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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Shortly after MacArthur's escape from the Philippines in the spring of 1942, he complains that the President and the Chiefs of Staff are not sending him enough troops, supplies, and equipment to carry on his war against the Japanese. He says that priorities are instead being given to commanders in other theaters, including Gen Patton in North Africa. However, Patton's troops did not arrive in Africa until November 1942. See more »
Solid biopic elevated by Gregory Peck's great performance
It is inevitable that MACARTHUR will be compared to PATTON, the other military biopic produced by the late Frank McCarthy. Such comparisons are unfortunate because their subjects are vastly different, albeit controversial figures, and each film takes a different approach in examining their impact on history.
George S. Patton commanded an Army formation in Europe while Douglas Macarthur commanded an entire theater of operation in the Pacific. By his own admission, Patton never had any political ambitions, while MacArthur definitely had such aspirations. Patton's political naivety made him ill-suited as the postwar occupation commander in Bavaria while MacArthur's political astuteness served him well during the occupation of Japan.
Yet both men were great, if iconoclastic military leaders. Patton's brilliant northern pivot during the Battle of the Bulge is matched by the MacArthur's daring amphibious landing at Inchon. And both men believed strongly in their destiny; Patton's belief was based on reincarnation while MacArthur was motivated by following in his illustrious father's footsteps.
Surprisingly, PATTON is the much more succinct, less ambitious film than MACARTHUR. It concentrates on its colorful, mercurial main character during a comparatively brief two-year period between the American defeat at Kasserine Pass in early 1943 to Patton's dismissal prior to his death in late 1945. Although we see Patton's conflict with Omar Bradley, Bernard Montgomery, and Bedell Smith, we never see his interaction with General Dwight Eisenhower, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, or General George Marshall, the U.S. Army's chief of staff.
MACARTHUR is a much more ambitious film, covering nearly a decade from the fall of Bataan in early 1942 to MacArthur's dismissal in 1951. Additionally, MACARTHUR shows a wider range of conflict between MacArthur and such individuals as Admiral Nimitz, General Marshall, ambassador William Averell Harriman, and Presidents Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
So, does MACARTHUR match PATTON as a groundbreaking biopic? No, it doesn't.
MACARTHUR lacks the insightful, acerbic screenplay that Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North supplied PATTON. The direction by TV veteran Joseph Sargent is yeoman-like where the late Franklin J. Schaffner offers a more vigorous, hell-for-leather approach to PATTON. Both films are handsomely mounted productions that serve as a tribute to acumen of the producer McCarthy. Both movies benefit from film scores by the ever-reliable Jerry Goldsmith.
While PATTON has its main character departing in a Valhalla-like denouement, MACARTHUR is book-ended by the legendary speech that the old soldier delivered to the cadet corps at West Point in 1962 as a final valedictory.
At the heart of both films are the extraordinary performances of their lead actors. The late George C. Scott's portrayal of Patton is justly remembered, but Gregory Peck delivers a performance that is both subtle and unapologetic and helps to elevate this often-pedestrian production to a higher level. Peck's portrayal is reminiscent of his work in TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH, but with the added weight of an additional thirty years of experience and craftsmanship that this great actor brings to bear to this role. Peck is ably supported by Dan O'Herlihy as FDR and the late Ed Flanders as Harry S. Truman.
Finally, I must note the presence of Dr. D. Clayton James, the author of the standard multi-volume biography of MacArthur, who served as this film's technical advisor.
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