Well, then. This was a movie I used to watch with my dad, who was Special Forces Vietnam with the Marine Corps. As far as I know, he was the only US Marine attached to a special group normally made of paratroopers and airborne rangers.
Anyway, my dad and I used to watch Patton, and my dad would lecture me as if I was the Officer Class at the Navy War College. I learned HUGE amounts about military history, combat, and etc. And one thing my dad said really stuck with me: “Patton was too good for the Army. He should have been in the Corps.”
The story of Patton showed me that brute competence often fails in the face of vanity and squawking. Incidentally, the reason I have a disdain for Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery is that his accomplishments failed to rise to his own pomp and expectations. Montgomery was convinced that given all the material, men, munitions and support, he could single-handedly win the war. And every time they gave him that chance, he managed to get thousands of men slaughtered, and crawl for 50 yards a day.
When Patton was given a fraction of the same consideration, he very often flew for 50 miles a day.
It was no wonder that General Frank McCarthy decided he was going to make a movie that would vindicate Patton.
Ready for some trivia about the movie?
- General Bradley and McCarthy were standing there watching the first screen test where George C. Scott put on Patton’s uniform for the first time. “It was George Scott one minute, and George Patton the next.” Was how Bradley described it. It’s not the makeup or the uniform that does it. Sheer talent as an actor, something woefully missing today, is what did it.
- All of the equipment was genuine. Every last airplane, tank, jeep and artillery was authentic World War 2 equipment. The soldiers were all Spanish, since Spain had been given all of the war surplus material at the end of world war 2, mostly in a reparations method after the Spanish Civil war, where Hitler had tested all of his various designs.
- The first day of filming, George Scott sat in his trailer unable to move until one in the afternoon. He was in dread panic about his ability to play the part. He then went out at 1 in the afternoon, and by 4, they’d completed the shooting schedule.
- The role of Hauptmann Steiger was invented by Coppola for the purpose of getting exposition into the movie.
- The King Tiger scene almost went horribly wrong. The soldier who is run over has to pull his hand back quickly to avoid it being crushed by the tank treads.
- There’s a scene where the Battle of the Bulge is being planned. Karl Mulden was playing Omar Bradley, and apparently they needed one more shot of everyone at the table… but Mulden couldn’t be found. So… Omar Bradley put on the coat Mulden had been wearing, and sits down for the filming. See if you can spot it.
- One war scene was filmed when the Spanish Army decided enough was enough, and at 2 in the afternoon abruptly left the set to go get lunch. As the men marched off in the snow, the director started setting off explosions in the snow as if they were being shelled, and the panicky run of the soldiers is not faked.
- The Patton family attended the first showing of the movie, and Scott’s portrayal of Patton was so convincing it reduced his son to tears.
- The first actor the studio had approached to play Patton quit after reading the first draft of the script, mostly over the weird reincarnation references and the intro scene of Patton in front of the flag.
- George SCott was opposed to opening the movie with the first scene. His complaint was not that it was weird, but that he felt the performance required was too “high” for him to maintain the entire rest of the movie, and he felt if that was how they wanted to do it, they should have filmed it first instead of last, so he could have done a better acting job!
- George Patton had only one butt cheek, due to a serious injury he’d gotten in world war 1. They should have put a flat piece of plastic in Scott’s pants to show that.
- The jeep driver in the “Cartheginian” scene is actually Chet Hanson, the personal aide of Omar Bradley.
- One of the German Generals is actually the director of cinematography.
- The camera system (Dimension 150) used for Patton was used only for one other movie: The Bible.
- There are three distinct elements to the theme for Patton: Reincarnation, Praying Man,and Warrior.
- Coppola wrote the movie based upon the book by Codman. The studio had purchased two other books instead.
- George Scott’s nose is modified with clay to give the Patton “chiseled feature.”
- The original script written by Coppola used as much authentic dialogue as he could find from the books he had on Patton.
The telling moment about Patton is not in the movie Patton, but actually in “A bridge too far”. Field Marshal Rundstedt is debating with Field Marshall Model about who will lead the assault on Holland. Model looks up, and with obvious distaste in his voice, says.. “Patton.”
Rundstedt nods. “It will be Patton, I would prefer Montgomery, but of course, Eisenhower is not that stupid.”
Eisenhower would indeed choose Montgomery.