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Patton (film)

70 patton.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFranklin J. Schaffner
Produced byFrank McCarthy
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Edmund H. North
Based on
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyFred J. Koenekamp
Edited byHugh Fowler
Release date
  • February 4, 1970 (1970-02-04) (New York City)
  • April 2, 1970 (1970-04-02) (United States)
Running time
170 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • German
  • French
Budget$12.6 million[1]
Box office$61.8 million (United States)[2]

Patton is a 1970 American epic 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 Bradley's memoir A Soldier's Story. The film was shot in 65 mm Dimension 150 by cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp and has a music score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Patton won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Scott won Best Actor for his portrayal of General Patton, but declined to accept the award.[3] 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 successful,[4] and 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 Academy Film Archive preserved Patton in 2003.[5]


General George S. Patton addresses an unseen audience of American troops to raise their morale, focusing in particular on the value placed on winning by American society.

Following the humiliating American defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in 1943, Patton is placed in charge of the American II Corps in North Africa. Upon his arrival, he immediately starts enforcing discipline among his troops. At a meeting with Air Marshal Coningham of the Royal Air Force, he claims that the American defeat was caused by lack of air cover. Coningham promises Patton that he will see no more German aircraft – but seconds later the compound is strafed by them. Patton then defeats a German attack at the Battle of El Guettar; his aide Captain Jenson is killed in the battle, and is replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Codman. Patton is bitterly disappointed to learn that Erwin Rommel, commander of the German-Italian Panzer Army, was on medical leave, but Codman suggests that: "If you've defeated Rommel's plan, you've defeated Rommel."

After success in the North Africa campaign, Patton and Bernard Montgomery come up with competing plans for the Allied invasion of Sicily. Patton's proposal to land his Seventh Army in the northwest of the island with Montgomery in the southeast (therefore potentially trapping the German and Italian forces in a pincer movement) initially impresses their superior General Alexander, but General Eisenhower rejects it in favor of Montgomery's more cautious plan, which places Patton's army in the southeast, covering Montgomery's flank. While the landing is successful, the Allied forces become bogged down, causing Patton to defy orders and advance northwest to Palermo, and then to the port of Messina in the northeast, narrowly beating Montgomery to the prize, although several thousand German and Italian troops are able to flee the island. Patton insists that his feud with Montgomery is due to the latter's determination to monopolize the war glory. However, Patton's actions do not sit well with his subordinates Bradley and Lucian Truscott.

While on a visit to a field hospital, Patton notices a shell-shocked soldier (Tim Considine) crying. Calling him a coward, Patton slaps the soldier and even threatens to shoot him, before demanding his immediate return to the front line. By Eisenhower's order, Patton is relieved of command and required to apologize to the soldier, to others present, and to his entire command. As a further punishment, he is also sidelined during the D-Day landings in 1944, being placed in command of the decoy phantom First United States Army Group in southeast England – which also makes the decoy army more convincing, as German General Alfred Jodl is convinced that Patton will lead the invasion of Europe.

After Patton begs his former subordinate Bradley for a command before the war ends, Eisenhower places Patton under Bradley in command of the Third Army. He performs brilliantly by rapidly advancing through France, but his tanks are brought to a standstill when they run out of fuel as, much to his fury, the supplies were allocated to Montgomery's bold Operation Market Garden. Later, during the Battle of the Bulge, Patton brilliantly relieves the town of Bastogne and then smashes through the Siegfried Line and into Germany.

At a war drive in Knutsford, England, General Patton remarks lightly that the United States and the United Kingdom would dominate the post-war world, but this is viewed as an insult to the Soviet Union. After Germany capitulates, Patton directly insults a Russian general at a dinner; the Russian insults Patton right back, much to Patton's amusement. Patton then makes an offhand remark comparing the Nazi Party to American political parties. Ultimately, Patton's outspokenness loses him his command once again, though he is kept on to see to the rebuilding of Germany, where a runaway oxcart narrowly misses him.

Finally, Patton is seen walking Willie, his bull terrier, across the German countryside. Patton's voice is heard relating that a returning hero of ancient Rome was honored with a triumph, 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."



Script preparation

Attempts to make a film about the life of Patton had been ongoing for over fifteen years, commencing in 1953.[7] Eventually, the Patton family was approached by the producers for help in making the film. The filmmakers desired access to Patton's diaries, as well as input from family members. However, the producers contacted the family the day after Beatrice Ayer Patton, the general's widow, was buried, and the family refused to provide any assistance to the film's producers.

In the end, screenwriters Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North wrote the script based largely on Ladislas Farago's biography Patton: Ordeal and Triumph, and on A Soldier's Story, the autobiography of General of the Army Omar Bradley (who features prominently in the film).

Bradley served as a consultant for the film though the extent of his influence and input into the final script is largely unknown. While Bradley knew Patton personally, it was also well-known that the two men were polar opposites in personality, and there is evidence to conclude that Bradley despised Patton, both personally and professionally.[8][9] As the film was made without access to General Patton's diaries, it largely relied upon observations by Bradley and other military contemporaries when they attempted to reconstruct Patton's thoughts and motives.[10] In a review of the film, Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall, who knew both Patton and Bradley, stated, "The Bradley name gets heavy billing on a picture of [a] comrade that, while not caricature, is the likeness of a victorious, glory-seeking buffoon.... Patton in the flesh was an enigma. He so stays in the film.... Napoleon once said that the art of the general is not strategy but knowing how to mold human nature.... Maybe that is all producer Frank McCarthy and Gen. Bradley, his chief advisor, are trying to say."[10]


The opening scene of the movie.

The film opens with Scott's rendering of Patton's speech to the Third Army, set against a huge American flag.[11] Coppola and North had to tone down Patton's actual words and statements in the scene, as well as throughout the rest of the film, to avoid an R rating; in the opening monologue, the word fornicating replaced fucking when he was criticizing The Saturday Evening Post. Also, Scott's gravelly and scratchy voice is the opposite of Patton's high-pitched, nasal and somewhat squeaky voice, a point noted by historian S.L.A. Marshall.[10] However, Marshall also points out that the film contains "too much cursing and obscenity [by Patton]. Patton was not habitually foul-mouthed. He used dirty words when he thought they were needed to impress."[10]

When Scott learned that the speech would open the film, he refused to do it, as he believed that it would overshadow the rest of his performance. Director Schaffner assured him that it would be shown at the end. The scene was shot in one afternoon at Sevilla Studios in Madrid, with the flag having been painted on the back of the stage wall.[12]

All the medals and decorations shown on Patton's uniform in the monologue are replicas of those actually awarded to Patton. However, the general never wore all of them in public and was in any case not a four-star general at the time he made the famous speeches on which the opening is based. He wore them all on only one occasion, in his backyard in Virginia at the request of his wife, who wanted a picture of him with all his medals. The producers used a copy of this photo to help recreate this "look" for the opening scene.[citation needed]


The film was shot at seventy-one locations in six countries, mostly in Spain. One scene, which depicts Patton driving up to an ancient city that is implied to be Carthage, was shot in the ancient Roman city of Volubilis, Morocco. The early scene, where Patton and Muhammed V are reviewing Moroccan troops including the Goumiers, was shot at the Royal Palace in Rabat. One unannounced battle scene was shot the night before, which raised fears in the Royal Palace neighborhood of a coup d'état. One paratrooper was electrocuted in power lines, but none of this battle footage appears in the film. The scene at the dedication of the welcome centre in Knutsford, Cheshire, England, was filmed at the actual site. The scenes set in Africa and Sicily were shot in the south of Spain (Almeria), while the winter scenes in Belgium were shot near Segovia (to which the production crew rushed when they were informed that snow had fallen).[13]

Use of footage

A sizeable amount of battle scene footage was left out of the final cut of Patton, but a use was soon found for it. Outtakes from Patton were used to provide battle scenes in the made-for-TV film Fireball Forward, which was first broadcast in 1972. The film was produced by Patton producer Frank McCarthy and Edmund North wrote the screenplay. One of the cast members of Patton, Morgan Paull, appeared in this production.[14]


The critically acclaimed score for Patton was composed and conducted by the prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith used a number of innovative methods to tie the music to the film, such as having an echoplex loop recorded sounds of "call to war" triplets played on the trumpet to musically represent General Patton's belief in reincarnation. The main theme also consisted of a symphonic march accompanied by a pipe organ to represent the militaristic yet deeply religious nature of the protagonist.[15] The music to Patton subsequently earned Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score and was one of the American Film Institute's 250 nominees for the top twenty-five American film scores.[16] The original soundtrack has been released three times on disc and once on LP: through Twentieth-Century Fox Records in 1970, Tsunami Records in 1992, Film Score Monthly in 1999, and a two-disc extended version through Intrada Records in 2010.[15][17]

2010 Intrada Records Album

Disc One
Disc Two


First telecast

Patton was first telecast by ABC-TV as a three hours-plus color film special in the fall of 1972, only two years after its theatrical release. That was highly unusual at the time, especially for a roadshow theatrical release, which had played in theatres for many months. Most theatrical films at that time had to wait at least five years for their first telecast. Another unusual element of the telecast was that almost none of Patton's profanity-laced dialogue was cut (only two sentences, one of which contained no profanity, were cut from the famous opening speech in front of the giant US flag).

Home media

In 1977, Patton was among the first 50 VHS and Betamax releases from Magnetic Video. The film would be released on Laserdisc in 1981, also by Magnetic Video. A widescreen version was released in 1989, which includes four newsreels about the real Patton. A THX-certified Laserdisc would be released on July 9, 1997, trading the newsreels for many new features. A THX-certified widescreen VHS was also released in 1998 by the same distributor, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Patton was first released on DVD in 1999, featuring a partial audio commentary by a Patton historian, and again in 2006, with a commentary by screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola and extra bonus features.

The film made its Region A (locked) Blu-ray debut in 2008 to much criticism, for its excessive use of digital noise reduction on the picture quality. In 2012, a remaster was released with much improved picture quality.[18] In June 2013, Fox UK released the film on Region B Blu-ray but reverted to the 2008 transfer.


Box office

According to Fox records the film required $22,525,000 in rentals to break even and by 11 December 1970 had made $27,650,000 so made a profit to the studio.[19] Overall, it returned worldwide rentals of $45 million.[20]

Critical response

Roger Ebert said of George C. Scott, "It is one of those sublime performances in which the personalities of the actor and the character are fulfilled in one another."[21] Gene Siskel gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that George C. Scott "has created an acting tour de force," but found it "repetitive — the second half doesn't tell us anything more than the first."[22] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "The most refreshing thing about 'Patton' is that here—I think for the first time—the subject matter and the style of the epic war movie are perfectly matched ... Although the cast is large, the only performance of note is that of Scott, who is continuously entertaining and, occasionally, very appealing."[23] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "'Patton' has, like 'Lawrence of Arabia,' done the near-impossible by creating a finely detailed portrait despite all the tuggings toward simplification which are inevitable in the big budget, long, loud roadshow production desperate to attract mass audiences. As Patton, George Scott gives one of the great and unforgettable screen characterizations."[24] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film "eventually shares the dramatic limitations, as well as the visual triumphs, of 'Lawrence of Arabia': yet another fascinating but inconclusive portrait of a mercurial military leader. The camera focus is sharp, but the dramatic focus is blurred. We never quite understand Patton in historical context, in relation to the other generals of the period, and to the entire Allied war effort."[25] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote that "technically the movie is awesomely impressive," but went on to state that "I'm sure it will be said that the picture is 'true' to Patton and to history, but I think it strings us along and holds out on us. If we don't just want to have our prejudices greased, we'll find it confusing and unsatisfying, because we aren't given enough information to evaluate Patton's actions."[26] John Gillett of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "While communicating a relish for the man with all his warts, [Schaffner] also pinpoints the monstrous prejudices which lay beneath the surface. And, of course, he chose the right actor. Karl Malden's Bradley is neatly observed and the German players are good, but Scott's performance rightly dwarfs all the rest."[27]

Online film critic James Berardinelli has called Patton his favorite film of all time[28] and "to this day one of Hollywood's most compelling biographical war pictures."[29]

According to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book The Final Days, it was also Richard Nixon's favorite film. He screened it several times at the White House and during a cruise on the Presidential yacht. Before the 1972 Nixon visit to China, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai watched this film in preparation for his meeting with Nixon.

Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 45 reviews, with an average score of 8.42/10. Rotten Tomatoes summarizes the critical consensus as, "George C. Scott's sympathetic, unflinching portrayal of the titular general in this sprawling epic is as definitive as any performance in the history of American biopics."[30]


In 1971, Scott's performance won him an Academy Award for Best Actor at the 43rd Academy Awards. He famously refused to accept it, citing a dislike of the voting process and the concept of acting competitions. He was the first actor to do so.[31]

The film won six additional Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound (Douglas Williams and Don Bassman), and Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Urie McCleary and Gil Parrondo; Set Decoration: Antonio Mateos and Pierre-Louis Thévenet).[32] The Best Picture Oscar is on display at the George C. Marshall Museum at the Virginia Military Institute, courtesy of Frank McCarthy.

It was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Music, Original Score.[33]

In 2006, the Writers Guild of America selected Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North's adapted screenplay as the 94th best screenplay of all time.

American Film Institute Lists


A made-for-television sequel, The Last Days of Patton, was produced in 1986. Scott reprised his title role. The film was based on Patton's final weeks after being mortally injured in a car accident, with flashbacks of Patton's life.

See also


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
  2. ^ "Patton, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  3. ^ TotalFilm. "Review of Patton". Archived from the original on July 5, 2011. Retrieved 2006-04-24.
  4. ^ Rabin, Nathan (May 24, 2006). "Patton". AV Club. Archived from the original on February 2, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  5. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  6. ^ Cornwell, Rupert (2002-07-10). "Rod Steiger, 'brooding and volatile' Hollywood tough guy for more than 50 years, dies aged 77". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  7. ^ Travers, Steven (2014). The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne's Political Odyssey. Taylor Trade Publishing. OCLC 857277430.
  8. ^ D'Este, Carlo (1995). Patton: A Genius For War. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 466–467. ISBN 0-06-016455-7.
  9. ^ D'Este, Carlo (2002). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. New York: Henry Holt & Co. pp. 403–404.
  10. ^ a b c d Marshall, S.L.A. (March 21, 1970). "Great Georgie Redone". The Charleston Gazette. 4: 4.
  11. ^ ≠°Travers, Steven. The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne's Political Odyssey."
  12. ^ Mitchell, George J. (1975). "The Photography of Patton". After the Battle (7): 38–43.
  13. ^ Mitchell, George J. "The Photography of "Patton"".
  14. ^ "Fireball Forward - Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  15. ^ a b Clemmensen, Christian. Patton soundtrack review at Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  16. ^ AFI's 100 Years Of Film Scores Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine from the American Film Institute. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  17. ^ "Patton". Intrada Records. Retrieved October 21, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  18. ^ Maxwell, Barrie (November 8, 2012). "Patton (Remastered)". The Digital Bits.
  19. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 329.
  20. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (2002), Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Filmmakers Series, 20, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, p. 165, ISBN 9780810842441
  21. ^ Roger Ebert (March 17, 2002). "Patton (1970)". Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  22. ^ Siskel, Gene (March 5, 1970). "Patton". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 11.
  23. ^ Canby, Vincent (February 5, 1970). "The Screen: 'Patton: Salute to Rebel'". The New York Times. 33.
  24. ^ Champlin, Charles (February 15, 1970). "'Patton' Features George C. Scott as 'Old Blood and Guts'". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 13.
  25. ^ Arnold, Gary (March 1, 1970). "Take Your Pick of War Heroes: General Patton". The Washington Post. F1-F2.
  26. ^ Kael, Pauline (January 31, 1970). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 73.
  27. ^ Gillett, John (June 1970). "Patton: Lust For Glory". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 37 (437): 123.
  28. ^ "#1: Patton".
  29. ^ James Berardinelli. "Patton". Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  30. ^ "Patton". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  31. ^ Purtell, Tim (April 16, 1993). "1971: George C. Patton said no to Oscar". Entertainment Weekly.
  32. ^ "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-27.
  33. ^ "NY Times: Patton". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-28.

Further reading

  • In 2005, Patton's wife's "Button Box" manuscript was finally released by his family, with the posthumous release of Ruth Ellen Patton Totten's book, The Button Box: A Daughter's Loving Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton.Taylor, John M.; Taylor, Priscilla S. (July 23, 2005). "Gen. Patton's wife, a New York citizen". The Washington Times.
  • Suid, Lawrence H. (2002). Guts & Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 260–278. ISBN 9780813190181. Suid's book contains an extended discussion of the production of Patton and of public and critical response to the film; the discussion occupies most of the chapter, "13. John Wayne, The Green Berets, and Other Heroes".

External links