Best Picture Winners, Movie #116: Patton (1970)

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong, Morgan Paull, Michael Bates

Academy Awards (1971):

Best Picture: Frank McCarthy

Best Actor in a Leading Role: George C. Scott

Best Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Best Original Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North

Best Art Direction, Set Decoration: Urie McCleary, Fil Parrondo, Antonio Mateos, Pieere-Louis Thevenet

Best Sound: Douglas Williams, Don Bassman

Best Film Editing: Hugh S. Fowler

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp

Best Music, Original Score: Jerry Goldsmith

Best Effects, Special Visual Effects: Alex C. Weldon

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“The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”

Patton tells the story of George S. Patton (Scott) throughout World War II from his campaigns in Northern Africa, the Invasion of Sicily, his reassignment and eventual involvement in the Battle of the Bulge.  Though a military genius, Patton finds himself at odds with his subordinate, and later superior, General Omar Bradley (Malden), and in competition with the British General/Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery (Bates).  His candid, tough-love and bruntly honest nature gets him in plenty of trouble, diminishing his role in the Allied upper command towards the end of the war.

George C. Scott’s performance as George S. Patton is truly one of the greatest in film history.  He had some distinct differences from the real Patton, but the harsh, blunt, candid nature comes across throughout the film.  Scott’s performance is engaging and he really portrays Patton as being stubborn to the fault.  He is firm, but also poetic.  He believes in reincarnation, and as they conquer, he visits ancient battlefields proclaiming, “I was there” with complete conviction and sincerity.

Though he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Scott refused to attend and accept the award, saying the award ceremony itself was just a ‘meat market.’  Scott took the role because Patton was a professional, and Scott admired professionalism.  Aside from Dr. Strangelove, this is the only film I’ve seen Scott perform in.  It makes me hesitant to watch him in anything else because of the high standard this performance sets.

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Patton’s relationship with General Omar Bradley, whose memoir was one of the source materials that the script was based on, is an interesting contrast in two very different leadership styles.  Patton was strict, disciplined, and kept his distance and authority over his men.  He was also willing to take great, and sometimes unnecessary risks.  In contrast, Bradley was much more personable and practical.  His calmer more even tempered personality helped him advance to higher commands.  Though the two were very different, it was good to see the great amount of respect each person had for the other.

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Field Marshall Montgomery was also an interesting contrast with Patton.  Patton noted on more than one occasion that they were both prima donnas, though Montgomery wouldn’t ever admit it.  The scene in Messina was humorous.

Though this film is a war movie, there isn’t a whole lot of battle scenes.  Though the movie runs nearly three hours, there is enough drama outside of the actual battles that keep the film engaging and avoids monotony and boredom.  Patton engaging General Erwin Rommel’s forces in North Africa was very well done, and highlights Patton’s respect for Rommel as a General, while exploiting Rommel’s weaknesses.

This time around I watched it in two sittings, the first hour or so and then the rest.  Perhaps it didn’t seem as long and potentially tedious because I broke it down to two viewings.

It was interesting to note the German side of what was happening.  After Patton had been demoted, they were certain it was a trick, not understanding the consequences of Patton’s treatment of a shell shocked soldier that Patton slaps and calls a coward when visiting a field hospital.   They recognized his competence as a leader, and know there is probably no one better to lead the army in the field.

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Patton is one of the best war and biographical films out there.  Winning seven Oscars, this film tells the story of a brilliant but tragically flawed military genius.  I was a bit surprised, though, that it didn’t win for Best Music, Original Score.  Had anyone other than George C. Scott played Patton, it would have slipped into obscurity.  Scott’s professionalism as an actor is emulated in his portrayal as Patton the military professional.  I can definitely watch this one again.  It’s one anyone interested in military history should see.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

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2 thoughts on “Best Picture Winners, Movie #116: Patton (1970)

  1. This film was awesome and Scott was just perfect for this portrayal of General Patton perhaps, the greatest American general in WW2.

    As usual, Hollywood rewrote history a bit to suit their ideology which corresponded very well with those that worked hard to defame and destroy Patton during WW2 ending with his untimely, tragic death in a “traffic accident”.

    Moscow is notorious in arranging these types of tragic deaths and general George Patton was their arch enemy during those eventful times therefore, it is not a far stretch to say that they had a hand in his removal.

  2. If you do want to try and watch Scott in something else, I’d recommend the Exorcist Part Three. He’s really good in it and it is a pretty good sequel to the Exorcist itself. Much better than Part Two.

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