“They’ll lose their fear of the Germans; I hope to God they’ll never lose their fear of me.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Peary asserts that “Patton was appealingly presented as a nonconformist within the military, a poet and historian who often speaks his mind against authority figures” — and he points out that “any time Patton says something that might have raised the ire of college-age viewers, [co-screenwriters Francis Ford] Coppola and Edmund H. North wisely have Karl Malden’s Omar Bradley counter with a more reasoned statement, as if he and not Patton represented the thinking of the filmmakers.”
Peary concedes that “Patton contains a great performance by Scott and holds up fairly well as a biography and as a war movie” — but he points out that:
He asserts it’s “also annoying… that every time Coppola and North want us to know what a military genius Patton is, we cut to German headquarters, where we hear their top brass exalting him.”
I’m not as irritated by the structure of the film as Peary is, given that it shows the actual — albeit inevitably fictionalized — arc of this real-life general’s career, which likely did flow somewhat like this; and it feels relevant to highlight how highly German enemies thought of him given his rocky reception back at home.
In terms of Scott, Peary points out that his “tour-de-force performance… overwhelmed everyone in 1970” and “his blunt, imposing opening speech in front of a huge American flag became an instant classic — he could have stopped right then and won the Oscar.”
He adds, “It leads me to believe Scott would have been even more effective in a one-man show about Patton, because the other characters and repetitive scenes and conversations got in the actor’s way. Still, for giving one of the cinema’s most forceful and memorable characterizations of an historical figure, he certainly was worthy of the award the Academy wanted to give him.” However, Peary himself gives the Alternate Oscar to Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces (1970), which he also names as the Best Picture of the Year.
Note: An interesting bit of trivia is that “this was one of the few Oscar-nominated major films without a single female actor listed in the credits. There are only 3 lines of female dialogue in the film (during Patton’s PR appearances in England.)” Ouch.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)