The story of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and United Nations Commander for the Korean War. "MacArthur" begins in 1942, following the ... See full summary »
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The story of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and United Nations Commander for the Korean War. "MacArthur" begins in 1942, following the fall of Phillipines, and covers the remarkable career of this military legend up through and including the Korean War and into MacArthur's days of forced retirement after being dismissed from his post by President Truman. Written by
Anthony Hughes <email@example.com>
Prior to production, Gregory Peck disliked this film's script and demanded re-writes on it. See more »
General George C. Kenney, MacArthur's new air commander, arrives in a B-17 bomber which is painted in a camouflage pattern never used by American aircraft during World War II. See more »
Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland:
Inchon has some of the highest tides in the world, but only once a month do they reach a height sufficient for our largest landing craft to go in. There are maybe two three-hour periods when MacArthur can put troops ashore. Which is not enough time for a major amphibious landing.
Exactly. This is little more than a trench in the mudflats. If every possible handicap were listed, Inchon has them all.
Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland:
However, gentlemen, MacArthur claims that these very handicaps are what he's counting on. He ...
[...] See more »
It is noteworthy that mine is only the third review of this film, whereas `Patton- Lust for Glory', producer Frank McCarthy's earlier biography of a controversial American general from the Second World War, has to date attracted nearly a hundred comments. Like a previous reviewer, I am intrigued by why one film should have received so much more attention than the other.
One difference between the two films is that `Patton' is more focused, concentrating on a relatively short period at and immediately after the end of the Second World War, whereas `MacArthur' covers not only this war but also its subject's role in the Korean war, as well as his period as American governor of occupied Japan during the interlude.
The main difference, however, lies in the way the two leaders are played. Gregory Peck dominates this film even more than George C. Scott dominated `Patton'. Whereas Scott had another major star, Karl Malden, playing opposite him as General Bradley, none of the other actors in `MacArthur' are household names, at least for their film work. Scott, of course, portrayed Patton as aggressive and fiery-tempered, a man who at times was at war with the rest of the human race, not just with the enemy. I suspect that in real life General MacArthur was as volcanic an individual as Patton, but that is not how he appears in this film. Peck's MacArthur is of a more reflective, thoughtful bent, comparable to the liberal intellectuals he played in some of his other films. At times, he even seems to be a man of the political left. Much of his speech on the occasion of the Japanese surrender in 1945 could have been written by a paid-up member of CND, and his policies for reforming Japanese society during the American occupation have a semi-socialist air to them. In an attempt to show something of MacArthur's gift for inspiring leadership, Peck makes him a fine speaker, but his speeches always seem to owe more to the studied tricks of the practised rhetorician than to any fire in the heart. It is as if Atticus Finch from `To Kill a Mockingbird' had put on a general's uniform.
Whereas Scott attempted a `warts and all' portrait of Patton, the criticism has been made that `MacArthur' attempts to gloss over some of its subject's less attractive qualities. I think that this criticism is a fair one, particularly as far as the Korean War is concerned. The film gives the impression that MacArthur was a brilliant general who dared stand up to interfering, militarily ignorant politicians who did not know how to fight the war and was sacked for his pains when victory was within his grasp. Many historians, of course, feel that Truman was forced to sack MacArthur because the latter's conduct was becoming a risk to world peace, and had no choice but to accept a stalemate because Stalin would not have allowed his Chinese allies to be humiliated. Even during the Korean scenes, Peck's MacArthur comes across as more idealistic than his real-life original probably was; we see little of his rashness and naivety about political matters. (Truman 's remark `he knows as much about politics as a pig knows about Sunday' was said about Eisenhower, but it could equally well have been applied to MacArthur's approach to international diplomacy). Perhaps the film's attempt to paint out some of MacArthur's warts reflects the period in which it was made. The late seventies, after the twin traumas of Vietnam and Watergate, was a difficult time for America, and a public looking for reassurance might have welcomed a reassuringly heroic depiction of a military figure from the previous generation. Another criticism I would make of the film is that it falls between two stools. If it was intended to be a full biography of MacArthur, something should have been shown of his early life, which is not covered at all. (The first we see of the general is when he is leading the American resistance to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines). One theme that runs throughout the film is the influence of General MacArthur's father, himself a military hero. I would have liked to see what sort of man Arthur MacArthur was, and just why his son considered him to be such a hero and role model. Another interesting way of making the film would have been to concentrate on Korea and on MacArthur's clash with Truman, with equal prominence given to the two men and with actors of similar stature playing them. The way in which the film actually was made seemed to me to be less interesting than either of these alternative approaches.
It would be wrong, however, to give the impression that I disliked the film altogether. Although I may not have agreed with Peck's interpretation of the main role, there is no denying that he played it with his normal professionalism and seriousness. The film as a whole is a good example of a solid, workmanlike biopic, thoughtful and informative. It is a good film, but one that could have been a better one. 7/10.
On a pedantic note, the map which MacArthur is shown using during the Korean War shows the DMZ, the boundary between the two Korean states that did not come into existence until after the war. (The pre-war boundary was the 38th parallel). Also, I think that MacArthur was referring to the `tocsin' of war. War may be toxic, but it is difficult to listen with thirsty ear for a toxin.
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