a/perture Cinema, Academy Awards, AFI, Battle of El Guettar, Battle of Kasserine Pass, Francis Ford Coppola, George C. Scott, Hannibal, IMDb, Karl Malden, Netflix, Omar Bradley, Oscars, Patton, Rotten Tomatoes, The Godfather, The Less Desirables, WWII, Zama
Per IMDb: “The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.”
Francis Ford Coppola’s screenplay had gotten him fired because it was too “ahead of its time.” They thought the opening speech by George C. Scott’s Patton was unusual and they didn’t get it. Turns out it’s quite famous. Coppola won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. That kept him employed on The Godfather. That opening speech, though, is an amalgamation of words spoken from several speeches that George Patton had delivered over a few years. It’s easily one of the most recognizable and most quoted scenes in cinematic history.
In 1943 North Africa, Patton takes over command of the ransacked American II Corps after the dismal outcome of the Battle of Kasserine Pass. He has his lackeys put on a three star pin, which General Omar N. Bradley (Malden) questions, saying that the Senate hasn’t approved his promotion, yet. He said, it’s all a matter of time. This scene, I think is important to show how seriously he takes his job and how hard-nosed he is. He lays down his laws about always being properly attired, with leggings, boots, ties and so forth. He tears down posters of women in the barracks stating that they are barracks, not a bordello. He enters the infirmary and tells the doctor to get any patients with self-inflicted wounds out of the infirmary as the “yellowbellies” have no business being in the same room, under the same care as the brave soldiers who got their injuries in battle.
Turns out that Patton was well read and understood a lot about history and believed that he had lived in another time (or times), talking about Roman battles and the defeat of Carthaginian commander, Hannibal in Zama, 202 BC. The film showed much struggle between his devout Christianity and his belief in reincarnation.
He leads the newly rejuvenated (and more disciplined) regimen to victory against the Axis in the Battle of El Guettar, this upon reading German General Rommel’s book on tank warfare. He’s disappointed that he didn’t defeat Rommel personally, but Rommel, also known as the Desert Fox, was in Berlin with a sinus infection. Patton is seen by many in the Allied ranks as being a loose cannon, some of which is echoed by American officers and officials as well. They abandon Patton’s plans for Sicily in favor of his British counterpart, Bernard Law Montgomery’s plan to have Patton flank him. Instead, Patton moves and takes Palermo, to the chagrin of Montgomery. When he receives a message from British General Sir Harold Alexander to not take Palermo, he asks if they want to give it back?
His iron fist and hard-nosed philosophies continue to make the troops uneasy.He even humiliates and slaps around a soldier who is suffering from shell-shock. For that he’s personally reprimanded by General Eisenhour; commanding him to apologize to the soldier and the medical staff who witnessed the act.
His insistence on beating Montgomery to Messina mounts to even more tension. As he does actually beat him there, Montgomery marches through the streets to find Patton there waiting on him, they exchange forced pleasantries. Montgomery marches with bagpipes playing “God Save the King!” and Patton soon has the band crank up “Stars and Stripes Forever” from the brass band to drown out the bagpipes.
His rogue attitude gets him relieved of his command but it is told that he is in England that he is there to prepare the troops for battle in Europe. He’s being used as a decoy; left out of the actual D-Day invasion. He’s not happy about it. In France, he meets with Montgomery and the Brit brags that he’s going to face Rommel. Patton is nonplussed. But, he’s been given back a command, and he’s given some leeway to move how he sees fit. There’s stops and starts but he helps take control of several key locales and marches toward Germany. The Allies win and Patton is relieved of his duties once again after comparing the Democrats and Republicans to Nazis. The film ends with Patton walking his bull terrier named Willie through a field and a voice over from George C. Scott.
This film was released the year I was born, 1970, and I had never seen it, but knew it was a big deal. George C. Scott does a fantastic job portraying Patton, at least in the film version. I know very little about the man overall and can’t say if it’s an accurate portrayal or not. War films have never interested me as far as the war aspects go, it’s usually the human element within that I’m more interested in. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that many of the most famous or classic films have been war films. Many are masked by the stories within but this one, while about the man Patton, it was very much about war and its bloody and deadly toll and one man’s determination to win at all costs.
The film was ranked #89 on the 1996 version of the AFI Top 100 Films of All Time but failed to make the updated list in 2007, the list in which I’ve seen all 100. It was, still, of course, left on the 400 nominees for that 2007 list. I have completed the 1996 list and 17 left on the 400 nominees for the 2007 list. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 95% Fresh with an Audience Score of 94%. IMDb has it at 8.0 stars out of 10. Both are phenomenal ratings.
This film won George C. Scott the Academy Award for Best Actor, which he famously refused to accept, citing he wasn’t a fan of the voting system or the idea of an acting competition. The film won six additional Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Art Direction and the aforementioned Best Original Screenplay for Coppola. It was nominated for three more: Best Music – Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.
This is available on Netflix, but it is only available via DVD. If you’re a subscriber with the disc service, then you can get it there. I have it on Blu Ray and watched it that way. I thought it was a really good film and I’m going to rate it 4.5 stars. George C. Scott is what makes this film. Have you seen it? What do you think?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war… because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.” – George Patton (as portrayed by George C. Scott)