Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966) Director: Fred Zinnemann.

King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) wants the Pope to allow him to divorce wife Catharine so that he can marry Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave). If you disagree with the King you're considered a traitor, but one man -- the Chancellor, Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) -- thinks that the Pope's, God's law, overrules the King's, and refuses to take an oath of loyalty on the matter. This study of a man of principle, who adheres to private conscience over public duty, is absorbing, well-acted, literately scripted (by Richard Bolt from his play), and expertly photographed by Ted Moore, with a nice musical background by Georges Delerue. Orson Welles offers one of the best performances as Cardinal Wolsey, but Leo McKern as Cromwell, Shaw as King Henry, Nigel Davenport as Norfolk, and John Hurt as Richard Rich are all quite excellent as well. Vanessa Redgrave's brother, Corin Redgrave, also makes an impression as More's son-in-law William Roper, as does Susannah York as his daughter. Wendy Hiller seems to play her role as More's wife, Lady Alice, in only one note throughout, and Scofield, although he won the Best Actor Oscar, is overly cool and theatrical, as if he had toned down his stage performance a bit too much. At times he seems perfunctory instead of impassioned, busy speaking lines instead of feeling the emotions. And the question remains: was More a principled man of courage or a self-destructive religious fool (or fanatic) who cared more for the Church than for his wife and family? The film also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costumes, and Best Screenplay.

Verdict: Even if you grow impatient with the the central character, the film is well-made and compelling.***.

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