhile, in Rabat, Morocco, General Patton is receiving an award from the ruler there for his successful amphibious landing and liberation of the place. Then, the story once again switches back to Tunisia, showing General Bradley surveying the sorry state of the troops stationed at El Katar. Bradley's evaluation: "We need someone tough enough to pull this outfit together." The other officer with Bradley says, "Patton? God help us!"
Patton arrives into El Katar, with sirens blazing. After taking one silent look on his walking tour of the dissheveled, demoralized, undisciplined servicemen, Patton reestablishes army sprit du corp. After settling in as commander, he schedules a meeting with a representative of British Air Command, to find out why the troops in that ill-fated battle at Kasserine Pass had no air support. In the middle of this meeting, three German fighters fly over and attack with plane guns the compound, and the very room of the meeting. Patton becomes so incensed that he goes down to the street, and shoots at the planes with his gun!
Meanwhile, at both Rommel's camp, and at Berlin German Headquarters, we get to see how the Germans think and feel about the Allies and Patton. Actors in these scenes speak German, and the audience reads English subtitles, which adds to the reality of the situation.
The next sequence of scenes tell the audience of Patton's belief in reincarnation, love of history, and the belief that he is a reincarnated soldier from long ago, who is destined by God to accomplish great things on the battlefield. He visits the ruins at Cartage, Tunisia, and has this revealing conversation with Bradley, who is now his assistant commander.
When a German message was intercepted, Patton is roused out of bed to go the front and surprise the German offensive. As he had read Rommel's book, he planned a successful attack / ambush. As the American Forces in Africa were there as a secondary back up, Field Marshall Montegomery was allowed to get the glory for pushing the Germans out, which irks Patton. "I admit that I'm a Prima Donna. Montegomery doesn't admit that, and that bothers me."
So, when Patton moves on with the 7th division Army to Italy, he is itching to beat Montegomery to Massina. Instead of being Montegomery's back up, Patton disregards orders telling him to let Montegomery catch up in his battle up the middle. Patton doesn't understand the political aspect of war; "The influence politicians and diplomats have over the direction of the war." This is strike one for Patton.
On his way to Massina, he visits a field hospital, where he tenderly whispers in a critically wounded soldier's ear, after pinning a purple heart on his pillow. He then visits a soldier with battle fatigue, and he slaps the soldier in the face, "to shame a coward, to help him to gain self-respect, and restore some obligation as a man and a soldier." This is strike two, as this slapping incident causes an uproar.
After apologizing to his troops at Massina, he is relieved of his command of the 7th army, finding himself sitting in a "royal dog house," waiting to be assigned a command. He realizes he is in the dog house when General Bradley, and not him is give the top command for the Allied invasion of Europe.
Strike three is when he doesn't mention the Russians as allies during a speech to an English women's reading society, a grievous political faux pas, as the Russians were deeply suspicious of the British-American relationship. Patton is flummoxed by the scolding he received for this. If there were Russians in the audience, he said he would've said something! He is told that he is now on probation, and General Marshall will decide whether Patton will be sent home or will go to Calais as a decoy for the Germans.
Meanwhile, on the German part of the world, Col General Alfred Jodl (Richard Munch) isn't buying the story that Patton is in hot water for slapping a soldier. He and other Germans are convinced that Patton will be heavily involved, if not leading the invasion of Europe.
However, after the invasion on D Day, Montegomery's troops get bogged down, and General Patton is smuggled out of his "royal dog house" and transported to France on a supply plane. He meets with his old friend, General Bradley who has a friend to friend talk. He shows Patton his plan to get the forces really moving, "Operation Copra," to be accomplished by the now Operational 3rd Army. Patton promises, "I'll keep my mouth shut. I promise to behave myself."
So Patton is given another chance, as the commander of the 3rd Army. He leads and plans brilliantly, killing Germans as he gains ground, really being an asset, even saving the day at The Battle of the Bulge, willing to give his all in a job that he loves. He at one point even directs tank traffic. But will he stay out of political trouble? Will he really be able to keep his mouth shut and behave himself?
This "thinking man's war" and landmark biography film was powerful, poignant, humorous in parts, and one of the best in its genres. The combination of its powerful screenplay, insightful, talented direction, great production values, a stunning performance by George C. Scott and great supporting performances by the cast makes this film a gem that holds up very well over time.
The screenplay was written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, based on two important sources: Ladislas Faragoe's book, " Patton: Ordeal & Triumph," and on Omar Bradley's book: "A Soldier's Story." The sceen writers and others involved in making this film were also helped by well-known advisors: 5 Star General Omar N. Bradley, himself (senior military advisor), Col. Paul D. Harkins, USA Ret. (technical advisor), and Col Glover S. Johns, USA Ret.(technical advisor.)
The fantastic, inspired direction was by the gifted Franklin Schaffner who had a talent for incorporating dramatic wide-screen composition, yet never loosing the focus off the main character, General Patton. "Patton" is the film that Schaffner is known for, and his efforts on this film earned him an Academy Award Best Director Oscar. He patiently, skillfully worked with the fine cast, inspiring George C. Scott to give one of his most brilliant performances.
Cinematographer, Fred J. Koenekamp captured Schaffner's visions of this screenplay, as a biography of characters and the battles as well. Especially well photographed was the battle at El Guettar which was "stunning as is the massive crunch in the Battle Of The Bulge."
George C. Scott was brilliantly convincing as General Patton, the great WW2 tank commander that was both loved and hated. Scott's passionate dedication to his performance of General Patton truly brought forth one of his most stunning efforts, which was rewarded by an Academy Oscar for Best Actor, though he didn't accept it.
Karl Malden gives a strong supporting performance as General Omar Bradley who fully realized what a talented military mind his good friend, General Patton had, while at the same time knew that the man was a handful, with character traits that were hard to control. Patton passionately loved the art of war, loved his job, loved to command, lead and successfully complete missions, hating to be slowed down by political protocol. Bradley quote: "There's one big difference between you and me, George. I do this job because I've been trained to do it. You do it because you LOVE it."
My favorite sequence of scenes between Malden and Scott was when Patton is flown to France, and he meets Bradley in a make-shift headquarters. Bradley shows Patton his new plan to break through German lines, but expresses reservations about Patton leading the forces. Patton told him that he would crawl on his belly to get a command in this European offensive, and he promises to watch his mouth, and behave himself. Then, Bradley smiles and tells Patton that Ike had decided 3 months before that Patton was the man for the job.
Accomplished German actors were used for the sequences that showed the Germans in tactical military discussions. Richard MŸnch, who started his acting career at the age of 45 in 1951, gives a convincing performance as Col. General Alfred Jodl.
Siegfried Rauch also stands out in his performance as Captain Ostar Steiger.
Karl Michael Vogler is convincing as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.
The wonderful musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
This film is rated PG. Battle scenes are seen in detail, and the consequences of war are shown, but there are no close ups on the blood and guts, a la "Saving Private Ryan." It is a great character study of General Patton, his strengths and weaknesses, who contributes so much to the victory of the allies in WW2.
Quote from Ron Smythe:
"We see the battles from a general's eye, the coordinated war effort from the planners' eyes, and the influence politicians and diplomats have over the direction of the war."