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Comments about the soundtrack for Patton (Jerry Goldsmith)

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A complex and highly personal masterpiece by Goldsmith
• Posted by: Taikou   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, August 18, 2013, at 8:41 a.m.
• IP Address:
• Now Playing: The Living Daylights - John Barry

I was a huge fan of the film Patton long before I became familiar with the rest of Jerry Goldsmith's work, and for that reason it has a special significance for me. In much the way that people who lived through WW2 said George C. Scott WAS Patton, Goldsmith's score defines Patton just as much as Scott's legendary portrayal of the general. Goldsmith was able to get into Patton's head just as much as Scott was, and the constant battle in the general's soul to live up to the expectations of the ghosts of his family history and his perceived duty, as well as his real-life battles against the Nazis (and, at times, his own colleagues) play out marvelously in this score.

Goldsmith expertly ties these threads of Patton's internal and external struggles together so well that the score represents both perspectives simultaneously, much as Franklin Schaffner's masterpiece skillfully and honestly depicts all of the positive and negative aspects of Patton's character. I think this is depicted best of all in the ending (minor spoilers follow), where Patton's death is represented as he walks his dog into the bleak landscape ("the absence of war will kill him"), Goldsmith's most noble theme for the general, full of honorable intentions mixed with sorrow and discord, is given its most powerful performance, pacing Scott's narration and rising into the transition of Patton's soul into Heaven (or his next life, if you will).

As Goldsmith's only purely biographical score (barring MacArthur, a film which I have not watched nor listened to the score in its entirety), Patton deserves another look from his fans both within and outside of the context of the film. With the possible exception of the themes associated with the Nazi winter assault in the Battle of the Bulge, the entire score revolves around the main character himself. I don't even think major supporting characters like Bradley and Montgomery have any theme of their own - everything is an extension of the General's personality and his ambitions, a very rare personal focus in film scores. Goldsmith would collaborate with Schaffner very successfully many more times, and would go on to create some extraordinary scores, but his achievement with Patton really represents a unique effort by Goldsmith. He is to be commended for the efforts he made to understand Patton himself and express the General's character in this complex and continually rewarding score. If you haven't broken out your Patton CD in a while, take another listen to this oldest of the Goldsmith masterpieces.

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