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PATTON – Jerry Goldsmith

pattonMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

A Patton biopic film was first conceived by Frank McCarthy, a retired general working as a producer for 20th Century Fox in the 1950s. After selling the concept to Studio Executive Richard Zanuck, a screenplay was commissioned that resulted in two incarnations, one by Francis Ford Coppola and another by Edmund H. North. Over time these two screenplays were eventually merged into a single version. Both efforts drew inspiration from two books, Patton: Ordeal And Triumph, a biography by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier’s Story, the memoir of General Omar Bradley. After many years of ‘fine-tuning’, a final script was born and the search for a director and lead actor proceeded in earnest, eventually settling upon Franklin J. Schaffner and George C. Scott respectively. The film from the start was a one-man show, a biopic of a giant among men. Patton can best be described as charismatic, complicated and contradictory; he was deeply religious and yet both vulgar and profane, he was an insufferable narcissist and yet a supreme patriotic, and lastly he was a military tactical genius and yet a poor post war administrator. The film covered Patton’s rise to prominence in World War II during his military campaigns in Tunisia, Sicily, France and the occupation of Germany. It suffices to say that Scott’s performance was a tour de force that transcended the film and earned him a best actor Oscar award that he ungraciously declined to accept. The film went on to win seven Oscars including best picture and remains a popular film to this day.

In regards to the score, Schaffner had collaborated with Jerry Goldsmith before on The Stripper and the Planet of the Apes, and so he was a natural choice to score the film. But Goldsmith was contracted by Fox to write the sequel score Beneath the Planet of the Apes and so was forced to decline. Fortune would have it that Richard Zanuck, now head of Fox still had a tender spot for the project and so released Goldsmith from the project so he could score Patton. Goldsmith commented that in writing the score he had to approach the complexity of Patton’s personality with a multifaceted approach, which included a bravado march for the warrior, a chorale for his religiosity, and lastly, echoing trumpet fanfare to evoke Patton’s ties to the past which he believed included several glorious reincarnations. Goldsmith broke new ground by using an electronic device called an Echoplex, which used a tape-looping device to produce the fading echo effect of trumpets that carried the Echoes of the Past Theme. Some believe that with this score he succeeded beyond even his own expectations and wrote a masterwork. The score was nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to Love Story by Francis Lai. On that note, let us join Patton on his quest for Glory.

The album opens with the brief Patton Salute cue, the traditional rousing army call, “To the Colors” carried by solo bugle which plays as Patton opens the film walking onto a stage draped with a massive flag to address his troops. It is a powerful image befitting a man larger than life. Next follows the “Main Title”, which is an amazingly complex cue that features the three primary themes playing against each other. It opens with the Echoes of the Past Theme, which is comprised of repeating trumpet triplets that echo, fade and slowly dissipate unto nothingness. Soon a very slow, deep and repeating bass chord begins, which is joined by the Religioso Theme carried by organ chorale as the trumpet triplets continue to play atop. Next drum accents are added until solo piccolo introduces the Patton March at the 0:48 mark, which, is then taken up fully by French horns, drums and full orchestra for a powerful bravado statement. But instead of driving forward, Goldsmith slowly diminishes the orchestral statement until once again it is returned to a solo piccolo that surrenders to the organ carried Religioso Theme. After a statement of the theme, the repeating bass chord returns with an overlay of trumpet triplets, but this time Goldsmith twists the statement with muted electronic percussion and discordant low register horns effects to support the imagery of vultures feeding on fallen soldiers as women and children strip them of clothes.

“The Battleground” is a fascinating cue where Goldsmith creates a surreal ambiance. We hear eerie glissandi strings introduce the Echoes of the Past Theme as Patton speaks of the Roman general Scipio Africanus’ victory over the Carthaginians, an ancient battle waged where they stand a millennia ago in which he asserts he fought. The repeating trumpet triplets play over synth effects but then fade as woodwinds emote the triplets without the echo effect over a sustained high register organ chord. As Patton’s story continues, glissandi strings return joined by the trumpet triplets echoes to usher in a new theme I call the Contemplative Theme, which plays during times when Patton reflects on events. This theme also employs a repeating triplet statement, this time carried by middle register strings with woodwind counter play and a percussion accent. In A Change of Weather the theme is pensive as a aggrieved Patton faces the halt to his advance by a blizzard.

“The Cemetery” concerns itself with Patton’s visit to an ancient cemetery. The Echoes of the Past Theme is again used with string glissandi, muted percussion and deep, dark bass chords. Midway through the cue the music shifts to the Contemplative Theme as Patton reflects over the costs of war. With “First Battle” Goldsmith juxtaposes battle imagery with what at first is an effects cue consisting of a repeating dirge like bass duplet with contrabass, trumpet triplet echoes, discordant strings, percussion accents and drum rolls. Eventually the Religioso Theme carried by organ chorale and then woodwinds joins the bizarre mix to end the cue with a sense of finality. With the following “The Funeral” cue, we hear a repeating bass duplet with drum rolls with the Contemplative Theme played sadly as a lament.

“The Hospital” is a pivotal and solemn scene where Patton is seen honoring gravely wounded men at bedside. Yet he becomes outraged when he comes upon a crying soldier complaining of nerves. In a flash of contempt he repeatedly slaps the man and threatens to shoot him. The cue opens with the triplets of the Echoes of the Past Theme played with solemnity by horns without the echo effect against string counters and dark bass chords. As the cue continues we hear a poignant interplay between this theme and a more expressive Contemplative Theme carried by strings and woodwinds. The cue was excised from the film as both the director and Goldsmith felt it evoked too much sympathy for Patton.

“The Prayer” is a wonderfully conceived cue and testimony to Goldsmith’s genius. The scene features a frustrated Patton ordering a chaplain to compose a good weather prayer to facilitate his victory. Goldsmith again chooses to juxtapose the imagery of the onslaught of churning tanks with a sad and sorrowful statement. The cue features woodwinds playing the Religioso Theme over a sustained high register string chord with heavy bass chords counters. “No Assignment” relates to Patton being relieved of his command following the hospital incident. Against this backdrop we hear a sad and lonely extended statement of the Contemplative Theme as a disillusioned and bitter Patton contemplates the end of his career.

“Patton March” offers a wonderful full statement of the March Theme that is rousing and glorious! It recurred throughout the film and embodies the confidence, resolve and indomitability of Patton as well as the joy he derived from attacking the enemy. The cue opens with the echoing trumpet triplets that usher in the theme borne by flutes and percussion. The flutes give way to French horns and full orchestra for a bravado statement of the theme that makes one want to get up and join in. The cue concludes as it began with the repeating trumpet triplet echoes.

In “Attack” the cue opens with the Patton March playing over a montage of scenes as Patton is seen driving his troops relentlessly and inexorably forward. Interspersed in this passage are contrasting fragments of the Religioso Theme and accents by the trumpet triplet echoes. “German Advance” is a brilliant piece of music constructed by Goldsmith to play as a passacaglia. He introduces the German March Theme, as the Germans launch what would be their last gasp offensive of the war. Low register horns and a steady military drumbeat introduce the theme first carried by woodwinds and percussion. After and interlude the theme returns with dissonant horns and plucked strings which give way to a full orchestral expression of the theme with heavy percussion, and low register horns. This theme reprises in “An Eloquent Man” where it plays against first the Echoes of the Past Theme and then the Patton March with dramatic effect.

In “The Payoff” drums playing as a heart beat effect open the cue and are soon join by piccolo, which introduce the Patton March. This however is a different rendering of the March Theme; a more restrained and sophisticated statement as it is not only presented with different orchestration, but also lacks the pompous bravado. “End Title” opens with French horns carrying a remorseful rendering of the Contemplation Theme as Patton relinquishes his command to begin a new life as a civilian – a fate as good as a death sentence for this eternal warrior. The cue ends with the trumpet triplet echoes ushering in a final statement of the Patton March. For those of you with a technical curiosity, the final cue on CD one, “Echoplex Session”, provides a series of efforts to refine the technique of producing the unique trumpet triplet echoes.

The second CD features the original score CD recorded by Goldsmith in London. The major differences are the inclusion of two Patton speeches (cues 1 and 13) and the manner Goldsmith rearranged and recorded the various cues. He chose what he believed to be were score highlights and arranged them more as stand-alone concert pieces, free from the constraints imposed by the film’s sequencing and imagery. As such there are fewer cues and overall the sound is more upbeat and brighter, as most of the discordant and extraneous effects have been excised. I will only comment on cues that display significant differences from their counterparts on CD one.

“Patton Speech” is not a score cue, but instead features the opening raw and unvarnished speech spoken by George C. Scott on a stage draped with a massive flag to address his troops. It is a powerful image befitting a man larger than life. With this version of the “Main Title” the discordant final minute of music linked to the vulture and corpse scene is excised. “Winter March” features a much more dynamic, powerful and rousing presentation of the German March Theme than heard on CD one. The horn work, drum beat and forthright driving tempo make this a score highlight. I only wish Goldsmith would have found some way to play this version against the Patton March as it surely would have been a masterpiece cue.

This version of the “Patton March” is eleven seconds longer and plays as a discreet concert piece. The final two cues “End Title & Speech” feature the film’s final musical statement, the first version recorded with a poignant in memoriam speech by Patton, the second version without Patton’s speech. Interestingly enough, I found the music more moving with Patton’s speech. The cue seems to me to play as a lament for more noble times as we see a man of the past unable to reconcile himself with current ethos of modernity.

I must applaud Intrada, Nick Redman and Douglass Fake for a most impressive reissue of this classic score. The sound quality is excellent and the joining of the score and OST was nicely conceived. I must say that this is one of the best scores Goldsmith has ever written. He demonstrates creativity and innovation with his use of the Echoplex and provides several fine themes to capture the innate complexity and incongruity of the title character. The Patton March has been absorbed into the very fabric of Americana, often being heard during military parades. The robust German March is also very impressive and a score highlight. The creative use of the score to at times juxtapose the film’s imagery was brilliantly conceived and again offers testimony to the genius of Goldsmith in discerning the film’s narrative. Lastly, Goldsmith shows that a three-hour movie does not necessarily require a long score. Despite providing only 37 minutes of score, each cue is perfectly conceived and attenuated to the film’s narrative. I highly recommend you purchase this expanded two CD release and assign it my highest rating.

Rating: *****

Buy the Patton soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • DISC ONE
  • Patton Salute (Solo Bugle) (0:44)
  • Main Title (3:08)
  • The Battleground (2:14)
  • The Cemetery (2:42)
  • The First Battle (2:50)
  • The Funeral (1:54)
  • The Hospital (3:36)
  • The Prayer (1:11)
  • No Assignment (2:23)
  • Patton March (1:53)
  • Attack (3:15)
  • German Advance (2:32)
  • An Eloquent Man (1:43)
  • The Payoff (2:26)
  • A Change of Weather (1:23)
  • Pensive Patton (0:16)
  • End Title (2:20)
  • Echoplex Session [BONUS] (5:29)
  • DISC TWO (ORIGINAL 1970 SCORE ALBUM)
  • Patton Speech (spoken by George C. Scott) (4:54)
  • Main Title (2:17)
  • The Battleground (2:19)
  • The First Battle (2:48)
  • Attack (3:14)
  • The Funeral (1:53)
  • Winter March (1:55)
  • Patton March (2:04)
  • No Assignment (1:59)
  • German Advance (2:31)
  • The Hospital (3:18)
  • The Payoff (2:22)
  • End Title and Speech (spoken by George C. Scott) (1:01)
  • End Title (sans dialogue) [BONUS] (1:11)

Running Time: 75 minutes 45 seconds

Intrada Records MAF-7110 (1970/2010)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton. Album produced by Nick Redman and Douglass Fake.

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  1. chris
    March 6, 2011 at 3:07 am

    while great as heard in the film, I always felt that this score didn’t make for an enjoyable listening experience. Nevertheless the Patton and German marches are real winners !

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