"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
— George S. Patton
Patton is a 1970 film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola based on the life of General George S. Patton. The title general was played by George C Scott in his most iconic role. Its story concerns Patton as he leads the American forces during World War II. On the battlefield, he was a military genius respected by both sides. Off the battlefield, Patton's ego and volatile temperament more than often reared its ugly head. While Patton believed himself destined for greater glory, his very temperament is what proves to be the undoing of his military career. This was the winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year.Received a much lesser-known TV sequel, The Last Days of Patton, in 1986, which takes place during and after the car accident that took his life, as well as his earlier career during World War One.
Patton provides examples of the following tropes:
A Father to His Men: He can be gentle and understanding when the situation calls for it. Except when it comes to not grasping that "shell shock" is real.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "How dare you compare the Nazis to the Republicans and Democrats." Yeah, insulting one's allies, slapping privates, and offering to start World War III is one thing. But insulting the Republicans and Democrats is unforgivable. It wasn't so much the seriousness of the offenses, but their timing. Patton was criticized for the first, and severely punished for the second, but the war wasn't over so he wasn't considered more trouble than he was worth.
His actual point didn't even compare Nazis to Republicans or Democrats, he merely compared the ease of joining a party. But nobody really paid attention to that.
At Least I Admit It: Patton says the difference between himself and Montgomery is that he admits he's a Prima Donna, while Monty won't.
Patton: We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose!
Part of his success both in the movie and real life. While contemporaries fought more conservatively, he was able to use the momentum of his attacks to great effect. It's also shown backfiring on Patton; in a scene late in the movie during the race across France, it's mentioned that Patton's troops ran out of gas and got pinned down by German forces, taking heavy casualties. In the actual battle, this was caused by Patton having advanced so fast that his supply trains couldn't keep up with the front lines, even though he had been warned that his supplies would be short.
Bandage Mummy: Just prior to the infamous slapping incident, Patton encounters a badly wounded soldier, swathed in bandages. Even Patton is visibly affected; he pins a Purple Heart to the man's pillow, then leans over to whisper in his ear.
Bradley: I do this job because I've been trained to. You do it because... you love it!
Later on, Patton admits it.
Patton: I love it! God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life.
Born in the Wrong Century: Patton. "The pure warrior. A magnificent anachronism." To hear him tell it, he was born in a lot of them.
Byronic Hero: Patton. Flamboyant, intelligent, courageous, charismatic if controversial, and with Blood Knight tendencies.
Cassandra Truth: When Steiger tells General Jodl that newspapers were reporting that Patton may be court-martialed due to the infamous slapping incident, where he slaps a soldier suffering from shell shock, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the latter asks him if they really would discipline him simply because he slapped a soldier.
Cold Open: Patton's famous speech in front of the giant flag.
Consultant on Board: Omar Bradley (Patton's subordinate, then commander) was the primary consultant for the film. Bradley's awesomeness is talked up by nearly everyone in the film.
Contrast Montage: As Patton reads the preacher's "weather prayer", we get scenes of night-time battles across snow-covered hills with only Patton's voice for sound. The silent explosions and falling soldiers are stark and shocking, but the prayer provides just cause for why American soldiers fought and died.
Digital Destruction: The overly smooth and grain-free Blu-Ray Disc released in 2008 helped open people's eyes to the negative side effects of digital noise reduction. 20th Century Fox released a Blu-Ray with a more detailed and film-like picture quality four years later.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Capt. Steiger tells Wehrmacht Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl that Patton's preferred method of discipline is about to get him a court-martial and off the battlefield, Jodl replies that they would never "keep their best general out of the war just for slapping a soldier." Of course, Steiger ends up being right. Which you could just as easily call "Common Sense Cannot Comprehend Politics".
What the Germans couldn't comprehend was that Patton was still punished and kept off the front lines, and assigned to the humiliating job of decoy while the Allies planned their Normandy invasion. The Germans were convinced (until it was too late) that Patton was leading a (fictitious) army into Calais, and it kept the German reserves inactive until the Allies had established a solid foothold in France. The Wehrmacht never thought that the Allies would hold back one of the better American generals as a punishment...
From the point of view of Dwight Eisenhower (commander over the European theater of the war) it was a win-win situation: the Germans were fooled, and he managed to sideline a general he regarded as an Ax-Crazy loose cannon ... until he could be unleashed.
Felony Misdemeanor: Patton views being relegated to a reserve command in the upcoming Normandy Invasion over the private-slapping incident to be entirely unjustified. The Germans don't believe the Allies would really put their best general on the bench over something so seemingly minor, either... which allows the Allies to exploit Patton's reputation to draw suspicion away from their actual plans by sending Patton all over the European Theater.
Field Promotion: When the Sicilian attack doesn't go as quickly as planned, Patton fires the officer he deems responsible, and promotes the second in command.
Foreshadowing: Patton's death is not covered in the movie, but when he is saved in the nick of time from the oxcart and says "After all I've been through, imagine getting killed by an oxcart!", it's looking forward to it. Patton was in a jeep accident in Europe on December 8, 1945, paralyzing him from the neck down. He died two weeks later.
Frontline General: During the battle with the 10th Panzer, Patton's on the front lines giving tactical orders. During the invasion of Sicily, he's shown scouting out a ford across a river while under enemy artillery fire. On several other occasions he's depicted driving around in battle areas.
Genre Blind: Patton does not seem capable of realizing how his actions and words will be perceived by those around him, or the media at large, and that is what consistently gets him into trouble.
Subverted at the end, when a humbled Patton — after being relieved of command for the second (and final time) — remembers his Roman history:
"A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning, that all glory ... is fleeting."
Gratuitous French: Patton, on at least three occasions in the film. The first one (an untranslated conversation with his aide in North Africa) is long enough to count as a Bilingual Bonus for those who understand the language.
Historical Beauty Update: Not in actual physical handsomeness, but the real Patton was a much less impressive orator than this movie would lead you to believe. He actually had a squeaky, somewhat high-pitched voice whereas Scott speaks with a deep gravelly voice. The real Patton still managed to steal the spotlight when speaking, but that was because he practiced his posture, poses, and expressions for hours, and purposefully cultivated his (deserved) badass image with his immaculate uniform, dual holstered pistols, etc, in large part to compensate for the fact that his voice was weak and uninspiring by itself.
The Lancer: General Omar Bradley is Patton's Lancer in the early days of the war, in North Africa and Sicily. Then he gets promoted over Patton after that slapping incident and Patton becomes Bradley's Lancer in France after D-Day.
Mr. Exposition: The German officer Captain Steiger. Screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola said part of the reason he invented the character was to give out biographical information about Patton to the audience.
Oh, Crap: The reaction of a sloppy Desk Jockey officer when he is giving his excuses about a getting a new Commanding Officer and realizes that CO, Gen. Patton, is here now and he is obviously disgusted by the state of the unit.
Opposing Combat Philosophies: A general theme is the conflict between Patton's aggressive philosophy and the other generals' more conservative approach.
Outscare the Enemy: Patton says that he'll make his men unafraid of the Germans, but "I hope to God they never stop being afraid of me."
In Real Life, Patton hated cartoonist Bill Maudlin (he of "Willie and Joe" fame) and personally threatened the artist after an unflattering cartoon that dissed Patton's obsession with orderly uniforms.
Bradley: I do it because that's what I'm trained to do. You do it because *Beat* you love it, George.
Staff of Authority: General Patton is portrayed frequently carrying a riding crop, indicating both his status as an officer with something of a flair for the dramatic, and his background in the cavalry.
Tanks, But No Tanks: The German and American tanks were played by, ironically enough, M47 and M48 Pattons. They didn't even try to hide the fact.
Tempting Fate: In an argument over the availability of Allied air support, a British officer declares that Patton would never see another German plane on the battlefield. Immediately afterwards, two German planes strafe the headquarters.
Trashcan Bonfire: Used to burn documents in the German headquarters at the end of the war.
The Unseen: Dwight D. Eisenhower. Film makers wanted to cast someone to have Ike appear as a cameo but it never worked out. Instead, Eisenhower becomes a God-like being able to pass judgment on Patton and his (mis)deeds.
What the Hell, Hero?: Patton suffers this after he slaps a soldier in the medical tent suffering from shell shock, in sharp contrast to him giving Purple Heart medals and even praying for one who was seriously wounded. He is forced to write an apology to his entire army as a result of it.
Worst News Judgment Ever: During a speech to a crowd of British women, Patton says that the Americans and British will rule the world, and makes no mention of the Russians. Cut to newsreel proclaiming "Patton insults Russian allies". To be fair he was specifically coached to include the Russians and declined to do so.
In reality Patton did mention the Russians in his speech at Knutsford, but the reporters deliberately left it out of their articles, thus whipping up a scandal on totally fictitious grounds.
In fact, it was all set up as part of Operation Bodyguard, to divert German attention from Normandy by calling it to Patton's presence in southeast England as commander of the (imaginary) First US Army Group (See Bodyguard of Lies).
Patton also mentions he would give the German pilots who strafed his command center far behind the lines medals if he could. The German pilots had unwittingly proved Patton's point more eloquently than the man could himself.
Wrote the Book: Played with. General Patton knows that Rommel literally wrote the book on tank warfare, so he reads it and uses that knowledge to predict what Rommel will do at their first big showdown.
In reality, Rommel completed a book on infantry tactics (Infantry Attacks, which is still available today). His planned book on tank warfare was never completed; much of the material which was intended to go into it is available in The Rommel Papers. Patton himself was as much a pioneer of tank tactics as Rommel was, as far back as World War I and before. General Heinz Guderian wrote the book on German tank warfare (Achtung-Panzer!, which is still available today).