Patton (1970)


Patton is a 1970 American 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 George C. Scott as General Patton with an enormous American flag behind him, remains an iconic and often quoted image in film. The film was a success and has become 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's famous beginning has General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) giving a speech to an unseen audience of American troops, with a huge American flag in the background. The scene then shifts to North Africa at the start of 1943, where Patton takes charge of the demoralized American II Corps in North Africa after the humiliating defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. After instilling discipline in his soldiers, he leads them to victory at the Battle of El Guettar, though he is bitterly disappointed to learn afterward that Erwin Rommel (Karl Michael Vogler), whom he respects greatly as a general, was not his opponent. Patton's aide, Captain Jensen, is killed in the battle and replaced by Colonel Codman who assures Patton that, though Rommel was absent, that if Patton defeated Rommel's plan, then he defeated Rommel. Patton is shown to believe in reincarnation, while remaining a devout Christian. At one point during the North Africa campaign, he takes his staff on an unexpected detour to the site of the ancient Battle of Zama. There he reminisces about the battle, insisting to his second in command, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden) that he was there. After North Africa is secured, Patton is involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily. His proposal to land his Seventh Army in the northwest of the island is rejected in favor of the more cautious plan of British General Bernard Law Montgomery, in which the British and American armies are to land side-by-side in the southeast. Frustrated at the slow progress of the campaign, Patton defies orders, racing northwest to capture the city of Palermo and then narrowly beats Montgomery in a race to capture the port of Messina in the northeast. However, Patton is relieved of command for slapping a shell-shocked soldier, whom he accuses of cowardice, in an Army hospital. For this incident and for his tendency to speak his mind to the press, he is sidelined during the long-anticipated D-Day landings, being placed in command of the fictional First United States Army Group in southeast England as a decoy. German General Alfred Jodl (Richard Münch) is convinced that Patton will lead the invasion of Europe. Fearing he will miss out on his destiny, he begs his former subordinate, General Omar Bradley, for a command before the war ends. He is given the Third Army and distinguishes himself by rapidly sweeping across France until his tanks are halted by lack of fuel. He later relieves the vital town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He then smashes through the Siegfried Line and drives into Germany itself. Patton has previously remarked to a British crowd that the United States and Great Britain would dominate the post-war world, which is viewed as a slight to the Russians. After the Germans capitulate, he insults a Russian officer at a celebration; fortunately, the Russian insults Patton right back, defusing the situation. Patton then makes an offhand remark comparing the Nazi Party to the political parties in the U.S. In the end, Patton's outspokenness loses him his command once again, though he is kept on to see to the rebuilding of Germany. The film ends with Patton walking his dog, a bull terrier named Willie, and Scott relating in a voice over that a returning hero of ancient Rome was honored with a victory parade in which "a slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning, that all glory is fleeting".