#3: PATTON (Jerry Goldsmith)

October 25, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

It should come as no surprise that Patton has placed high on this list, although many will doubtless have expected the score to mirror the movie and take the #1 position. One thing I have wondered is whether I would have appreciated the film as much with a different score. It's hard to imagine Patton without this distinctive soundtrack. Goldsmith's music is such a perfect match for the action and the title character that I could envision the movie slipping a few notches in my Top 100 list without this score. When people ask me why Patton is my favorite motion picture, the music is one of the first things I mention (right after George C. Scott's performance). The biggest disappointment about The Last Days of Patton isn't the turgid script or the poor pacing, but the decision by the producers to ignore Goldsmith's music and go with something vastly inferior. (They probably didn't want to pay what it would have cost to purchase the rights. Cheap bastards.)

For me, this was an elusive soundtrack to obtain. I scrounged up a cassette copy in a discount bin at a Sam Goody's in the early 1980s. For years, that was the only way I could listen to the music. Eventually, it became available on CD, but it is scarce enough that it has to be mail-ordered. There are several versions available. If you're interested in getting one, avoid the edition that's paired with Tora! Tora! Tora!. It's a re-recording of the music, not the original soundtrack, and isn't as powerful. One nice bonus of the cassette version is that it contained unedited versions of Patton's opening and closing monologues. I don't believe any of the CDs have that. It was a nice touch, but its absence isn't missed. I don't buy soundtracks for dialogue. (In fact, most of the time I am annoyed when a music CD contains talking. That's one of the things I dislike about the Tarantino soundtracks.)

The centerpiece theme is, of course, the main title. Having been played during TV sporting events and as part of fireworks musical accompaniments, it's not obscure. Many people will recognize it without being able to identify its source (like the main theme from The Magnificent Seven). The music starts out haunting before exploding into grandeur. It's rousing and militaristic, and makes great use of trumpets. The theme returns several times during the score, particularly during "Attack" and "The Pay-Off." Other notable tracks include the somber, eerie "The Cemetery" and the stirring "German March" and "German Advance." (The former was called "Winter Attack" on the original soundtrack.)

I cannot divorce my love of the score from my love of the film, but I believe that an objective rater (if there is such a person) of music scores would agree that Goldsmith's work on Patton represents a high point of his career (an assessment the composer agreed with - he said as much in more than one interview) and one of the best soundtracks for a "military movie." I would argue that no movie score collection is complete without it.