Starring George C. Scott
Videos in this documentary
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Patton (UK: Patton: Lust for Glory) is a 1970 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 N. 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 Scott with an enormous American flag behind him, remains an iconic and often quoted image in film. The film remains a success and an American classic.
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".
The film documents the story of General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) during World War II, beginning with his taking charge of demoralized American forces in North Africa after the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, leading them to victory at the Battle of El Guettar. He then participates in the invasion of Sicily and races against the equally egotistical British General Bernard Law Montgomery to capture the Sicilian port of Messina. Patton is shown as believing in reincarnation, while remaining a devout Christian. At one point in the movie, during the North Africa campaign, Patton takes his staff on an unexpected detour to the site of the ancient Battle of Zama. There he reminisces about the battle, insisting to Omar Bradley that he was there.
After he beats Montgomery into Messina, Patton is relieved of command for slapping a shell-shocked soldier in an Army hospital. This incident, along with his tendency to speak his mind to the press, gets the general in trouble and he is sidelined during the invasion of Europe, being placed in command of the fictional First United States Army Group in south-east England. Later, he begs his former subordinate, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden), for a command before the war ends. He is given the Third United States Army and distinguishes himself by rapidly sweeping across France and later relieving the vital town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Later, Patton smashes through the German "West Wall" and drives into Germany itself.
Just prior to victory in Europe, Patton remarks to a British crowd that America and Great Britain would dominate the post-war world, which the press finds insulting to the Russians. After the Germans capitulate, he insults a Russian officer at a celebration; fortunately, the Russian insults Patton right back, leading to mutual respect and defusing the situation. Later, Patton casually compares the defeated Nazis to American Republicans and Democrats, costing him his command.
Patton family objections
There were several attempts to make the movie, starting in 1953. The Patton family was approached by the producers for help in making the film. They wanted access to Patton's diaries and input from family members. By coincidence, the day they asked the family was the day after the funeral of Beatrice Ayer Patton, the general's widow. After that, the family was dead set against the movie and refused to give any help to the filmmakers.
Because of this, Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North wrote the film from two biographies: Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley. 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.
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. Coppola and North had to tone down Patton's actual words and statements in this scene, as well as throughout the film, to secure a PG rating; in the opening monologue, the word "fornicating" replaced "fucking" when criticizing the Saturday Evening Post newspaper. Also, Scott's gravelly voice is practically the opposite of Patton's, which was high-pitched and somewhat nasal.
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 lied and assured him that it would be shown at the end. It was shot in a basement room.
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. 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 Patton museum.
The iconic opening scene has been parodied in numerous films, political cartoons and television shows. In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Sheila Broflovski gives a speech to US troops at a USO show, urging war with Canada in front of an American flag. In Small Soldiers, action figure Major Chip Hazard stands in front of a jigsaw puzzle of the American flag and recites phrases from Patton's speech along with other military phrases in a nonsensical way. In Jackass 2.5, Johnny Knoxville and the rest of the Jackass, dressed in military attire, giving the introduction to the movie in front of a giant American flag; in the outro, Johnny gives an inspirational speech about the events of the film in the same manner (before a party breaks out). Harvey Korman, playing Patton, parodies the speech in an episode of The Carol Burnett Show. In the original "unhappy" ending of the 1986 musical Little Shop of Horrors, chorus girls Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon foretell America's doom while posed before a glittering version of Patton's flag backdrop; this backdrop was also used in the 1985 film Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird.
Virtually the entire 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, while the winter scenes in Belgium were shot near Madrid (to which the production crew rushed when they were informed that snow had fallen).
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. Though this is a mistake, although at the time in Morocco and some parts of western Algeria most peasants and peddlers had some command of Spanish in those years, as they do now, Patton arrives in Tunisia where Spanish is NOT spoken.
Patton used very few actual World War II vintage tanks, except in archival newsreel footage. The film's tanks were supplied by the Spanish Army, which assisted the production. They included M41 Walker Bulldog, M46 Patton and M47 Patton tanks for the American side, M24 Chaffee tanks for the British, and M48 Patton tanks for the Germans. Of these machines, only the Chaffee had served in World War II, although not for the British. In reality, General Patton commanded a mixture of M-4 Shermans, M-5 Stuarts, and, very late in the war, M-26 Pershings. However, at the time of the filming, the only armed forces still to use the Sherman tanks were the Israeli Defense Forces (in highly modified postwar versions), the Yugoslav People's Army, and several Latin American nations.
Spanish CASA 2.111 airplanes were also used in several scenes. These were heavily modified versions of the German Heinkel He 111, which had been used extensively by the Luftwaffe in World War II. They can be recognized by their engine nacelles, which have a prominent airscoop directly under the propeller, whereas the Heinkel's airscoop was set further back. Additionally, the Cessna Bird Dog can be seen in some scenes, which didn't make its first flight until 4-5 years after World War II ended.
In addition, 1950s M38 Jeeps can be seen, and 1960s M35 cargo trucks were used (for both American and German trucks). A map of Europe shown in the background in one scene displays post-war national boundaries.
Patton is shown arriving in London at night in a black Packard Custom Eight. The car used is a postwar design introduced on July 25,1947 for the 1948 model year.
Patton never gave "The Speech" as a four star general since he was not elevated to full general rank until April 14, 1945, well after the time he would have given any such pre-combat speech.
While serving to illuminate the tension between Patton and Montgomery, there was no competitive race between the two to capture Messina. Montgomery actually suggested on July 24 that Patton take Messina since he was in a better position to do so. However, Patton suspected that this was a ruse on Montgomery's part, so the "race" continued in his own mind.
George Patton is shown in one scene prematurely pinning on insignia as a Lieutenant General, before the rank was confirmed by the United States Senate. Patton's service record indicates that he only referred to himself as a Lieutenant General after signing the official commission from the Department of the Army.
The tactically indecisive Battle of El Guettar is portrayed as a complete American victory. However, it was an important boost for American morale. One veteran of the battle said the most important lesson they learned at El Guettar was, "The Nazis weren't ten feet tall."
In the movie, Patton had a rather tense meeting with Arthur Coningham. Shortly afterward, Patton's young aide Dick Jenson was killed in the Battle of El Guettar. In real life, Jenson was killed shortly after El Guettar, and the meeting with Coningham came after that.
In one scene, Patton incorrectly cites Frederick the Great as saying, "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!" ("Audacity, audacity — always audacity!") This actually originated with Georges Danton.
The movie gives the impression that Patton and Gen. Omar Bradley were the best of friends. Actually, the two men never particularly cared for each other. Patton's best friend was Eisenhower, who never appears in the film.
The movie depicts a meeting of generals at Verdun to deal with the German onslaught in the Ardennes (the Battle of the Bulge). In the movie, General Bedell Smith presides over the conference. In real life, Eisenhower presided over it. (Eisenhower is never seen in the film, but is referred to as a presence behind the other generals.)
Msgr. James H. O'Neill protested that he was portrayed too mildly.
In one scene, Patton claims to have fought at a battle where the Romans slaughtered the Carthaginians. The site that the director chose for this scene was an ancient Roman city called Volubilis, located in Morocco. The arch dedicated to Emperor Caligula can be seen, as well as the remnants of an aqueduct. Caligula died in 41 A.D. while the last Roman battle with Carthage, in the Third Punic War, occurred in what is now Tunisia in 146 B.C.
During the Battle of the Bulge, according to the film, Patton orders his chaplain to compose a prayer for good weather. When the weather clears up, Patton announces plans to decorate the chaplain. In real life, Patton gave this order at Lorraine about a month before the Battle of the Bulge. The problem was not winter weather, but constant heavy rains. After the chaplain composed the prayer, the weather indeed cleared up, and Patton awarded the chaplain a Bronze Star.
Popular online film critic James Berardinelli has called Patton his favorite film of all time. According to Woodward and 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. It was also a personal favorite of Ohio State Football Coach Woody Hayes.
Awards and honors
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 competition. He was the first actor, though not the last, to do so (Marlon Brando would, two years later, decline his Oscar for The Godfather in 1973.)
The film won six additional Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Art Direction (Urie McCleary, Gil Parrondo, Antonio Mateos, Pierre-Louis Thévenet).
It was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Music, Original Score.
In 2006, the Writers Guild of America selected the adapted screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North as the 94th best screenplay of all time. The screenplay was based upon the biographies A Soldier's Story by General Omar Bradley, and Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago.
The "Best Picture" Oscar is on display at the George C. Marshall Museum at the Virginia Military Institute, courtesy of Frank McCarthy.
American Film Institute recognition
* AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #89
* AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains: General George Patton, Hero #29
A made-for-television sequel, The Last Days of Patton, was produced in 1986. Scott reprised his title role. The movie was based on Patton's final weeks after being mortally injured in a car accident, with flashbacks of Patton's life.
1. Allmovie Gross
2. Rabin, Nathan (May 24, 2006). "Patton". AV Club. http://www.avclub.com/content/node/48785. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
3. Cornwell, Rupert (2002-07-10), Rod Steiger, 'brooding and volatile' Hollywood tough guy for more than 50 years, dies aged 77, The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/r... retrieved 2009-05-21
4. Washington Times - Gen. Patton's wife, a New York citizen
6. Carlo D'Este, Patton: A Genius for War
7. James Berardinelli review
8. Entertainment Weekly
9. "NY Times: Patton". NY Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/37460/Patton/awards. Retrieved 2008-12-28.