What PATHS OF GLORY attempted to show about the relationships between officers and men of the first World War, PATTON in part attempts to do for the second. Patton, of course, is best remembered as the general who slapped a soldier. But George C. Scott, under the direction of Franklin
Schaffner, creates a much more colorful and ambiguous portrait. This WWII spectacle is immense but Scott's virtuoso performance looms larger than any of its battles. His characterization can appeal to both hawks and doves; it can appreciated either as a critique or a paean. He's insensitive to his
men's plight on some occasions, gentle as a loving father on others. Patton's eccentricity may very well have been an important ingredient of victory. PATTON is a war movie of unusual depth and a landmark in screen biographies.
Beginning with a classic six-minute speech by Patton about the fighting spirit of Americans, the film traces the legendary WWII exploits of "Old Blood and Guts" from his defeat of Rommel's Afrika Korps at El Guettar to the invasion of Sicily, during which he disobeys orders and beats rival Field
Marshal Montgomery (Michael Bates) to Messina. We also see his loss of command for slapping a battle-fatigued soldier because he has been hospitalized but has no wounds. Then, after sitting out D-Day as a decoy, Patton is given command of the 3rd Army, winning one mighty battle after another with
his armored troops and eventually speeding to the rescue of the encircled 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, ending Hitler's last great counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Following the war, Patton is sent into involuntary retirement after his highly vocal criticism of the Soviet Union,
and the film ends with his farewell to his faithful staff.
Scott won a richly deserved Academy Award (which he refused) for his performance. Sturdy support is provided by Karl Malden as Gen. Omar Bradley, Edward Binns as Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, John Doucette as Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, and Bates as Montgomery. Franklin J. Schaffner's direction
is majestic particularly in his masterful handling of complex battle scenes; shot in 70-millimeter, Dimension 150, these broad, impersonal spectacles have a macabre beauty that gives the viewer a serene God's-eye-view of modern warfare. Fox hoped to duplicate the success of its black-and-white
blockbuster, THE LONGEST DAY, by spending a fortune on this spectacular film, which was shot on location in England, Spain, Morocco, and Greece.
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