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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.
Of course no movie, not even at 130 minutes, can capture all of a man's professional history, but the lacunae here are convenient ones. The upshot is that this is like one of those John Singer Sargent portraits of society women that made them look sexier and prettier than they probably were.
For instance, MacArthur remarks somewhere along the line that his casualties are fewer than anyone else's (or something like that) when in fact those figures have been contested. MacArthur's aching desire to invade China is turned into a kind of a joke, when he complains that he is only allowed to bomb the southern entrances to bridges across the Yalu River -- "In all my career, I've never learned how to bomb HALF A BRIDGE." Very amusing. But then his political views as a whole, which were somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun's, are skipped over. His run for president fizzled because not even the most rabid anti-communist power broker wanted a war with China, but this too is turned into a morbid joke, when MacArthur remarks to his wife about the newly elected Eisenhower -- "He'll make a great president. He was the best clerk I ever had." (Eisenhower's joke appears elsewhere -- "I spent seven years under MacArthur studying dramatics.") The most illustrative revelation of MacArthur's character isn't in the film. MacArthur recruited Weldon E. Rhoades as the personal pilot of his B-17 and the aviator became a loyal disciple and sometimes personal confidant. By Rhoades' own admission, "this meant that the general would talk for great lengths of time during which Rhoades was not expected to respond."
One last point that is glossed over. MacArthur is stuck on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines surrounded by Japanese but prepared to fight it out. He is ordered to return to Australia on PT boats. He objects strenuously but in the end obeys his orders and retreats. It's a dangerous voyage on small worn-out boats made of plywood. And for this he is awarded the medal of honor. The officers and men of that handful of boats made the same voyage -- round trip too -- and no medals of honor for them, although they were acting under the same conditions, following orders. (An aside: the bar is a little lower for high-ranking officers, which is why their dress uniforms seem to droop with decorations like some Latin American dictators'.)
But it's not a bad movie, as long as you're looking for a heroic picture of an undoubtedly heroic man. Gregory Peck exudes his usual sincerity and is a much more effective speaker than MacArthur himself who almost always sounded like a blowhard. And Peck had to do quite a good job to overcome that florid prose -- "Still, I listen with thirsty ear for the tocsin call," etc. ("Thirsty ear.") In a speech at West Point McArthur also misattribues a quote from Santayana to Plato ("only the dead have seen the end of war"), but that's carping.
The movie follows the same pattern as "Patton." Give us an admirable hero, one human enough to have a little fun poked at him. (Peck emerges from a shower draped in a couple of huge bath towels arranged like a toga, so that he resembles Caesar.) Surround him with devoted but sometimes puzzled subordinates who, when they are not courting his favor, are warning him that something he plans to do might be misinterpreted by the suits back in Washington. Just don't have him do anything seriously wrong.
Production values are good. This is an expensive picture. Supporting players more or less blend into one another -- there's only room for one Caesar in this movie.
Some things are left unexplained, unintentionally it would seem, since this is not the kind of movie that thrives on leaving anything up to the viewer. General Wainwright is left behind on Corregidor to surrender to the Japanese. Back in Australia, MacArthur fumes at such cowardice, Wainwright must be temporarily deranged. But when they meet again when Manila is liberated, MacArthur greets him like a long lost pal. What happened? And the big meeting between MacArthur and Truman that was supposed to iron out the differences between them? It's confusingly staged and scripted. Both sides seem to come away satisfied but, if that were the case, the satisfaction must have been based on some profound misunderstandings because afterward MacArthur and Truman both went merrily on their divergent ways.
I kind of enjoy watching it once in a while. The Irish Daniel O'Herlihy does a side-splitting impression of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And the action scenes are fairly well done. I do wish that the movie had been more honest with its subject. As it is, it's a flawed movie about a flawed but remarkable man.
Above all, Gregory Peck triumphed in his portrayal of the great general It is the stride, the set of the shoulders, the intensity It's what both men have had in common: intensity, total absorption, devotion With MacArthur it was for the military With Peck it was for the challenge of acting An Academy Award winner for "To Kill a Mockinbird", an Oscar nominee for "Keys to the Kingdom", "The Yearling", "Gentleman's Agreement", and "Twelve O'Clock High"he has played everything from an apparently homicidal amnesiac to a crusading journalist; from a troubled gunfighter to an obsessed attorney; from biblical David to Captain Horatio Hornblower He has brought to them all his own unique insight, his character, his sincerity, warmth and love, and especially, his humor
There is a scene where 'MacArthur' stands on deck with the 'President of the Philippines.' We can hear the dialogue: "General, I hope the water isn't too deep," says the 'President,' "because my people will find out I can't swim." Then come Peck's sonorous voice: "And my people are going to find that I can't walk on water!"
As "MacArthur," Peck once again justified his reputation as a giant in the film industry Through him we felt MacArthur's emotions: we knew his anger, his happiness and we understood the relationship with his whole family
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.
From the time of his arrival in our country he quickly abandoned the idea of defending any mainland invasion by the Japanese and decided on an offensive in New Guinea as a counter attack. Peck is perfect in the role of the self minded MacArthur doggedly pursuing the Japanese back to their homeland while arguing with his own superiors, including U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt over his earlier promise to liberate the Phillipines, which was planned to be bypassed. After the Japanese surrender, MacArthur becomes virtual ruler of Japan modifying old customs and instituting sweeping land reforms. His authority remained absolute until the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, when he clashed with new U.S. President Harry Truman over his successful campaign against the North Koreans and his intention to take on their Communist Chinese backers. Truman, wanting to avoid another world conflict, relieves MacArthur of his command and he is recalled home. Peck is magnificent with his captivating speech before a band of West Point recruits where he details his life and closes the movie with that famous caption " Old soldiers never die - they just fade away". This movie is a must for the younger generation of this world, to know that today's freedom was the result of the sacrifices made by their forbears.
To add a final footnote my mother worked at Archerfield aerodrome in Brisbane in 1942 with her sister where they were employed as aircraft riveter's being responsible for the repair of the fuselage of damaged U.S. Aircraft used during the defense of our country during World War 2. She told me well before her death in March 2004 how she took her limited time off from work to travel to central Brisbane just to watch General MacArthur walk down Queen Street from his home base at Lennons Hotel to the AMP building in Edward Street where he had his headquarters.
She said what a fine figure he cut, tall and handsome, and full of confidence in his goal of supreme victory. Her expectations in the faith of this great American General were ultimately justified. We are a free country today for the contribution of his great military expertise in the time of our greatest need.
Oddly enough, the potential was there. From the very early "Star Trek" episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" (1966) to the recent HBO films "Something the Lord Made" (2OO4) and "Warm Springs" (2OO5), director Joseph Sargent has emerged as one of the most expressively human directors in film, a man capable of subtly shaping the emotional shadings of his actors' performances, and carrying the audience exactly where he wants them to go. The producer, Frank McCarthy, also gave us "Patton" (197O), the legendary Jerry Goldsmith scored both films, and Universal widely touted the fact that the film was "four years in preparation and production." Yet for all of this, "MacArthur" is perfectly adequateand not much more than that.
The film begins in early 1942, shortly before the beleaguered general was orderedby President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Dan O'Herlihy)to flee the Philippines to avoid capture by the Japanese. Thus, this film omits:
· MacArthur's birth in 188O in a frontier barracks in Arkansas still subject to attack by Native American tribesmenthus establishing that his remarkable life spanned the distance from bows-and-arrows to thermonuclear weapons;
· his graduation from West Pointfirst in a class of 95,
· how he joined his famous father, General Arthur MacArthur (who had earned the Medal of Honor at Missionary Ridge in the Civil War) on assignments in Japan, China and, most importantly, in the Philippines;
· his heroic exploits in the 1914 excursion into Vera Cruz;
· how he leaped about the trenches of World War One like a mountain goat, often wounded, and promoted with blinding speed to Brigadier General;
· his postwar service as West Point's youngestand most progressivecommandant;
· his participation in the court-martial of Billy Mitchell in 1924;
· his routing of the Bonus Marchers in 1932;
· his efforts to sustain a woefully-underfunded Army as Chief of Staff in the early 193O's;
· his retirement from the U.S. Army to become Field Marshal (!) of the Army of the Philippines;
· and the reactivation of his commission by FDR shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.
All this is omitted in favor of prolonged footage of MacArthur trying to fight off seasickness while being evacuated by PT boatthus, we know that "General Mac" is a legend, but not why; nor can we appreciate why the allegations of cowardice were so wounding to "Dugout Doug"and so patently unfounded.
The remainder of his career is presently straightforwardly: His island-hopping "Hit 'em where they ain't" campaign, the fulfillment of his pledge to the Filipinos "I shall return!"his crowning achievement, the winning of the peace in postwar Japan, then the difference of opinion with President Harry Truman (a properly feisty Ed Flanders) over the conduct of the Korean conflict which resulted in his outright firing, and finally, his proclamation to Congress that "old soldiers simply fade away," after which he did just that. All quite historically accurate, and all presented with a very deliberate lack of commentary.
Sargent and the producers almost painfully distance themselves from adorning the historical record with their own approval or disapproval: If MacArthur's actions appear noble, let them be presented as such; if they appear egotistical or bombastic, let those conceptions register sans comment. Since Joe Sargent is quite expert at subtly manipulating his audience's reactionsagain, see Warm Springsthis refusal to offer comment appears quite intentional. Historically, that may be commendable, but it almost defeats the efforts of the viewer to place this extraordinary man in any kind of rational perspective.
And finally, there is a sort of "made on the cheap" feel to the film, as there is to "Midway," released about the same time. Both films were relegated to "television" directors--Sargent in this case, Jack Smight on "Midway," and both have a made-for-TV-look. Even Jerry Goldsmith's march, while perfectly serviceable, lack the subtle undertones and the grandeur of his "Patton" theme--just another way in which a larger-than-life man is memorialized by a very ordinary film.
There was vanity and pettiness in this man, inarguably; there was also greatnessand love him or loathe him, one must acknowledge the fact that MacArthur did what no military commander before him had done: he won the peace.
In the end, "MacArthur"like so many film biographiesis a good place to begin research into this remarkable man, but a poor place to end it.
The whole story of Douglas MacArthur would be a six hour film or a TV mini-series. It would cover him from his days on frontier posts with his family to his time at West Point where he still has the highest scholastic average ever achieved by a cadet. It would talk about his service in the Phillipines as a young officer, his legend building bravery on the battlefields of World War I in France. It would also have to tell about him firing on the Bonus Marchers of World War I veterans in 1932, probably putting the final kabosh on any chances President Herbert Hoover had of getting re-elected. During MacArthur's last years he and Hoover had penthouse suites at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. That must have been a subject they avoided.
This film concentrates on the years 1941 to 1952 and it is told in flashback. The film opens with MacArthur addressing the student body in 1962. As he speaks the words of the famous Duty Honor Country speech, MacArthur's mind goes back to World War II and his desperate struggle against the advancing Japanese on the island of Corregidor and the fields of Bataan on Luzon. The film takes him through his struggle to win back the Phillipines, the occupation of Japan and the first 18 months culminating in his relief of command by President Truman.
MacArthur as a film would not work at all if it wasn't for the portrayals of Dan O'Herlihy and Ed Flanders as Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman respectively. It's the part of the film I enjoyed the best, seeing MacArthur and his relations with both these men.
FDR by O'Herlihy captures the aristocratic squire and exceptionally devious man that was our 32nd President. Roosevelt was a man who got his points across with unusual subtlety and cleverness. Sometimes he liked scheming a little too much for its own sake, but he was the master politician of the last century. Note how he deals with MacArthur both as a battlefield commander and potential rival at the same time.
Truman by Flanders is as people remember him, a blunt spoken man of the people who disliked MacArthur's haughtiness from the gitgo. Of course it's in the history books how Truman relieved MacArthur in 1951 for insubordination. MacArthur was insubordinate, no doubt about it.
Yet I could write a whole thesis on the Truman-MacArthur relations. Along the way it need not have ever come to a crisis. I've always felt that FDR would have dealt with the whole matter in a far better way had he still been president then.
MacArthur was also grandly eloquent and Gregory Peck captures some of that eloquence in some of the orations that made him as much a legend as victories on the battlefield. Listen to Peck at the Japanese surrender, at MacArthur's farewell to the nation before the joint session of Congress, and of course his speech to the cadets in 1962. Watch the newsreels and see if you don't agree.
Agreeable biopic about the famed general concerning the latter years of his long military career , it starts with his assumption of command of the Philippine army and subsequent retreat ; going on through Inchon landing , China invasion on Korea crossing over parallel 39 and his sacking by President Harry Truman . This is a pretty good film with plenty of emotion , drama , biographic elements , historical events and Peck is spellbinding in the title role . The flick describes efficiently his particular character , complexity and the controversy that surrounded him . Very fine acting by the great Gregory Peck as military chief , he even bears remarkable resemblance to Douglas MacArthur , he had some of his hair shaved off since the real General was quite bald . Peck' outstanding acting arranges to bring alive this historical role , who strode a fine line between demigod and expert battlefield commander . Originally made for TV , it has a long runtime , at 144 minutes , being cut for cinema release . The picture gets magnificent interpretations from prestigious secondaries playing Generals and historical roles such as Kenneth Tobey (Adm. William 'Bull' Halsey) , Gen. George C. Marshall (Ward Costello) , Addison Powell (Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz) , Dick O'Neill (Col. Courtney Whitney) , and Presidents as Dan O'Herlihy (Franklin D Roosevel) , Ed Flanders (Harry Truman) , and John Fujioka (Emperor Hirohito) . This is an engaging warlike drama made at the better for its historic resonance and will appeal to Gregory Peck fans.
Well produced by Frank McCarthy who also financed other warfare movies such as ¨Decision before dawn¨, ¨Single-Handed¨, ¨Fireball Forward¨ and ¨Patton¨ . This solid motion picture was professionally directed by Joseph Sargent , though it holds a certain television style . Sargent is an expert on biography and specialist on historical narrations , as he proved in 'Mandela and Clerk' , 'Abraham , 'McArthur' , 'When the lions roared' which reunited to Stalin , Churchill and again Roosevelt , 'Day one' with Oppenheimer and General General Groves and 'Warm Springs' about Franklin D Roosevelt ; these films don't pack the punch that he achieved in his best movie resulting to be 'Taking of Pelham one , two , three' .
And adding more biographical elements about this military hero : MacArthur was recalled to active duty in 1941 as commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East. A series of disasters followed, starting with the destruction of his air forces on 8 December 1941, and the invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese. MacArthur's forces were soon compelled to withdraw to Bataan, where they held out until May 1942. In March 1942, MacArthur, his family and his staff left nearby Corregidor Island in PT boats and escaped to Australia, where MacArthur became Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area. And General Douglas MacArthur pronounces his famous line : "I will return" . For his defense of the Philippines, MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor. After more than two years of fighting in the Pacific, he fulfilled a promise to return to the Philippines. He officially accepted Japan's surrender on 2 September 1945, aboard the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, and oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. As the effective ruler of Japan, he oversaw sweeping economic, political and social changes. He led the United Nations Command in the Korean War until he was removed from command by President Harry S. Truman on 11 April 1951. He later became Chairman of the Board of Remington Rand.
But all in all, I think this is a remarkably balanced look at an extremely controversial person. For those who know little about MacArthur, it's a good place to start. He was a larger-than-life figure, and in this film you can see both why he was revered and why he was despised.
Although MacArthur came of age in the 19th century and became a general in World War I, this movie focuses on his high and lows in World War II and the Korean War. During that time he was an iconic figure. "Iconic" is an overused word, but it applies to him. With his trademark hat and corncob pipe, plus his curiously old-fashioned way of speaking and his instinct for controversy, he was unmistakable and larger than life.
During the late 1970s, the post-Watergate era, traditional war pictures were no longer in vogue. "M*A*S*H," the mildly pacifist TV series set in the Korean War, treated MacArthur as a rather silly figure. But this movie, made in 1977, takes the man seriously, while showing his flaws clearly. It also is more frank than most classic films about how little consensus there is in warmaking. Leaders quarrel and connive while making policy, and the most loyal grunts are often dismayed at the decisions that put them in harm's way.
Gregory Peck is excellent in capturing the complexity of Douglas MacArthur. Peck was an outspoken political liberal, and one has to assume he was no admirer of the unabashedly right-wing MacArthur. But he takes on the man's persona admirably.
After heaping so much praise on "MacArthur," I must admit it is not great cinema. It's more interesting than moving. But if you're under 50 and know Douglas MacArthur only as a name in the history books, this will be an eye-opener. Like any good introduction to a subject, it should encourage you to seek other information and form your own opinions about the man and his times.
Peck's performance was, as I said, brilliant - to the point, actually, of overshadowing virtually everyone else in the film (which is perhaps appropriate, given who he was portraying!) with the possible exception of Ed Flanders. I though he offered a compelling look at Harry Truman and his attitude to MacArthur: sarcastic (repeatedly referring to MacArthur as "His Majesty,") angry, frustrated and finally completely fed up with this General who simply won't respect his authority as President. Marj Dusay was also intriguing as MacArthur's wife Jean, devoted to her husband (whom she herself referred to as "General," although their relationship seems to have been a happy enough one.) I very much enjoyed this movie, although perhaps would have liked to have learned a little more about MacArthur's early life. I have always chuckled at MacArthur's reaction to Eisenhower being elected President ("He'll make a fine President - he was the best damn clerk I ever had" - which seems to sum up what MacArthur thought the role of the President should be, especially to his military commanders during wartime.) Well worth watching. 8/10
MacArthur's conviction that war is a great evil is convincingly portrayed, as is the relish of a general doing the only thing for which he was trained: the prosecution of war to the utmost severity.
The real heroes of this movie are the politicians. Not just Roosevelt, but also the caricature of Truman, and the never seen or heard Eisenhower (a good clerk according to Peck's MacArthur). This movie reminded me that it is as important for a politician to compromise as for it is a general to combat.
MacArthur's greatest opportunity was to become military ruler of a defeated Japan, for 3 years. It appears that he seized this to some good effect. He later claimed that:
"The Japanese people since the war have undergone the greatest reformation recorded in modern history. With a commendable will, eagerness to learn, and marked capacity to understand, they have from the ashes left in war's wake erected in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy of individual liberty and personal dignity, and in the ensuing process there has been created a truly representative government committed to the advance of political morality, freedom of economic enterprise, and social justice."
In this one seems to hear the tone of a general boasting about his troops. That is no small thing: for a fighter to impose a peace, on more or less unconditional terms, and seek to reconstitute, rather than to humiliate. He would have made an abominably bad politician, but as interim ruler he ain't done so bad, according to this thoughtful movie.
7/10 for movie making; 8/10 for thought provocation.
The cinematography is drab, dull, and monotonous. Even worse is the makeup; in fact, it should have won an Academy Award for the worst makeup in any major in American cinema history. Much of the script plods along. The only real excitement here is the rivalry between MacArthur and president Harry Truman.
And the cast is pretty dull, too. Gregory Peck is a reasonable actor to play MacArthur. Ed Flanders...good, but not a powerhouse...plays Harry Truman. Dan O'Herlihy...also good, but no powerhouse...is good as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But that's all the notable cast.
Because I like history and am older, I am somewhat familiar with the MacArthur story (and by the way, this film does not delineate MacArthur's early years at all), but if I was not familiar with it, and I watched this film, I would wonder what all the fuss was about.
Not recommended unless, perhaps, you are a military man yourself.
Comparing Peck's performance with Scott's may be unfair. Yet the fact "MacArthur" was made by the same producer and scored by the same composer begs parallels, as does the fact both films open with the generals addressing cadets at West Point. It's clear to me the filmmakers were looking to mimic that Oscar-winning film of a few years before. But while Peck looks the part more than Scott ever did, he comes off as mostly bland in a story that feels less like drama than a Wikipedia walkthrough of MacArthur's later career.
"To this day there are those who think he was a dangerous demagogue and others who say he was one of the greatest men who ever lived," an opening title crawl tells us. It's a typical dishwater bit of post-Vietnam sophistry about those who led America's military, very much of its time, but what we get here is neither view. MacArthur as presented here doesn't anger or inspire the way he did in life.
Director Joseph Sargent, who went on to helm the famous turkey "Jaws The Revenge," does a paint-by-numbers job with bland battle montages and some obvious set use (as when the Chinese attack U.S. forces in Korea), while the script by Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins trots out a MacArthur who comes across as good-natured to the point of blandness, a bit too caught up in his public image, but never less than decent.
Here you see him stepping off the landing craft making his return to the Phillipines. There you see him addressing Congress in his "Old Soldiers Never Die" speech. For a long stretch of time he sits in a movie theater in Toyko, waiting for the North Koreans to cross the 38th parallel so we can get on with the story while newsreel footage details Japan's rise from the ashes under his enlightened rule. Peck's co-actors, Marj Dusay as his devoted wife ("you're my finest soldier") and Nicolas Coaster as a loyal aide, burnish teary eyes in the direction of their companion's magnificence but garner no interest on their own.
Even when he argues with others, Peck never raises his voice and for the most part wins his arguments with thunderous eloquence. When Admiral Nimitz suggests delaying the recapture of the Philippines, a point of personal pride as well as tactical concern for MacArthur, MacArthur comes back with the comment: "Just now, as I listened to his plan, I thought I saw our flag going down." Doubtless the real Nimitz would have had something to say about that, but the character in the movie just bows his head and meekly accepts the insult in the presence of President Roosevelt.
The only person in the movie who MacArthur seriously disagrees with is Harry S Truman, who Ed Flanders does a fine job with despite a prosthetic nose that makes him resemble Toucan Sam. Truman's firing of MacArthur should be a dramatic high point, but here it takes place in a quiet dinner conversation, in which Peck plays MacArthur as nothing less than a genial martyr.
I've never been sold by Peck's standing at the upper pantheon of screen stars; he delivers great presence but lacks complexity even in many of his best-known roles. But it's unfair to dock him so much here, as he gets little help defining MacArthur as anything other than a speechifying bore. Except for two scenes, one where he rails against the surrender of the Philippines ("He struck Old Glory and ran up a bedsheet!") and another where he has a mini-breakdown while awaiting the U.S. invasion of Inchon, inveighing against Communists undermining him at the White House, Peck really plays Peck here, not the complex character who inspired the famous sobriquet "American Caesar." The real MacArthur might have been worthy of such a comparison. What you get here is less worthy of Shakespeare than Shakes the Clown.
Entertainment wise it's pretty good, obviously wordy throughout all the military planning and many discussions. To my mind, MacArthur comes across as a softer character than the impression I've got from elsewhere. That maybe down to Peck, or maybe not, his performance is in his usual measured, reassuring manner. He remains very watchable throughout, though for younger audiences, they may just find it all too slow and un-engaging.
For us older lot, it's solid character-based drama from the older school of movie making, with no CGI, of course and the occasional use of actual newsreel. There are a number of large scale and undoubtedly expensive scenes (signing of the Treaty of Japan, for example). If you enjoy Gregory Peck, are interested in MacArthur and/or like war movies that cover mid WW2 to post war and beyond periods, then it's a likable and modestly enjoyable film.
The DVD can be bought very cheaply secondhand, now. It offers next to nothing in the way of extras - only a theatrical trailer, though it has - dubbed? in German, French, Spanish and Italian - and English hard of hearing. Subtitles are in the above languages only. The screen ratio is a widescreen filling 1.85:1 and the score is in a good sounding stereo, but not surround.
Told to leave he island for Australia before the Japanese military invade it Gen. MacArthur for the very first time in his military career almost disobeys a direct order from his superior US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dan O'Herlihy. Feeling that he'll be deserting his men at their greatest hour of need MacArthur reluctantly, together with his wife and young son, did what he was told only to have it haunt him for the reminder of the war. It was that reason, his escape under fire from death or captivity by the Japanese, that drove Gen. MacArthur to use all his influence to get FDR two years later to launch a major invasion of the Philippians, instead of the island of Formosa, to back up his promise to both the Philippine people as well as the thousands of US POWS left behind. That he'll return and return with the might of the US Army & Navy to back up his pledge!
In the two years up until the invasion of the Philippine Islands Gen. MacArther battered the Japanese forces in the South Pafific in a number of brilliantly conceived island hop battles that isolated and starved hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops into surrender. The General did that suffering far less US Military losses then any other allied commander in the War in the Pacific!
It was in 1950/51 in the Korean War that Gen. MacArthur achieved his most brilliant victory as well as his worst military defeat. After outflanking the advancing North Korean Army in the brilliant and perfectly executed, with the invading US Marines suffering less then 100 casualties, back door or left hook invasion of Inchon Gen. MacArther feeling invincible sent the US/UN forces under his command to the very border, along the Yalu River, of Communist Red China. Told by his subordinates that he's facing the threat of a massive ground attack by Communist Chinese troops Gen. MacArthur pressed on anyway until that attack did materialized cutting the US & UN forces to ribbons. The unstoppable wave after wave of attacking Red Chinese troops forced the US/UN forces to retreat in the "Big Bug Out" of 1950 with their very lives, leaving all their equipment behind, across the North Korean border even abandoning the South Korean capital city of Seoul! This turned out to be one of the biggest military disaster in US history with the US forces losing a record, in the Korean War, 1,000 lives on the very first day-Nov. 29/30 1950-of the Communist Chinese invasion!
Shocked and humiliated in what he allowed, due mostly to his own arrogance, to happened MacArthur went on the offensive not against the advancing Communist Chinese and Noth Koreans forces but his own Commander and Chief Pres. Harry S. Truman, Ed Flanders, in him not having the spin or guts to do what has to be done: Launch a full scale invasion of Communist China with nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent its troops from overrunning the Korean Peninsula! For Pres. Truman who had taken just about enough garbage from Gen. MacArthur in him running off his mouth in public in how he was mishandling the war in not going all out, like MacArthur wanted him to, against the Red Chinese this was the last straw! On April 11, 1951 Pres. Truman unceremoniously relived Gen. MacArthur from his command as Supreme Commander of the US/UN forces in Korea! Pres. Truman's brave but very unpopular decision also, by not going along with MacArthur's total war strategy, prevented a Third World War from breaking out with the Soviet Union-Communist China's ally- who at the time-like the US-had the Atomic Bomb! Pres. Truman''s controversial decision to dump the very popular Gen. MacArthur also cost him his re-election in 1952 with his polls numbers so low-in the mid 20's- that he withdrew-in March of that year- from the US Presidential Campaign!
In was Gen. MacArthur's misfortune to be around when the political and military climates in the world were changing in how to conduct future wars. With the horrors of a nuclear war now, in 1950/51, a reality it would have been national suicide to go all out, like Gen. MacArthur wanted to, against the Red Chinese with it very possibly touching off a nuclear holocaust that would engulf not only the US USSR & Red China but the entire world! It was that important reality of future war that Gen. MacArthur was never taught, since the A and H Bomb weren't yet invented, in West Point.
Back to 1962 we can now see that Gen. MacArthur, after finishing his commencement speech at West Point, had become both an older and wiser soldier as well as , since his retirement from the US Military, elder statesman in his feeling about war and the utter futility of it. One thing that Gen. MacArthur was taught at an early age, from his Civil War General dad Douglas MacArthur Sr, that stuck to him all his life was that to a soldier like himself war should be the very last-not first-resort in settling issues between nations. In that it's the soldiers who have to fight and die in it. It took a lifetime, with the advent of the nuclear age, for Gen. MacArthur to finally realize just how right and wise his dad a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, like himself, really was!
Some posters elude to the flawed characteristics about the man, which are cheap shots. The theme of the movie "Duty, Honor, Country" are not just mere words blathered from the lips of a high-brassed officer - it is the deep declaration of one man's total devotion to his country.
Ironically Peck being the liberal that he was garnered a better understanding of the man. He does a great job showing the fearless general tempered with the humane side of the man.
This is a very sincere old fashion Hollywood telling of a complex man. Gregory Peck plays him as a sensitive, commanding and resolute man with daddy issues. Historians can quibble about its accuracy but it seems to be very Peck-like. The production skimps on the budget and this is no Patton. The action is lacking and there is a lot of old footage used. They don't even use the right A-bomb footage. More troubling is the fact that the movie stops before he goes into politics. The "Old soldiers never die" speech and Eisenhower's nomination pretty much end the movie. That's the part where his name literally becomes an ism. This is strictly a beginner's guide to MacArthur probably good for a substitute teacher in high school history class to play.
Most WWII Historians, Armchair or otherwise, tend to give Gregory Peck a nod and are Thankful that His Liberal Leanings did not Cloud His Judgement or Portrayal of the Dynamic and Controversial General.
It is Well Known that MacArthur was Hell Bent on Crafting an Image of Himself as Larger than Life. The Movie has a few Scenes where His Aides Instruct the Newsreel Cameraman to Film the General from a Low Angle, "He loves that technique.". He used Props (corncob pipe) to give Himself a Unique Flair and His Filmed Entrances are Legendary.
MacArthur was not only a Brilliant General, He was a Brilliant Man. His Eloquent way with Words, making His Arguments and displayed Insights with a Poetic Zeal. All of the Aforementioned is seen in this Even Handed Account, originally Made-for TV than Edited for a Theatrical Release.
The Film is Sweeping in Concept, if not in Presentation. It's somewhat Low-Budget renders a Flat Production, but it makes up for it with Peck's Command of the Role and an Appropriately Wordy Script.
Above Average and a Powerful Portrayal of just over a Decade in the Complicated and ever Interesting Leader who was much Loved by the American People, the Philippines, and Japan (for His compassionate and intelligent restructuring of the island's ashes).
President Truman did not Worship the General, as many did and the Movie ends with MacArthur Relieved by the Commander and Chief. It seems even the Accomplished Military Leader was Unable to "Walk On Water", and was Symbolically Crucified by the President.
The first thing that struck me was that the film started just after WWII began. In fact, the film ended up only covering the period of early 1942 until just after his dismissal in 1951 for insubordination. What about the other 74 or so years of his long and illustrious life?! Now I do understand that Peck couldn't play a younger MacArthur because he wasn't a young man when he took this role. Unfortunately, however, there were some incredibly important events that fall into this missing time period--such as when MacArthur, on his own, attacked the so-called "Bonus Army" in 1932, his service in Mexico and WWI as well as his personal life (the film shows his wife, but this was his second wife--what about the first?). Plus, following his removal from power in 1951, the man lived another 13 years--what about them? As a result, the film comes off as rather superficial and very incomplete.
The other problem, and this actually was more serious for me, is that the character of MacArthur was tough to discern. Other than showing him as a bit of a publicity hound and a dedicated man, who was MacArthur? The only really good insight into him was that the film seemed to indicate that his clash with Truman appeared to be due to BOTH men being strong-willed--an interesting interpretation. Yes, you briefly saw his second wife and son and you could see that he loved them...but what else? Now these two problems make this film a relatively mediocre biopic. Sadly, the film did have some very nice aspects. Peck did a great job--as I'd expected. Also, the WWII and Korean segments were done well for the most part. I could nitpick because of the extensive use of grainy stock footage or the sailor on the deck of the USS Missouri in 1945 who is wearing very modern (circa 1977) glasses--but this is pretty unimportant.
For a person who has little knowledge of MacArthur, this is a worthwhile film. For ex-history teachers and WWII buffs like myself, it was pretty much a waste of time--I could have learned a lot more from a TV show about the man. Perhaps the problem was insurmountable in a movie, however, and a mini-series would be the only way to do this amazing man's career justice. There's just too much stuff to cover for a 130 minute film.