Title: A Man For All Seasons (1966)
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Stars: Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Nigel Davenport, John Hurt and Orson Welles
The story follows Sir Thomas More (Scofield), a lawyer of repute in the court of Henry the 8th (Shaw). He encounters trouble when he refuses to acknowledge Henry’s new love, Anne Boleyn. Henry is already married to Catherine of Aragon and wants a divorce so he can be with Anne, something that Sir Thomas will not consent to. Because he refuses to change his point of view, his number of friends begins to dwindle considerably, as they remain loyal to Henry the 8th in order to save themselves. The fact that he is betrayed by his former understudy Richard Rich (Hurt), does not help matters.
Paul Scofield is unforgettable in the lead role and rightfully received the Best Actor Oscar in 1967. Despite being calm and laid back in demeanour, he gives off an air of authority nonetheless. His delivery and expressions are fantastic and he makes every scene a winner. He had previously played the part in a stage production, which might explain why he was so suited to the role on screen.
Robert Shaw is a riot as Henry the 8th, portraying him as a two sided character, at times joyous and childlike and then serious and domineering the next. He received his only Oscar nomination for his supporting role. John Hurt, then in his late twenties, is very convincing as the slimy Rich, who will seemingly do anything to get ahead. The supporting cast is also impressive, including a shouty Nigel Davenport as the Duke of Norfolk and a cameo from the incredible, Orson Welles who, despite looking quite different than usual and having a British accent, which hides his mellifluous voice, he still nails his scene perfectly.
A Man For All Seasons looks incredible in every possible way. The costumes are magnificent, particularly Nigel Davenport’s cape and Robert Shaw’s golden cloak. The vibrant attire of Henry’s court hangers-on also impress. The locations used are great, incorporating castles, stately homes, wood panelled interiors and misty dock-side taverns.
A Man For All Seasons won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Cinematography and Costume Design. It was the only plausible choice for the top awards in that year. This exceptional work is fifty years old this year and deserves to be celebrated and remembered for years to come.