- Directed by Joseph Sargent
- July 15, 1977
The story of the polarizing General Douglas MacArthur and his time serving during World War II and the Korean War.
MacArthur is a classic film about a complicated figure who is portrayed here by the legendary Gregory Peck. They do not make movies this good anymore nor do they have actors of Peck’s caliber anymore in film. I assume they took liberties with the facts, as Hollywood often does, but there is nothing that really jumps out as being excessively altered for dramatic purposes or for the purpose of getting a message across. Some of that stuff just smacks you in the face when it is done but not here.
The producers of the movie, to maintain authenticity, intended to film where the historical events depicted took place. To their surprise though nothing looked like it had at the time in which those events occurred so much of the film was done on the studio backlot. Peck was unhappy with this but over time came to have a more favorable view of the film.
Was MacArthur a dangerous demagogue or military genius? Or a little bit of both? This movie never tries to answer that but instead lets the viewer decide. There was a no antiwar message nor anti MacArthur message. There was just an effort to portray things as honestly as possible. I wish more historically based movies would take that approach.
Peck himself disliked the actual MacArthur based on what he knew prior to production but took the role in this movie anyway. After completion of the project he had a more favorable view of the man understanding the amount of pressure he was under.
This is a dramatic film that also has plenty of well-done World War II action. Gregory Peck was one of the great actors in cinema. He does not just play the part of MacArthur. Peck IS MacArthur. My image of General Douglas MacArthur came from this movie. How he looked and how he talked. It was all Gregory Peck. In reality Peck had a passing resemblance to the general, but if I see a picture of the actual MacArthur I think “That’s not him!”
Casting Gregory Peck was a stroke of genius. Reportedly John Wayne and George C. Scott were both offered the role at various points but turned it down. Love them both but their passing on it was a good thing. Peck was able to make MacArthur a complex figure rather than a two-dimensional caricature. Here MacArthur was egotistical, yet he could be caring and worried about the individual. He was willing to come up with audacious and dangerous plans but also cared about those beneath him. He thought highly of himself and his abilities but understood there were limitations. MacArthur was much more interesting than your average war hero and this film showed that.
We have a great cast of familiar faces from that era. It is a guarantee if you watch/watched television or film from the time you will recognize more than a few. Dan O’Herlihy plays President Franklin D. Roosevelt. You might remember him from Halloween III: Season of the Witch as Conal Cochran, from The Last Starfighter as Grig, and from RoboCop 1 & 2 as “The Old Man.” Ed Flanders from St. Elsewhere fame plays Vice President/President Harry S. Truman. Nicolas Coster, who I recognize from so much, is Colonel Sidney Huff. And Russell Johnson (the Professor from Gilligan’s Island) is Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King.
This is such a well-directed film. It is more talking than it is battles but I watched it from beginning to end hungry to know what happened next. And the book ending of the film with MacArthur’s speech at West Point was rather moving. It set the film up perfectly and when they cut back to it at the end, it perfectly capped off the story and the sad ending of an old soldier who was essentially fading away.
MacArthur is a great film that is a portrait of a complicated figure. He is shown as the right person at the right time whose time then passed. With the talents of Gregory Peck in this movie this is most definitely a must see!