by Tim Dirks
Patton (1970) is the epic film biography of the controversial, bombastic, multi-dimensional World War II general and hero George S. Patton.
The larger-than-life, flamboyant, maverick, pugnacious military figure, nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts,” was well-known for his fierce love of America, his temperamental battlefield commanding, his arrogant power-lust (“I love it. God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life”), his poetry writing, his slapping of a battle-fatigued soldier, his anti-diplomatic criticism of the Soviet Union, and his firing of pistols at fighter planes…….
The film, shot in 70 mm. widescreen color, received a phenomenal ten Academy Awards nominations and won seven major awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Scott refused to accept the honor), Best Director (Franklin J. Schaffner), Best Story and Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing. Its other three nominations were: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith), and Best Special Visual Effects. The story was based on two books: Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier’s Story by General Omar Bradley (portrayed by Karl Malden). As a result of Coppola’s breakthrough win in 1970, he went on to write and direct The Godfather (1972).
Although George C. Scott portrayed the famous general perfectly and became Scott’s archetypal film, the role was also considered by Burt Lancaster, Rod Steiger, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne. The subject matter was remade as a TV-movie entitled The Last Days of Patton (1986), also with Scott in the lead role.
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A larger-than-life, egotistical, much-decorated Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. (George C. Scott) is featured in the opening scene before the backdrop of a huge American flag. The film begins with his classic, six-minute monologue about Americans and their fighting spirit. [The screenwriters took excerpts from many of Patton’s actual speeches, edited them, and created this enduring scene.] After the anthem concludes, he ends his salute and with a cold, mean look, he delivers his speech to offscreen troops – peppering it with numerous profanities. He praises those who would fight, promising potential glory for his soldiers:
…Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight – wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.
Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost and never will lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans. Now, an army is a team – it lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap… Now, we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, by god, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re goin’ up against. By god, I do. We’re not just gonna shoot the bastard, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel. Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them, spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.
Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose and we’re gonna kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose. Now, there’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank god for it.
Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you: ‘What did you do in the Great World War II?’, you won’t have to say: ‘Well, I shoveled s–t in Louisiana.’ All right, now you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel and I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere. That’s all.