November 11th is Veterans Day and I will be doing three things. I am calling my Great Uncle Art today to say thanks for his service. I will also call my older brother to say the same thing. Then I will sit down with my son to watch my favorite war movie, Patton. The film has been called by many who served with one of America’s greatest military men an accurate depiction of the general and of the war.
The opening of the movie, if you have never seen it is one of the finest in cinematic history. George C. Scott stands in front of a huge American flag and delivers a sanitized and edited version of Patton’s speech to the Third Army. Inspiring and angry the original speech was filled with profanities which the film’s producers felt were too harsh for the 70’s American film audiences. By today’s standards it would seem quite mild. The scene shows the power of Scott’s acting talent. Alone on a stage he captivates the audience with the power of his acting and voice. Other lines from the original speech are used through the movie like when asked where he was going Scott, as Patton, says he is on his way to Berlin to personally, “Shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch.”
Another thing the film shows is that political correctness is not a modern invention. Patton, who never played it safe or minced words, was removed from command for slapping a soldier whom he thought to be a coward. It can be argued that this may have cost American lives. Patton wasn’t one to learn a lesson or be intimidated. Later politically intemperate remarks about continuing his campaign to Moscow landed him in further trouble.
Scott may have been the perfect actor to play the General as he was also mercurial and often unpredictable. He refused the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of General Patton. This was not part of some seventies anti-war or anti-establishment protest. He had earlier refused his nomination for his role in the movie “The Hustler.” Scoot thought the Academy Awards to be a competition and thought his craft above that.
The movie also was one of the first to show the behind the scenes rivalry between Patton and English General Montgomery and the political divides inside the Allied Forces in World War II.