George C. Scott was not the first choice to play Patton—Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Rod Steiger and Robert Mitchum turned thumbs down—but he was the right choice, despite having told the London Times the script was a mess and that he was “ashamed of being a part of it.” (He never tells us why.) He brings his own angry, contradictory, gravel-voiced panache to a general who was notorious for his own but who didn’t have the showman class required to match its scale. If what everyone says about him is true, Patton had guts, he had uncanny intuition about his enemies’ next moves, he was a successful strategist, yet he was also a small-minded man personally, an intolerant officer who couldn’t stand another’s weaknesses, even if those weaknesses were not only understandable but legitimate. That infamous slap of an enlisted man reveals a general who denied the terror and horror of war; because he loved war, he couldn’t abide those who didn’t. The movie doesn’t dampen the legend of the self-proclaimed genius, or the legendary military actions; but, as pointed out by all the critics when it opened, the movie doesn’t clarify matters, either, straddling the fence to provide views to appease both sides. And we never learn much about the private side of the general, presumably saved for the TV sequel The Last Days of Patton. While some of us prefer the Scott of The Hospital, in which his Paddy Chayefsky rants are very funny, we can’t deny the entertaining grandstanding displayed in this one-man show, though what does it say about the director Franklin J. Schaffner and writers Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North that important figures like Eisenhower, Montgomery and Bradley look like dolts? Presented in Dimension 150, Patton, with its huge panoramic views and lumpy traditionalism, is puny-minded; the same year, something called M*A*S*H was released. Oscars for Best Picture, Actor, Director, Original Screenplay, Art-Set Direction, Sound, Film Editing.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2003 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.