Sunday, December 25, 2011

#496. Patton (1970)

Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young

Trivia:  George C. Scott won the Academy Award for best actor and famously refused to accept it, claiming that competition between actors was unfair and a "meat parade"

Through a career riddled with controversy, George S. Patton became one of World War II's most proficient military leaders, and Franklin Schaeffer’s award-winning 1970 film, Patton, gives us a taste of the man’s triumphs, recreating the battles that proved him a tactical genius. But then, this is all a matter of public record. What Patton does (and does brilliantly, I might add) is take us deeper, uncovering the rugged determination, all-consuming desire for victory, and unwavering personal beliefs that made the General such a fascinating man. Patton is, indeed, a great war film, but it's an even better biopic.

A born leader, U.S. General George Patton (George C. Scott) guided his troops to victory in North Africa, defeating Germany’s top tank commander, Field Marshall Rommel (Karl Michael Volger), at every turn. As a reward, he was given command of the U.S. 5th Army in Sicily, where his combat skills would again serve him well. Yet his success on the field of battle was often overshadowed by his behavior off of it. The proud Patton quarreled openly with his peers, including British General Montgomery (Michael Bates), and once, while touring a field hospital, slapped a soldier (Tim Considine) suffering from Battle Fatigue, a condition the General equated to little more than cowardice. Yet, despite his setbacks, many of which brought him official reprimands from high command, Patton continued to press on, and was a key figure in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

As seen in Patton, the General possessed a singularly classical spirit; a man who not only believed in reincarnation, but was convinced he himself had lived many lives, and always as a soldier. Shortly after arriving in North Africa, Patton and his second-in-command, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden), are traveling by jeep to tour the scene of a recent skirmish when Patton abruptly orders the driver to turn right. Both the driver and General Bradley inform Patton a right turn will take them in the wrong direction, yet he insists they do so. What they find is not the area they set out to inspect, but ancient ruins, a place Patton assures them was the scene of a conflict over two thousand years ago. He knows, because he was there.

History was a strong influence on both the man and his military tactics. Patton felt out of place in the present, where warfare had become too political for his tastes. While standing in the deserts of North Africa, talking to his assistant, Capt. Richard Jenson (Morgan Paull), Patton concocts a plan in which he and Field Marshall Rommel would fight it out mono-e-mono, him in one tank and Rommel in another, with the winner deciding the outcome of the war. “Too bad jousting has gone out of style”, Jenson replies, adding that Patton’s philosophies just don’t fit in with the 20th century. The General reluctantly agrees, sighs softly, and utters, with much melancholy, “God, how I hate the 20th Century”.

In Patton, we meet an individual whose notions of chivalry and honor, though passé, unleashed the warrior within. By finding a role for himself in the present, George S. Patton forged a link to the past he so loved, while at the same time ensuring future generations would forever remember his name.


Guy Strid said...

Dude - Patton is one of my all time favorite films! LOVE IT!

Guy from VWMF

Dave B. said...

Guy: Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by!

PATTON is an undisputed classic, and I try to watch it at least once a year. Scott was absolutely remarkable.

And everyone: check out for some great movie reviews!

Thanks again

Nik Nak said...

You know, I keep meaning to check this out, Dave.

Although, as an additional point of trivia, for you? Apparently, Field Marshal Montgomery was supposed to be harder to General Patton!

(There’s ALSO speculation he was mildly autistic.)