The Photography of PATTON
After The Battle,
1975, pp 38-43
The 70mm Newsletter
by: George J. Mitchel
23. November 2003
PATTON was an in-depth screen portrait of the most controversial and successful commander
of World War II.
Filmed by 20th Century-Fox in Dimension 150 at a cost of over five million pounds,
PATTON is not only superior screen entertainment but is also an exceptionally well-made picture.
This was due primarily to the talented people producer Frank McCarthy brought together for the
production. For example, there is an unforgettable performance by George C. Scott as Patton;
powerful and incisive direction by Franklin J. Schaffner; a definitive screen play by Francis Ford
Coppola and Edmund H. North; an inspiring music score by Jerry Goldsmith that makes use of
an old Army fife and drum tune at the leitmotif; and superb photographic imagery by Director of
Photography Fred J. Koenekamp, ASC.
PATTON opens with a prologue before the titles appear. The screen is filled with a giant
American flag painted on a background. From the bottom of the frame, a tiny figure emerges and
strides purposefully forward until we see the full figure of Patton, resplendent in polished helmet
liner and an immaculate, bemedalled battle jacket. There is the brace of ivory-handled pistols that
was a Patton trademark. And the confident belligerence that Patton projected.
Scott's performance in this scene sets the right note for the picture. What follows is an acting
tour de force. But one is not conscious that this is just a performance. Instead, one feels that it is
real. Scott is Patton. This is acting of the highest order.
Fred Koenekamp is enthusiastic about this powerful opening scene and explains how it was
filmed: 'This was an approximately five-minute speech. We shot it in one afternoon in the Sevilla
Studios in Madrid. The flag was painted on the back of the stage wall with curtains hung on the
sides. It was as big as it looked on the screen—enormous. Scott did this scene perhaps six or eight
times for various reasons, either close-ups or something else, and he never fluffed his lines once.
Never once! In fact I can't remember him once during the picture fluffing because he didn't
remember a line or got confused. He was always right there on the ball just as professional as it
was possible to be."
The sharpness and resolution of the D-150 lenses is amply demonstrated in the prologue.
There are screen-filling close-ups of Patton's pistols, his decorations, his West Point ring.
The clarity of detail, despite the magnification, is amazing. So, too, is the forcefulness of
Koenekamp's camera work which seems to emphasize the striking resemblance Scott had to the
"Actually, without make-up Scott does not look anything at all like Patton," said Koenekamp.
"The make-up people did a remarkable job. Scott's hairline was shaved back, white hair pieces
were added and they gave him white eyebrows. His nose was built up, but the most unusual thing
was the way his teeth had been changed to look like Patton's. I am told that General Patton's teeth
were heavily stained as a result of cigar chewing or something else. Caps were made to cover
Scott's teeth, giving them this stained appearance. There was a lot of discomfort in all this for
Scott, but it is uncanny how much it made him look like Patton."
Dimension-150 is a photographic and projection system developed several years ago by Dr.
Richard Vetter and Carl W. Williams. The optical system they designed includes a 150-degree
photographic lens (which closely approximates the normal peripheral field of human vision),
separate projection optics and a patented deeply-curved screen. The combined
photographic/projector system provides a virtually distortion-free image, and can be adapted to any
current theatrical film aspect ratio, including normal 35mm, Cinemascope, and conventional
70mm. The system offers a complete range of photographic lenses which are adaptable to Todd
AO-Mitchell 65mm cameras.
in 70mm reading:
New "Patton" 70mm print
text from the Patton Society
site, Reprinted by permission 20.04.2004.
Patton's highly emotional nature is shown in the infamous incident where he slapped a soldier
he suspected of malingering during the Sicilian campaign. It was an episode that almost finished
Patton's career. It is handled with taste and honesty by Scott and Schaffner. And it is one of the
relatively few studio-made scenes Koenekamp had to photograph.
In the doghouse because of the slapping incident and awaiting re-assignment in England,
Patton gets into trouble again, albeit innocently. At the dedication of a service club near his
headquarters, he ad-libs a little speech of the importance of Anglo-American unity. (" . . . since it
is the evident destiny of the British and Americans to rule the world, the better we know each other
the better job we will do.") He is accused of slighting the Russians—then our wartime allies—and
his enemies howl for his dismissal. But General Eisenhower appreciates Patton's soldierly
qualities and refuses to allow his enemies to claim his scalp.
"This sequence was filmed in the actual place it happened—a red brick building in Knutsford,
England, that was Patton's wartime headquarters," said Koenekamp. (Incorrect. See "Patton at
Knutsford" 51. Editors.)
"We flew in on a Sunday in beautiful weather. It was overcast the next day when we began
shooting. The following day it poured down rain. We finished on Wednesday morning and flew
out that afternoon." Koenekamp brought his crew over from Spain. However, a stand-by British
crew was also engaged.
Patton's incredible advance across France, hard on the heels of the fleeing German
Wehrmacht, was filmed in the Pamplona region of Basque Spain. "People have asked me what I
did to make the grass look so green," remarks Koenekamp. "The answer is nothing. It looks that
way because there is a lot of rainfall in that area. It is near the French border and resembles
Normandy and Brittany."
Actually, PATTON was filmed on seventy-one locations in six countries. The bulk of the
photography was done in Spain because only the Spanish Army could provide the necessary
World War II equipment (acquired by the Spanish Government under the US Military Assistance
Programme). Spain also provided a wide variety of landscapes and architecture necessary to
simulate the locations of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Other locations included
Morocco where Roman ruins were used and a review of Moroccan troops was filmed and Greece
and Sicily where amphibious landing scenes were made. A few scenes—black and white newsreel
footage, were photographed in Hollywood at the 20th Century Fox Studio.
PATTON is a photographically interesting picture because of the extensive use that was made
of natural locations, especially many of the interiors. These scenes have a very realistic quality and
a number of the interiors appear to have been filmed solely with existing light. But lights had to be
used on all of them!
"Roughly eighty per cent of PATTON was filmed in natural locations," said Koenekamp. "We
worked in several buildings, such as La Granha and Rio Frio, that are national shrines. We could
do nothing that might mar or deface the premises. Consequently we could not use tape, tack lamps
to the walls, put up spreaders or do any of the usual things that help in the lighting. Everything had
to be from the floor. In this respect, we made extensive use of "quartz" lights, especially the
clusters or banks of uniflood lamps known as FAY globes. We used these lamps in clusters of
six, nine and twelve. Of course, we could always replace the FAY bulbs with regular tungsten
globes if necessary."
Koenekamp was fortunate in being able to bring his long-time assistant, Gene Stout, to Spain,
but the bulk of the electrical crew was Spanish. "The Spanish crew was really quite excellent," said
Koenekamp. "They are truly amazing people. If you tell them you want something and it's not
immediately available, they will make it even if it means working all night in some foundry or
Koenekamp relied on the banks of FAY lights as daylight fill in some of the more rugged
locations where it would have been difficult to haul in the giant arc lamps.
Koenekamp had a full Hollywood camera crew which included Bill Norton, camera operator,
and Chuck Arnold, Emilio Calori and Mike Benson, assistant cameramen. These men were
backed up by a Spanish crew assigned to man the additional camera equipment. A total of six
Todd AO-Mitchell cameras was available.
"We generally used a total of three cameras on most of the scenes," said Koenekamp. "Bill
Norton, an old-timer in the industry, did an exceptionally fine job with the first camera. We had an
excellent Spanish camera operator named Ricardo who handled the second camera. He and one of
the Spanish assistant cameramen spoke some English which was a big help. As it turned out I
ended up operating the small AP hand camera quite a bit of the time. I prefer to use this camera
without the shoulder brace that comes with it. Generally, I would hand-hold the camera on an
approaching tank or vehicle and inch it out of the way of the treads as it passed. When you use the
28mm wide-angle lens you can obtain a very effective shot. For example, I used this technique in
the scene at the end of the picture when the farm wagon breaks away and races downhill almost
hitting Patton. We made many, many hand-held shots with the AP and I'm surprised at the
number that were used in the final picture."
Initially, as production got under way, the zoom lenses were not available and were sorely
missed. Several were eventually sent over and were put to good use. "We missed the zoom very
much, especially when we were doing the Ardennes battles. I personally like the 100mm-300mm
zoom best because it has a greater range. Zoom lenses are useful for me because you have so
many lens positions at your immediate disposal. It isn't that I like to zoom in and out but that I can
rack in on a scene quickly."
The company had a Chapman boom but made very few boom shots. It was extensively used,
however, for positioning the camera.
PATTON is a big, complicated picture with many action scenes. Consequently, a second unit
headed by Mickey Moore worked very closely under Franklin Schaffner, Clifford Stine, ASC, and
Cecelio Paniagua, a Spanish cinematographer, worked under Moore's direction handling the
second unit photography. "The second unit worked alongside us all the way," explains
Koenekamp. "They filmed the night battle sequence, special stunt work, tanks and vehicles
exploding, tanks crashing through walls-things like that. We met in the evening and planned our
work together so that we would generally be shooting under the same lighting conditions."
Weather plays an important part in PATTON.
"When I first met Franklin Schaffner in his office at 20th Century-Fox studio, I had only very
quickly read the script. As we discussed the picture, I happened to mention that in war you can't
always wait for the weather. You have to take what comes. Because of this, it was my feeling that
we should shoot in any kind of weather. Schaffner told me that I had expressed his thoughts
"We shot in rain, in snow and slush, and in overcast. There were many times when we had
light changes in the middle of a scene when the sun would either come out or go behind a cloud. I
let it stay that way without any change in the lens. Of course, I had to keep the actors properly lit
and looking their best, but, otherwise, that was it! There was only one time during the picture that
we waited for the weather. We had begun filming explosions on a distant hillside when it started to
rain. So we waited until the next day when we could finish the scene."
Perhaps the thing that most PATTON crew members will remember longest about the
location was how cold Spain was that winter.
"Our very first day's shooting was, I believe, February 2, 1969 in Rio Frio castle just outside
Segovia. We were doing the scene where Patton is having his portrait painted when he receives a
telephone call from General Bedell Smith telling him he has been relieved of command of the
Third Army. It was about lunch-time and Scott asked for a glass of water. A man brought him
one and when he got it the water had frozen! This location was one that had to be lit entirely from
the floor with quartz lights. These were placed in every conceivable crevice, doorway, corridor and
"The Battle of the Bulge was filmed a few days after this scene, recalls Koenekamp. "It was
staged in the Segovia highlands eighty miles northwest of Madrid on terrain that is quite like the
Ardennes. We had to wait several days for the snow but it soon came and with it more cold
weather. We had on every piece of clothing we could get on our bodies but by noon we were all
shaking with the cold. Franklin Schaffner always had a cigar in his mouth. By afternoon, he was
so cold that the cigar was shaking." No fog or effects filters were used on these scenes because it
was not necessary. The cameras had all been winterized so they did not mind the cold.
The Battle of El Guettar, a large-scale battle sequence, was filmed in one day in the desert
country outside Almeria in Southernmost Spain. Over two thousand members of the Spanish
Army were outfitted in German and American uniforms, and an impressive collection of vintage
tanks and military equipment was assembled with an eye to as much authenticity as possible.
Koenekamp feels that a great deal of credit for the mechanical effects in this sequence should go to
special effects chief Alex Weldon. The explosions, shellfire, and small arms action are spectacular.
"I saw several tanks on one of the stages at Sevilla Studios," recalls Koenekamp. "They looked
like the real thing but as I got up close to them I discovered they had been made of sheet metal and
fiberglass by Weldon and his Spanish crew. He had built them from photographs. They were later
blown up in the battle scenes."
At this point, it should be noted that the special photographic effects were executed with
consummate skill at the 20th Century-Fox California studios by Bill Abbott, ASC. and Art
"This was the one big battle where the first and second units worked together," said
Koenekamp. "I was up on the hill with three cameras shooting down into the valley at the
advancing German tanks and infantry. The second unit was concealed in the valley catching closein
action with their three cameras."
In one gripping vignette made from a low angle, a German soldier is knocked down by a
Mark IV tank and run over. "The second unit was responsible for this shot," says Koenekamp.
"Actually, the man fell down accidentally. He was not a stunt man but a Spanish soldier.
Apparently, he stopped to cock his rifle and the tank hit him enough to knock him down. The tank
kept going but the treads somehow managed to miss the man by inches. He got a torn jacket and
was very lucky." This shot was made from a pit and is a good example of the excellent material
the second unit contributed to PATTON.
PATTON contains a number of shots made with long focus lenses showing tanks, vehicles,
soldiers on the march. In several instances, Patton is seen marching among them or in his
command car. This feeling of compression is effective. "Many times you can get a very nice effect
with a long lens by staying back," says Koenekamp. "It pulls things in together—a different effect.
It's not something I want to do often but it can be effective if used properly."
In one interesting shot, Patton's command column is seen moving over the crest of a hill, in
silhouette, against a sunset. "This shot was Made with a 500mm lens. That's why it has a little bit
of a fuzzy quality," explains Koenekamp.
The field of view of the D-150 prime lens is amply demonstrated in a chapel scene where
Patton is seen in prayer just prior to the moment when he apologizes to his troops for the slapping
incident. This was done in the medieval chapel at La Granda castle. The ceiling is perhaps sixtyfive
to seventy feet high and is covered with beautiful religious frescoes. The camera points
straight up, directly at the ceiling, and very slowly pans over the fresco. "I used the little AP-65
with the 18mm 150-degree lens for this shot," says Koenekamp. "This is the widest lens in the D-150 family so there was a little distortion as we panned, but I think it worked out all right."
On many of the natural interiors, there was often the vexing and difficult problem of balancing
sunlight with artificial light. An example of this occurs in the scene following the battle of Ell
Guettar where Patton meets his new aide-de-camp (Paul Stevens) for the first time. As the scene
opens, Patton is standing in a vestibule opening out on a small balcony from which the
Mediterranean can be seen. He speaks some dialogue with a player and then moves inside the
rather dark, somber Moorish-style room, where he meets the aide, speaks some more dialogue,
and then walks down a small stairway and into a corridor.
"We did this scene in the Governor's Palace in Almeria," said Koenekamp. "I placed two arc
lights in the vestibule to bring Patton into balance with the outside background which was, I think,
an f/16 light. This I brought down to f/11 with an 85N3 filter. As the players walk into the room, I
covered them with banks of FAY lights. Down the small stairway and along the little corridor, I
placed arc lamps covered with blue gels. There was a two-stop change coming through the door
and into the dark room. I think I went down from f/11 to f/6.3. To be quite honest, this scene
turned out to be more than I figured when I looked at the location. I never intended to use the arc
lamps and if I'd had more of the FAY lights, I'd have used them instead. As it was I used
everything I had. It took the entire camera crew—the operator, the assistant on the focus and
myself on the other side of the camera making the lens change. Since we had two dolly moves and
the lens change, it was difficult to time out. I think we must have done it around ten times before it
worked. I've learned from bitter experience that a lens change has to be absolutely right or its
terrible." But despite the complexities of this is scene, it was done in a morning and by afternoon
the company was outside shooting exteriors.
There is a truly beautifully lit interior in a long corridor of windows where Patton exits from
Eisenhower's office after having been rebuked for the so-called Knutsford incident. His loyal and
faithful orderly (James Edwards) patiently waits for him and a very moving and touching scene is
played between them. The hallway is long and flanked on one side by many windows. Sunlight
streams through them making interesting patterns of light on the polished floor. The walls and
ceilings are a soft pastel colour and there are beautiful mirrors on one wall.
"This scene was done in the tapestry room at La Granda castle," comments Koenekamp. "This
great hallway is over one hundred feet long with a ceiling clearance of fifteen feet. We waited until
the sun struck the windows at just the right angle, throwing patterns of light on the floor. Four arc
lamps were used. Two were pulled down to full spot and directed at the far wall. The other two
were at flood so the foreground was covered. Nets were placed in front of these two arcs since the
actors moved close to the camera. The long shot was done with the 28mm lens. For the close-ups,
I used FAY lights and a two-inch lens. This scene was shot entirely for daylight balance. No filters
were placed over the windows nor did we use any arcs outside them." This scene seems to be
illuminated solely by the sunlight coming in through the windows—a testament to the skill of the
Director of Photography and his crew. Koenekamp is understandably proud of this scene.
Two other interesting natural interiors were filmed inside an old Spanish fort located in the
centre of Madrid. The buildings had been condemned and were virtually falling apart. This latter
point worked to the advantage of the company in one instance by providing a strikingly dramatic
While the Battle of the Bulge rages, all of the Allied commanders—including Patton and
Bradley—are assembled for a conference at Verdun. This was staged in a barren and bleak room
of the old fort. There are whitewashed walls. Soft winter light comes through a number of
windows that can be observed in the background. Once more Koenekamp used daylight
"I used arc lamps to match the exterior light coming in through the many windows," explains
Koenekamp. "It was an overcast day and after we went to work it started to rain so no correction
was needed on the windows. It was supposed to be a cold, somber scene, so again the weather
worked for us.
The riding academy of the old fortress provided the setting for the press conference where
Patton made the verbal "faux pas" that cost him command of the Third Army. A shaft of sunlight
streams in through a skylight and strikes Patton. seen riding a beautiful white horse, like a giant
spotlight. Around him stand the eager newsmen firing their questions. To capture this episode,
Koenekamp once more went the daylight route, leaning heavily on arc lamps and FAY lights.
"We were incredibly lucky when that beam of sunlight came through the window and on to
Patton," says Koenekamp. "Once again the weather worked to our advantage."
At the height of the Ardennes counter-offensive, there is a moment in Patton's headquarters
when he asks an Army Chaplain to pray for clear weather so Allied planes can attack the
Germans. This scene was done in low-key with dramatic shadows playing on to the dark wall of
what seemed to be an old wine cellar. "The floor had collapsed in this room and a little gangway
had been built over the hole," says Koenekamp. "You could never build a set to equal this place.
That's exactly the way it looked and we left it that way. This scene was done with tungsten balance
because I could control the light. The windows were covered. We used our 10K lamps and
smaller units which made it a hundred times easier."
PATTON is a film with several hauntingly beautiful moments. My favourite is a somberly
photographed scene at a military cemetery in North Africa where Patton and his young aide
(Morgan Paull) speak of the dead soldiers who lie there. "It's lonely out here," Patton remarks.
"And cold," replies the younger man who will soon die in battle. Patton walks to the edge of the
desert and stands there thoughtfully looking towards the enemy lines in the half-light of a leaden,
foreboding sky. It is a scene played entirely as a long shot and it is poignant and tender. To me, it
reveals the compassion and warmth of the director, Franklin Schaffner. I can think of no greater
compliment than to say that his work in this film is in the finest tradition of the great John Ford.
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