In 1970 George C. Scott won an Academy Award for his portrayal of General George S. Patton in the movie ``Patton.'' That film was based on the book ``Patton: Ordeal and Triumph,'' by Ladislas Farago. Now, Mr. Scott delivers a stunning Emmy-caliber performance in a television special based on a sequel by Mr. Farago.
The Last Days of Patton (CBS, Sunday, 8-11 p.m.) picks up where the original left off.
World War II is over, and there is simply no place for the man who was considered by many to be the greatest field general of the war.
He is prone to saying embarrassingly gauche things and makes no excuses for the gaffes. ``I am a soldier, not a diplomat,'' he says. ``I make no alibis for the things I say.''
Neither does the enlightening teleplay by William Luce. There is no attempt to soften the outrageous aspects of Patton's personality, his refusal to obey General Dwight D. Eisenhower's ``de-Nazifying'' edicts, or his tendency to ``bad mouth'' most other generals publicly.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur doesn't want him in the Pacific, because, he says, ``Two prima donnas are too much for one place.''
``Ike [General Eisenhower] has been bitten by the presidential bug,'' Patton says, ``and doesn't want me around rocking the boat.'' Once again, he was probably correct, if indiscreet.
``The Last Days of Patton'' doesn't shy away from the politics of power and ego at the military summit.
A series of flashbacks makes Patton's adult character somewhat understandable, but there are still great gaps in the Patton persona presented here. These seem acceptable, though, within the framework of this special, mainly because Scott's performance sweeps viewers along so successfully.
After a serious automobile accident, Patton fights to survive in order to be ready to help direct an expected war with the Soviet Union. ``I don't need to just live,'' he says. ``I need to live to fight.''
Eva Marie Saint portrays his wife as a woman who has learned to accept the General's flamboyant egotism but still finds it difficult to stand by and watch him ``pass into history.''
``The Last Days of Patton'' is a classic tragedy, told in a compellingly poetic style and directed with skill and sensitivity by Delbert Mann. It moves with somber majesty toward its inevitable conclusion.
Viewers may never again be able to dismiss the controversial General as merely ``Old Blood and Guts,'' a relic of another era. ``The Last Days of Patton'' portrays him as an often impossible man, deserving of condemnation on many levels but also somewhat admirable for the qualities that made him valuable in wartime yet an anachronism in peacetime.
The Chrysler Corporation deserves credit for accepting the responsibility of full sponsorship and allowing the harsh truths to be told, objectionable as they may be to some people for whom Patton remains a military and political icon.
William F. Storke, responsible in the past for many of NBC's most literate specials, was co-producer with Alfred R. Kelman for Entertainment Partners Inc.