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HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOSPITAL

One day in the vicinity of the northern wards (somewhere around Ward 13-ish) I stumbled upon a load of discarded A4 paper sheets. Nothing unusual in itself - after all, the CRCMH has long been littered with assorted documents. However, upon closer inspection, it was evident that I was looking at pages from a screenplay. To start with, even this wasn't particularly unusual, in that even we had shot films in the hospital (as have numerous other student types over the years).


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  Click on the thumbnail for a sample page from the screenplay - dated 28th May 1985.

I gathered together all that were laying around (eventually finding 27 pages in all, which I still have - though there would almost certainly have been some that I missed). Flicking through the scripts, one character name which seemed to crop up fairly often was "Patton" - a name which I instantly associated with George. C. Scott's Academy Award®-winning portrayal of the celebrated American General in the 1970 movie of the same name.


The now late George C. Scott in Patton (1970)

I didn't recall "Patton" as being remotely set in the CRCMH - indeed the hospital was still very much in working mode when that film was made. So with it completely ruled out, I needed a further clue.

This came in the form of an envelope (above - and yes, believe it or not, it was that colour when I discovered it) uncovered when I returned to scour the site for more evidence. Immediately, it seemed that my initial hunch wasn't so far off-track after all. By a stroke of luck, it was addressed simply to a Mr D. Lewiston, "Last Days of Patton", Entertainment Partners, Pinewood. I already knew that Entertainment Partners was a respected international production company, so the ball was rolling. "Now we're getting somewhere," I thought to myself.

Naturally, the first thing to do would be to contact Pinewood Studios and see if they could help. Which I promptly did. Explaining that I had a copy of some scripts which I believed were from an Entertainment Partners film entitled "Last Days of Patton," I asked them if they might be able to confirm that I am not indeed imagining things.

They responded with this letter...

...which completely failed to answer the only question I had actually asked them - well, directly at least. I didn't ask for a run-down on what Pinewood Studios doesn't do, nor did I request any scrips (whatever that might happen to be - a nasty disease perhaps?). They might be "simple" folk down at Pinewood, but fortunately I was now armed with the knowledge that there is indeed a film called "The Last Days of Patton" - and that it even existed on video. Progress...

So I scoured the seedy backstreet video emporiums in Maidenhead and the surrounding area - even risking a terrifying encounter with the creepy poodle in Video 83 (which has since passed away thank God - as has Video 83 itself). But all to no avail. "Patton" - the supposed masterpiece with George C. Scott's smug face on the cover was everywhere, yet nobody had ever heard of the one that I was after. So I went off to Australia sulking.

Here, my luck now began to change. Whilst looking through Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide in a bookshop, I discovered that "The Last Days of Patton" was indeed the sequel to "Patton", and was a movie made for American television with our friend George C. Scott reprising his role as the all-American hero. Leonard Maltin gave the film a less than mediocre rating, adding the comment that Patton's dreary deathbed scene must rate as the longest of its kind in cinematic history.

"Just imagine if all of that footage was shot in an actual CRCMH bed" I pondered to myself. Thankfully, it wouldn't prove to be long before I found out.

The very next day, I wandered into a suitably B-Grade-looking video shop underneath a Chinese restaurant here in Ocean Grove. And Lo and Behold if it wasn't just sitting there staring me in the face - "The Last Days of Patton." Mine, all mine! So I rushed off home to watch it...
   

Two alternate video covers for "The Last Days of Patton" (left)
and the fairly recent American DVD release (right)

Without wanting to be too derogatory, it's an "English Patient" of a film. Namely, very very long and so very very boring. But for the benefit of those who haven't seen the film (which should technically be everyone on the planet aside from myself and Leonard Maltin), here's the basic run-down:

Title:
The Last Days of Patton

Year:
Aired originally on the CBS Television Network as a Chrysler Showcase presentation September 14, 1986.

Starring:
George C. Scott, Eva Marie Saint, Richard Dysart, Murray Hamilton, Ed Lauter, and Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Screenplay:
William Luce - based upon Ladislas Farago's book "Last Days of Patton".

Producer:
Alfred R. Kelman for Entertainment Partners

Director:

Delbert Mann

Distributor:
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Movies Unlimited, Timeless Video Inc..

Running time:
The video and originally aired version is 146 minutes, while some re-run versions may run for 104 minutes.

Synopsis:
Sixteen years after his Oscar-winning performance as General Patton, actor George C. Scott once again plays the famous military leader in this made-for-TV-movie.

Based on true-life events, "The Last Days of Patton" explores the final years of the officer's life when he fell out of grace with President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a result of publicly defending ex-Nazi government officials.
He could not adjust to his peacetime role as military governor of Bavaria and gets into more trouble by lobbying for war against the Soviet Union. As a result, Patton gets stripped of his command of the 3rd Army division and feels much of his ego go right along with it.

Eisenhower then put him in charge of writing the military history but, on the eve of his retiring, an accident causes him to flashback on his life. T
here is a mystery surrounding Patton's death as his tedious and lengthy final days are played out in a Heidelberg hospital.


Director Delbert Mann (left) confers with George C.
Scott during filming of "The Last Days of Patton"

Okay, so the story is bland - but "Oh the hospital shots!" - seriously, they're fantastic. There's plenty of the CRCMH featured. Not so much in the first half of the film, but the second half is amost entirely set in the CRCMH, purporting to be a hospital in Heidelberg. There's some lovely matte painting work whereby the actual facade of the CRCMH has been altered to make it look more alpine than it actually is (gabled rooves and all that) - and it's been very well executed. There's an operating theatre in there, the reception foyer, the canteen looking out onto the inner courtyard (used for a press briefing), and of course - a lifetime of footage featuring Patton in a CRCMH bed. I am quite certain that the latter was shot in a little room on the southern side of one of the northern wards - precisely where I found the scripts. The window looks out onto a parallel ward "just like it does in real life." Yes, you'll recognize so many things - it's almost like being back there (well, perhaps not). So why not check out the 20 exclusive shots from the film - here on our very own CRCMH shrine.

Still, this film is an absolute must for all CRCMH enthusiasts to get hold of. I'm not entirely convinced that it's the only significant big budget movie to have utilized the CRCMH since its closure. So far, I can find no evidence to connect the gothic German lettering which covers the site to this film (e.g. the huge numbers around the inner courtyard, or text like "Warning - Explosives!" in the boiler room yard) . The baffling thing about this is that "The Last Days of Patton" contains the perfect subject matter to feature such lettering. Indeed, the first half of the film in particular is packed with Nazi action. So there only seems to be two realistic options: One, that the writing was indeed created as scenery for this film only to be left on the cutting-room floor in superfluous deleted scenes. Or two, that despite being a massive coincidence of genre, it was from a different film altogether. If anyone has any further ideas - we're all ears.

At any rate, have a look at our stills taken from the film - you won't find any on the web elsewhere at present. Then you'll get to see the CRCMH through the eyes of Hollywood. The web doesn't treat 80s telemovies with much respect, so if you can tell us anything whatsoever about "The Last Days of Patton" that isn't mentioned here - please contact us and we'll let the world know.


Damon Torsten,
March 2002



The Film Job

Oh, and before I go - this might be of interest. Here's an account from Roy Smith - an actual extra in "The Last Days of Patton" - I haven't asked him if I can steal this yet, so if you're remotely into motorbikes, please check out his website here because Roy certainly seems to know his historical stuff. With any luck, I might be able to get him to say a few words about life on the set here shortly.

"This photo was taken on the Lincolnshire film set of "The Last Days of Patton" starring George C. Scott, in June 1985. We are General Patton's Military Police personal security squad.I'm the lean/mean one on the right of the picture with my Harley-Davidson WLA. We got the job through Tony Oliver who is TLO Film Services. I hadn't fitted the Thompson Machine gun scabbard or the ammo box to the forks and the pannier bags are not correct either, the uniform was supplied by Morris Angel. That's my mate Peter on his WLA to my right and Pete Gray's bike ridden by Dick, is the one on the far left. It was an interesting experience and the pay was very good. My hair was too long they gave me 25 to cut my hair!"

 

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