Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Screenplay by

Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North


After very dramatically proclaimng to his men that if they do not succeed in relieving Bastogne, "let no-one return alive,"

Patton's aide: Sometimes, general, they can't tell when you're acting.
Patton: It's not important that they can tell, as long as I can.

Discussion Questions

Scene 1: The Speech
1. What is the purpose of this speech?

2. What makes this speech funny? (While the audience of troops in the movie is silent, typically the real Patton got a great deal of laughs when he made this speech to troops.) How much of our laughter is nervous laughter? What is deadly serious about this speech? Do the comic elements of the speech help it achieve its purpose? If so, how?

3. What is the point of the presenting such ruthless and gory images?

4. Does this speech dehumanize the soldiers who hear it by encouraging murderous feelings? If not, at what point does "kill the enemy" rhetoric become so hateful and violent as to become harmful? Can a good person be a good soldier? What, when it is necessary, is the best way to make soldiers willing and even eager to kill the enemy?

Scene 2: Researching Patton
1. Why is it necessary to research Patton? Is the information discovered by Steiger helpful? In what way(s)?

2. What kind of man is Rommel? What does this scene reveal about his character?

3. Does this scene indicate anything that Patton and Rommel have in common?

Scene 3: A Simple Old Soldier
1. What differences appear between Patton and Bradley as they land in Sicily in the newsreel? How does this contrast, captured by the newsreel, foreshadow the contrast captured by the film in the scene that follows?

2. Why does Patton disregard General Alexander's orders not to go further than Agrigento?

3. What sort of relationship do Patton and Bradley have? Why does Bradley allow Patton to disregard General Alexander's orders? Is Bradley at fault?

4. Did Patton make the right decision in ignoring his orders and pushing on to Messina? Should generals be able to disobey orders? Recall that later in the war, when General Bradley is his superior, Patton obeys orders he disagrees with a number of times. Why does Patton sometimes follow orders with which he disagrees, and at other times not?

5. At the end of the movie, Patton appears as if he might ‘start an incident' with the Russians to bring about another war, which would have been in complete defiance of the wishes of the American people. How much freedom should democracies give to their generals, and how much control should they exercise over them?

6. Does Patton's glory-seeking actually serve the best interests of his soldiers?

Scene 4: The Slapping Incident and its Aftermath

1. Why does this particular fact from Caesar's Commentaries seem relevant to Patton at this point?

2.Why did Patton slap the soldier?

3. How would Patton defend his statement that cowards be shot in an American army? How do Patton's reflections on the newspaper story and the cowardice of the soldier reveal how he is caught between his reverence for older military tradition and his knowledge of what is acceptable by the standards of his day?

4. Why did the American press react so vehemently to Patton's slapping the soldier? What do the criticisms of Patton reveal about American values?

5. Does Patton care what the press says? Why?

6. Is Ike's command to apologize to the army correct? Why is this command especially difficult for Patton to obey?

7. Would Coriolanus have obeyed such a command? Would Coriolanus ever have felt it was appropriate to apologize to his troops? Henry V?

8. Is Patton's explanation to the troops of what "was on his mind" convincing?

9. Should a general who slaps a soldier as Patton did be relieved of duty?

Scene 5: Aftermath of Knutsford Speech
1. America came quite close to relieving its finest strategic army general, which may well have prolonged the war, due to his making this "diplomatically incorrect" statement at Knutsford. Should generals of a democracy be required to be official mouthpieces of the nations' policies in all public appearances?

2. Does Patton's treatment by his nation reveal something problematic about the nature of democracy?

3. If one argues that Patton should not have been threatened with removal for the incidents in Sicily or Knutsford, must one also argue the same regarding his conduct at the very end of the film when the war with Germany is over? Or was there something fundamentally more serious about his behavior then?

Scene 6: All Glory is Fleeting
1. Why did those making the film have Patton read this historical tidbit at the very end of the film, right after he has been relieved of command?

2. What is the visual symbolism of his walk through the vast field and the presence of the windmill?

Paper Topics
1. Obviously, Patton was a man who had some serious weaknesses and limitations. What were the most important of these, and which hurt him the most?

2. Who was the better leader for an army serving a democracy? Bradley or Patton? (If we say Bradley, do we still find Patton more exciting and more heroic?)

3. Does our society allow those who are best in their fields to rise to the top and do what they do best? Or does it drag down these people with complaints about their demanding ways, and only allow those wise in the ways of politics, whether they be office politics, army politics, campus popularity politics, or what have you, to really succeed?

4. Was Patton properly honored by America? What does the film suggest? Should military and political honor be the same in America as it was in ancient Rome? Why or why not?

5. Who cared for his troops more? Henry V or General Patton?

6. Both Coriolanus and Patton saw battle as an opportunity for men to do their duty and gain glory. For Coriolanus, battle proved him the best of all men, and thus deserving of rule, but Patton claimed not to "have any political ambition after the war." Why not? Discuss the relation between military and political leadership in Shakespeare's Coriolanus and the Patton.

7. Compare and contrast Coriolanus and Patton. Would Patton ever turn against the American people in the way Coriolanus did against Rome? Why or why not? Is Patton the nobler man? Is he a more democratic figure?

8. Does Patton's career better illustrate Jefferson's or Tocqueville's account of American democracy?

Patton Reading

Guide to unit 2

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