I recently watched “Patton” on the big screen for the first time since It was released in 1970. To make the viewing even more memorable I read Making Patton by Nicholas Evan Sarantakes. It is a fascinating look at everything involving the film. Needless to say, it was not an easy film tp make. As I read, I jotted down interesting facts to share with my readers. Enjoy!
1. George C. Scott did not want the speech at the start of the movie because he felt it would be hard to top.
2. Producer Frank McCarthy graduated from VMI and eventually rose to be George Marshall’s chief aide. He met Patton several times. He planned FDR’s funeral. The was Assistant Secretary of State under Truman. He suffered several nervous breakdowns due to overwork. He went to work for Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck. He was co-producer on “Decision Before Dawn”.
3. Columbia Pictures wanted to make the movie in 1950, but Beatrice Patton nixed the deal because the family hated the media for its role in Patton’s controversies. She died in 1953, but the children shared her opposition to any film about their father. In 1961, McCarthy got himself assigned as assistant to the chief of information, US Army and got the Army to approve the project for 20th Century Fox with requiring family approval. The family hired a lawyer to try to derail the project, which didn’t happen, but did result in a better script. The family ended up liking the finished film.
4. McCarthy’s first choice was Burt Lancaster. The studio wanted John Wayne. Zanuck suggested Scott.
5. The near bankruptcy of 20th Century due to “Cleopatra” set the project back several years.
6. When Ladislas Farago’s book Ordeal and Triumph, 20th Century bought the rights and Zanuck took up the project and assigned David Brown to produce. McCarthy was brought on board. Calder Willingham wrote a treatment that was not wedded to accuracy. McCarthy was disappointed and hired Francis Ford Coppola. McCarthy watched over his shoulder and they collaborated. Ed North revised the script. He did not collaborate with Coppola. He added historical accuracy and cut a scene involving Patton’s disastrous attempt to rescue his son-in-law from a German prison because he rightfully felt it cancelled the vibe from the Bastogne segment.
7. Director Franklin Schaffner was coming off “Planet of the Apes”. He insisted the studio remove the subtitle “Blood and Guts”.
8. Shooting began in Spain 17 years, 3 months, and 11 days after McCarthy had first proposed the project.
9. 72 locations were used.
10. A total of eight days were lost to Scott’s drinking. It did not help that James Edwards (Meeks) was an alcoholic who instigated and facilitated Scott’s binges. McCarthy filmed Edwards’ scenes early and then fired him. He gave some of Edwards’ lines to others like Paul Stevens (Codham). Karl Malden took on the task of dining with Scott and keeping liquor away. Because of what he saw of the effects of alcohol on Scott, Malden gave up drinking.
11. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is iconic, but there is only 30 minutes of music in the movie.
12. Richard Nixon legendarily saw the movie dozens of times, but official White House records only confirm three.
13. Schaffner and North claimed that the movie was anti-war (i.e., it takes a personality like Patton to win wars), but McCarthy insisted it was pro-Army.
14. It was entitled “Patton: Lust for Glory” in Great Britain where it got good reviews in spite of the portrayal of Montgomery.
15. It seems likely that the two mules were actually euthanized before they were dumped over the bridge.
Here is the speech