The scene where General Truscott tells Patton "You're an old athlete yourself General, you know matches are sometimes postponed" refers to the fact that George S. Patton actually had represented the U.S.A. at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm by competing in the Modern Pentathlon. Patton finished a credible fifth in the competition. Remarkably it was the shooting element that let him down. In true Patton style he used his military .38 revolver instead of the lighter .22 favored by most of the athletes. Patton was also an expert fencer. He re-wrote the U.S. Army's manuals on swordsmanship removing the 'parry.' His idea was for all attack. Defence just wasted energy. Such was his mastery of swordsmanship that he designed the last saber ever to be worn into battle as a weapon, the M1913 Cavalry Saber, commonly known as the "Patton Saber".
According to his co-star Karl Malden, George C. Scott caused a shooting delay by immersing himself in a ping-pong tournament against a world-champion table-tennis player. Scott (who was in full costume and makeup) kept losing to the champ; yet he was determined to win at least one set, even if they had to stand there playing the entire night.
The movie begins without showing the 20th Century Fox logo, or any other indication that the film is starting. At military bases across the U.S., theater owners reported that soldiers in the audience would often stand up and snap to attention when they heard the movie's opening line ("Ten-hut!"), assuming it to be a real call to attention.
Initially, George C. Scott refused to film the famous speech in front of the American Flag when he learned that the speech was going to come at the opening of the film. He felt that if they put that scene at the beginning, then the rest of his performance would not live up to that scene. So director Franklin J. Schaffner lied to Scott and told him that the scene would be put at the end of the film.
This was one of President Richard Nixon's favorite films. He had his own print, and would often watch it in the White House, particularly before having to make an important military decisions in Vietnam and Cambodia.
In reality, George S. Patton slapped and berated two soldiers in Sicily: Private Charles Kuhl on August 3, 1943 and Private Paul Bennett on August 10. Although it has been suggested Patton was sleep deprived, he wrote an entry in his diary after slapping Kuhl, unrepentant in his actions or opinion that Kuhl was a coward. Patton was ordered by Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower to apologize privately to the soldiers and hospital staff present. Also, the slapping incidents were kept secret from the public for months before the story was broken by reporter Drew Pearson, causing scandal not only for Patton's conduct, but accusations of cover-up on the part of the Army.
Soldiers who served under the real George S. Patton said that the general's voice was surprisingly high-pitched. This can be heard in actual films and recordings of him. Patton himself said that he used profanity so liberally in order to compensate for this.
Francis Ford Coppola says in the DVD commentary that he wrote a draft screenplay in 1966 and was fired from the film, in large part because Fox objected to opening the movie with Patton's speech. When the film finally went into production, Coppola's draft was dusted off and most of it used in the final film.
The scene where Patton tells General Sir Harold Alexander that he did serve with Napoléon Bonaparte is in reference to a poem which Patton wrote titled, "Through a Glass Darkly". In the poem, Patton talks about vague memories of six separate past lives, from caveman, to Ancient Roman, to Napoleonic Frenchman, and being a soldier in each and every life.
Part of the film was filmed at a Over Peover in Cheshire. This was the actual location that Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton would meet (specifically at the pub, the Bells of Peover). The pub is still there, and flies both the Union Flag and the Stars and Stripes outside to commemorate its part in history.
The German planes are a Spanish version of the Heinkel He 111, built under license by CASA. These are the same planes as featured in the film The Battle of Britain. Ironically, these Heinkels are powered by British made Rolls Royce Merlin engines, the same engines that powered Spitfires and Hurricanes against the German Luftwaffe during World War II.
Parts of the speech at the beginning were inspired by a real speech George S. Patton gave before the 3rd Army finally landed in Normandy in late June and early July 1944. The parts of the speech used are watered-down versions of what Patton actually said.
At the end of the film the monologue Patton gives about an ancient Roman triumph was lifted from a 1962 book by Robert Payne called "The Roman Triumph." This is from the very first paragraph: "For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, and the dazed prisoners walked in front of him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown over his head, and whispering in his ear a warning that all glory is fleeting."
Patton's famous opening speech is subtly implied to take place after the main body of the film. At the time of his speech, he was a 4-star general, as evidenced by his helmet. When Patton first arrives in North Africa at the beginning of the film, he is just receiving his promotion to 3-star general, which he remains until the celebration of Germany's surrender. Both Patton's promotion to 4-star general and opening speech must have taken place between his relief of Bastogne and the celebration (the speech is motivational, and wouldn't be given after the war was already over).
Somewhat perversely, Patton (1970) was re-released in early 1971 following the announcement of Oscar nominations on a double bill with a very different war film, also from 20th Century Fox and a Oscar nominee for best picture: MASH (1970).
Paul Frees dubbed the voice of the Morrocan Minister, and can also be heard at least three other times: As the voice of one of Patton's staff members, once during the press interview soon after the soldier slapping scene, and again near the end of the film, when a reporter interviewing General George S. Patton (who is riding his horse around an indoor track) leads him on by asking the General about similarities between the Nazi party in Germany and the Republican and Democrat parties in the United States.
While the film makers apparently went to great lengths to use actors who look a lot like their real-life counterparts, Karl Michael Vogler, who plays Erwin Rommel, bears only a passing resemblance to the actual man.
Perhaps taking revenge on George S. Patton in fantasy, there was a war-time rumor about Patton visiting a hospital and chewing out one patient for not coming to attention. The patient replied: "Run along, asshole. I'm in the Merchant Marine." It's reported in Paul Fussell's book "Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War."
The premier of Patton was held at West Point (Patton's alma mater). George C Scott and Karl Malden were among the luminaries in attendance. They had dinner in the Cadet Mess Hall with the Corps of Cadets prior to the premier.
After General Omar Bradley loses his helmet when his jeep is blown up by German artillery, he says to his driver, "Give me that helmet, Sekulovich!" This is part of Malden's insistence that there always be a character named Sekulovich in his films, in reference to his own birth name, Mladen Sekulovich.