A Man For All Seasons

1966, Movie, NR, 120 mins


This adaptation of Robert Bolt's hit play proved to be both prestigious and commercial. Studio executives were unsure whether folks would turn out for the story of Sir Thomas More, a Catholic statesman in England who rebelled against Henry VIII's self-proclaimed status as the head of the Church of England and paid for his beliefs with his life.

More (Scofield) is appointed to succeed Cardinal Wolsey (Welles) as Lord Chancellor. He comes to grips with Shaw, as Henry VIII, who wants to divorce his barren wife and take a new bride. Henry needs a male heir, but Rome (for reasons both political and spiritual) won't grant an annulment. Henry breaks with the Pope, declaring himself spiritual ruler of the new Church of England, and demands More's endorsement. More is torn between loyalty to his monarch and concern for his immortal soul; a lawyer, he at first hopes to survive through ethical hairsplitting. But the king's rage, and the machinations of Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern), force his hand.

Scofield is magnificent in his first major film role; Shaw stands out as an energetic, youthfully impetuous Henry. Director Zinnemann never allows his primarily stage-trained actors to indulge in theatrical over-emoting. This absorbing film features inventive camerawork and superior production values. Winner of six Oscars, the film won the exact same awards (and Best British Film as well) from the British Film Academy. leave a comment

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