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Patton

Year: 1970
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Franklin J Schaffner
Writer: Francis Ford Coppola/Edmund H North/Ladislas Farago
Cast: George C Scott, Karl Malden

I didn't know anything about this film before seeing it except for an mp3 I had of the opening of Patton addressing his troops.

For that reason I thought he was a grumpy, grizzled, no-nonsense tough guy, a John Wayne archetype for the Second World War. But the script actually depicts him as a deeply intelligent, sensitive and sophisticated man. He spoke a couple of languages, was interested in and learned from history, quoted poetry and just happened to be a brilliant combat statistician.

But as he mounted a successful and seemingly unstoppable campaign across Europe following his victory in North Africa against Rommel, his mouth kept getting him intro trouble. It seemed disingenuous because I expected him to be a gruff straight talker who was all brawn and no brains but Scott plays him as a man who knows how to be refined when the moment calls for it and by rights he should've played the game of war politics much more successfully.

The story is simple enough. Patton enters Italy and starts north, seeing himself as a competitor to every other General in the army as well as the Germans, and even though he can be genial he has a big mouth that costs him command of both the Normandy invasion and occupied Germany.

Whether Scott played him that way or not, I never felt like I got the full measure of the man. Maybe that was the way they wanted it, but word has it Scott later apologised to director Franklin J Schaffner for not doing Patton's complexity justice.

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