81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Patton

October 1st, 2009 · No Comments · 1970, Adaptation, Cinemascope (Wide Screen), Color, Drama, Francis Ford Coppola, George C. Scott, Patton, Swearing, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, War

Patton This is an epic movie in the vein of Lawrence of Arabia. Both movies are about war. Both are about men larger than life. The differences between the movies are World War I (Lawrence) vs. World War II (Patton, a British commander (Lawrence) vs. an American commander (Patton), and of course, the setting (Arabia in Lawrence vs. Africa and Europe in Patton).

But the scope of these two movies is similar.

The documentaries on the second of this 2-DVD set are not to be missed. The first, about the life of General George S. Patton, is nearly two hours in length and one of the most extraordinary historical accounts I’ve ever seen in my life. Patton was, indeed, larger than life, a brilliant general with a deep knowledge of history who used his intellect to outsmart the enemy time after time.

However, the second documentary, is obviously an anti-Patton piece. It’s the account of the famed “Ghost Corps” the 94th Infantry Division that was ordered by Patton to drive into Germany, take towns and cross the Saar River. The squad was out-manned, out-gunned, and out-equipped. The infantrymen interviewed (for this is a first-hand account) recounted the horrors of the battles. At least one man was in tears as he described his squad being wiped out with him being the last man standing. The men blamed Patton and his ego for the massive casualties because he was, “showing off what his people could do…if he’d waited, a lot more men would have lived. I condemn him for that.”

The announcer of this documentary said, “The race to the finish was on. But there was one last target in Patton’s sights – the strategic city of Trier.” Patton’s 94th Division did take Trier, much to the dismay of Hitler who claimed the city could not be taken.

I’m not sure why this documentary is included. And I write that for two reasons: (1) Previous Oscar-winning movies have been about war. Yet no other movie featured such an anti-protagonist message, and (2) War is hell. Does anyone think World War II was fought without casualties? Or that Patton – especially after watching this movie – was a man without flaws? (More about that in a moment.)

The narrator of the documentary, almost grudgingly, said of Patton, “Most agree World War II would not have ended as soon as it did without him” and, of the 94th Division, Patton “dubbed them his golden nugget.”

The narrator concluded: “In 33 fighting days, from February 19 to March 24, 1945, the 94th had moved 123 miles, taken more than 17,000 POWS…and then smashed 85 miles into the Rhine.” It was an amazing achievement and turned the tide of the war. It broke Germany’s spirit to see Trier taken.

Yet, the soldiers in the “Ghost Corps” documentary talked of the evils of war, the loss of their comrades in arms, and their dislike (even hatred) for Patton the man. For those reasons, it seems that the “Ghost Corps” documentary is included in the 2-DVD edition to appease those who didn’t want Patton – or war in general – to be glorified in any way.

I find that odd. For an industry that prides itself on creative integrity – and, indeed, if you watch the behind-the-scenes features for the previous Oscar winner, Midnight Cowboy, you’ll hear nothing but comments to that effect (so much so that the movie’s creators refused to cut one single frame from the movie to get its rating reduced from X to R) – it seems hypocritical to go out of the way to make sure no one got too favorable an impression of General Patton. (More about that in a moment.)

THE CAST
George C. Scott (1927-1999)……………….Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
Karl Malden (1912-2009)……………………. Gen. Omar N. Bradley
Stephen Young (1931- )………………………Capt. Chester B. Hansen
Michael Strong (1918-1980)…………………Brig. Gen. Hobart Carver
Carey Loftin (1914-1997)…………………….Gen. Bradley’s driver (as Cary Loftin)
Albert Dumortier (?-?)………………………….Moroccan Minister
Frank Latimore (1925-1998)…………………Lt. Col. Henry Davenport
Morgan Paull (?-?)………………………………Capt. Richard N. Jenson
Karl Michael Vogler (1928-2009)………….Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

THE CREW
Directed By
Franklin J. Schaffner, 1920-1989
Writing Credits
Ladislas Farago, 1906-1980 (book “Patton: Ordeal and Triumph”)
Omar N. Bradley, 1893-1981 (book “A Soldier’s Story”)
Francis Ford Coppola, 1939- (screen story), and
Edmund H. North, 1911-1990 (screen story)

Okay, here’s the “more” I’ve been promising…

From the very first scene, the opening monologue – the iconic image of Patton standing before a huge American flag – it’s obvious General Patton is a very eccentric man. The first 45 minutes establishes him as a guy with a passion for poetry, an intimate knowledge of ancient history (literally – he believed in reincarnation), a tremendous ego, a rigorous love of discipline, a foul mouth that would make a longshoreman blush, and a woeful lack of tolerance for weakness of any kind. He is egotistical, prideful, rude, crude, stubborn, driven, and unpredictable.

In short, he is a man as flawed as any ever have been. Frankly, he makes Hamlet look like a court jester by comparison.

But there’s no doubt that Patton was a brilliant commander, a strategic and tactical genius who helped bring an end to World War II.

I’m not sure I like Patton the man. I’m not even sure I like Patton the movie. But I can see from it’s massive, historically accurate battle scenes and its grasp of the character and accomplishments of General George S. Patton that it is one hell of an important movie, worthy of the Best-Picture Oscar it won.

Patton was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and won seven of them: Best Actor in a Leading Role (George C. Scott), Best Art Director-Set Decoration, Best Director (Franklin J. Schaffner), Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced (Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North).

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