Patton (1970) A Great Actor in an Excellent Biopic

Patton is a fascinating, surprising movie and totally not what I had expected. Especially not after the first ten minutes in which we see George C. Scott perform the so-called Blood and Guts Speech. Quite off-putting, to be honest. As much as I like transparent and open communication, this wasn’t promising. What I sensed at the beginning is exactly what the movie has been reproached of doing, namely not taking an anti-war position. 1970 was not exactly a time in which people were in favour of a movie that seems to glorify warriors. Well, that is not what it’s a l about as I discovered when I watched the rest. No, this is an excellent biopic with an absolutely amazing main actor. A portrait of a character with numerous dazzling facets.

The movie follows Patton’s WWII years, starting in Africa, continuing in Europe, until the moment when he comes to rescue the by now famous 101st Airborne at Bastogne.

Patton is mentioned in many a war movie but we do not see him so often. We know that there was a lot of competition between him and the British General Montgomery and ultimately also between him and Feldmarschall Rommel. Rommel seemed to have had a lot of respect regarding Patton’s skills, whereas Montgomery was too full of himself to register anyone else (what a peacock).

Patton is an epic character, a larger than life figure but what puzzled me most is his belief in reincarnation. This isn’t what I had expected and it was the element of the movie that fascinated me the most. He was convinced to be the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, he even remembered some battle fields from former lives. On the other hand he was a believing Christian. Truly a man of many contradictions or rather complex aspects. He wrote poetry but despised cowardice which led to an unlucky event – the unfair slapping of a shell-shocked soldier – that cost him his position.

Precisely this event surprised me even more than his belief in reincarnation. I’m not saying people should be slapped, no matter what for, but that this led to his removal from command seems very surprising, humiliating and also unfair. I rather assume that Washington didn’t approve of his being to outspoken. Plus he was absolutely not Russian friendly and didn’t make a secret of it.

All in all I think this is truly one of the most spellbinding biopics or character studies I have ever seen. Such a fascinating personality and what a splendid actor. 5/5


7 thoughts on “Patton (1970) A Great Actor in an Excellent Biopic

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Excellent review. Scott gives one of the greatest performances ever in a biopic. BTW, he refused to accept the Best Actor Oscar, denigrating the competition between actors. The movie is great partly because the anti-Vietnam War public could enjoy the negative portrayal of a Cro-Magnon war lover and the pro-Vietnam War crowd could enjoy the positive portrayal of a patriotic ass-kicker. Perfect marketing!

    The movie did a lot of damage to Montgomery (who was a prima donna, but not as bad as the movie implies) and I always have wondered why the Brits have not countered with a movie about him (he would make for a very interesting biopic). Seems like a lot of great actors would kill for that role. Montgomery gets off lightly in “A Bridge Too Far” (one of his subordinates takes the rap).

    As far as reincarnation, I see that as believing what you desperately want to believe.

    Great soundtrack.

    He got into so much trouble for the slappings (there were two incidents) because the American public was enraged when the news hit. Moms and dads of soldiers could see their sons as potentially being the slappees. Patton obviously did not believe in post traumatic stress disorder. I loved the way the movie had the Germans perplexed why Patton would be disciplined for hitting a soldier.

    • Thanks. German discipline was certainly somewhat different. I guess Montgomery is not well perceived in England either. No idea how interesting a biopic would be that concentrates on him alone. Maybe he was never forgiven for the Arnhem episode.

  2. warmoviebuff says:

    I have the impression that Montgomery is highly regarded in England because he was the best they had and they do not want to consider him objectively. He actually was a general that I would put at a 7 on a scale of 1-10 (Patton wopuld be a 9). He just was too methodical to be great. I do not believe the lack of a movie is due to negative feelings toward him in England. He was made a Lord which is quite an honor. He was an interesting person, but the movie would be a dud in America where feelings are very negative towards him (partly because of “Patton”).

    I forgot to mention that the movie touches on the strategic disagreement between the Brits and Americans. The American “way of war” was to seek decisive battles as soon as possible. Short term casualties arising from rushing in would be better than the long-term casualties of being overly prepared, but dragging the war on. This philosophy was embodied in Patton. Montgomery represented the British view that you should not fight until you had every advantage you could get. Given the losses England had taken going into 1944 and the limited resources (including manpower), that philosophy made sense for them, but aggravated the naive and hubristic Americans.

    You see what happened in “A Bridge Too Far” when Montgomery tried to fight the American way – it was a disaster. A leopard can not change its spots, nor should it try. But then again, if it had been up to the Americans, the Anglo-Americans would have attempted D-Day in 1943. The British wisely vetoed this – there is little doubt the Germans were too strong and we were not strong enough in 1943 to successfully invade France.

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    Favorite line: Reporter: “General Patton, do you read the Bible?” Patton: “Every damn day.”

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