February 27, 2015

Marshall and the Oscars

In May of 1971, the Marshall Foundation received its own Academy Award. The movie Patton had swept the 43rd Academy Awards, winning seven awards in the categories of original screenplay, direction, sound, editing, art direction, actor, and best picture. George C. Scott famously rejected his best actor Oscar for Patton, stating at the time: “…it is degrading to have actors in competition with each other…in a public display of contrived suspense.” Patton beat Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, and MASH to win Best Picture of 1970.

Patton producer Frank McCarthy had graduated with honors from the Virginia Military Institute in 1933 and later became an advisor on the big screen adaptation of the VMI-themed-musical Brother Rat, starring a young Ronald Reagan. McCarthy received his graduate degree in government from the University of Virginia and joined the War Department. By 1944 McCarthy was serving with General George C. Marshall. It was during this time McCarthy would come to know some of the greatest military leaders of the century.

Marshall50th016The movie Patton was the result of what one journalist called Frank McCarthy’s “twenty year dream.” The script was pieced together from Patton’s own diaries, biographies, and the memoirs of General Omar Bradley, who also served as technical advisor for the film. Bradley and the Pentagon would have to submit final approval before shooting could begin. Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North would later win an Oscar for their screenplay.

McCarthy, a member of the Marshall Foundation’s Board of Trustees, visited Lexington a month after the ceremony and presented his Best Picture Oscar to Foundation President Marshall S. Carter. McCarthy told the News-Gazette:

“In a sense, General Marshall was the godfather of the movie because if it hadn’t been for my close association with him I wouldn’t have known General Bradley, General Patton, or any of the others who turned up as characters in the movie….General Marshall encouraged me to make the picture. In view of the Marshall, Bradley, and Patton associations, I take great pleasure in turning the Oscar over to the Marshall Library as a tribute to these three fine officers.”