Most of us know the story of Henry VIII. He married a lot of women and either divorced or killed them off as he saw fit. Fewer of us know about Thomas More, one of the officials in Henry’s court whose silence brought about the fury of the king. After getting a decree from the pope to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, Henry now wants that marriage dissolved as she cannot produce a male heir. Henry wants to marry Anne Boleyn, Thomas is the one person of importance around who will not support Henry, and sticks to his guns to the bitter end.
It’s funny to think of this as an Oscar wining film – at least from the technical standpoint. There are so many things that just don’t quite work in the way we are used to film working today – most notably for me was during the key speech toward the end where Thomas addresses the court, a hugely dramatic moment, and the film is cut to an extremely wide shot showing the back of Thomas and with no chance of even seeing any of the reactions. Still, it is an excellent adaptation of an excellent play, with fabulous performances. And, how nice it is to see an age-appropriate, non-glamorous wife for Thomas. Wouldn’t happen today.
A Man for All Seasons won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Paul Scofield), Best Director (Fred Zinneman), Best Writing: Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Robert Bolt), Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color. It was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Shaw) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Wendy Hiller).