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  1. #1
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    A Man for all Seasons is both great drama and exiting moviemaking and a showcase for outstanding performances, but it also tells a story of truly tragic dimensions. While Sir Thomas Moore (Paul Scofield) and Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) on one level represent good and evil in so far as Sir Thomas is the hero of the plot and he is finally executed by the King on trumped-up charges, also Henry has admirable motives for his acts (divorcing his Queen in order to re-marry, with or without a Papal dispensation).

    The house of Tudor came to the throne after a devastating civil war between the Houses of York and Lancarster (the War of the Roses). What brought on this war was an unclear succession - no direct heir opened up for rivalries between two great houses whose members all felt they could lay claim to the English throne.

    Now, if Henry died without male issue, born in wedlock, he would risk plunging his country into a new struggle for the succession, and as King he felt he had to do everything he could to avoid that risk. So strongly did he feel this that "everything" really meant everything, including a break with the Pope if the Holy Father could not be prevailed upon to dissolve Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

    It is rather amusing that the Pope had given Henry one dispensation already in order that he could marry Catherine in the first place, because she had originally been the wife of Henry's brother who died very young. The grounds for this dispensation was that the marriage had never been comsummated. The Catholic Church had (has?) many and detailed rules for who in a family could marry and who could not, and a marriage between a man and his widowed sister-in-law would mormally be considered incestuous, since marriage (being a sacrament in the Catholic Church) had made them brother and sister. If Catherine could be regarded as still a virgin, her first marriage could be annulled, thus paving the way for a marriage to Henry. Typically of the 16th century, Catherine's marriage was motivated by dynastic considerations, and these considerations still applied; it was politically desirable for this bond between the English and Spanish royal families to remain in place.

    When later in their married life Catherine, after having given birth to a daughter, only had still-born babies, Henry saw this as God's punishment for their incenstuous marriage, and the spectre of a new civil war loomed ahead if he could not get a male heir. It was becoming evident that Catherine could not give him a son, so Henry needed a new wife p.d.q. - he was not getting any younger, even if he was a good del younger than Catherine. Of course the added attraction of Anne Boleyn's youth and beauty played a role, but having a mistress was not much of a problem for the English monarch - he could easily get her that way if sexual attraction was the only motivatng force. For a son to be accepted as an heir without problems he had to be born in wedlock - so Henry mus marry whoever was to give him the prince he (and his country) needed so badly.

    So we have two antagonists poised against each other who both have admirable motives, it is not on the one hand simply a randy king who wants a younger wife in his bed than his present queen and on the other hand a cleric who upholds the sanctity of marriage and abiding by the Pope's will. In Zinnemann's film Robert Shaw is clearly enormously attracted to Vanessa Redgrave's Anne, but this is lust more than love - it seems the real Henry was still very much in love with Catherine, but for reasons of state he could no longer be her husband.

    A Man for All Seasons is a thinking moviegoer's film. There are so many allusions to historical facts and situations - also to religion and law. My favorite line I think is when Rich (John Hurt) has betrayed Sir Thomas and testified that he spoke very derogatorily against the king and his marriage when Rich visited him in his cell in the Tower. Sir Thomas - who now knows he is a dead man - comments on a chain of office that Rich carries around hs neck, and he is informed that it signifies that Rich has become tax collector (or something of the sort) in Wales. Sir Thomas looks at him more in sorrow than i anger, and says "What shall it profit a man if he wins the whole world but loses his soul - but for Whales! For Whales!". Not a very complimentary remark if you are a Welshman, but still a marvellous line!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: United States theuofc's Avatar
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    Hi, to Hangzhou...great city!



    Thanks for the excellent review of "A Man for All Seasons." It is one of my all-time favorites and also of Scofield roles, except perhaps "The Train," another fine film.



    I have "A Man..." on vhs and then bought it on DVD. When all else fails on television, I take out that well-scripted, finely acted film and enjoy a really good movie.



    Barbara

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    I am surprised there is so little about this film here. It is truly one of the great British films.



    It is very difficult to present a serious, intense drama about the inner life of an individual - especially a remarkable individual - and also present an exciting historical drama. Yet this film manages just that.



    Paul Scofield gives a rich and moving, and very sad, performance. He is a reluctant martyr. Then there is Wendy Hiller as Alice More, Robert Shaw as Henry VIII and Susannah York as the More's daughter Margaret and Leo McKern as Cromwell. A feast!



    The only serious problem: the film is much too short. Most of the epics made during that time amble on for hours. This one is so consice that even Henry VIIi has little screen time and Vanessa Redgrave has a bit part as Ann Boleyn!



    I would have happily enjoyed an additional hour on screen.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimR

    The only serious problem: the film is much too short. Most of the epics made during that time amble on for hours. This one is so consice that even Henry VII has little screen time and Vanessa Redgrave has a bit part as Ann Boleyn!

    I would have happily enjoyed an additional hour on screen.
    The film actually lasts longer than the play! The film runs for 170m, when I last saw it on stage it ran for 140m.



    The 1988 TV version with Charlton Heston is a more faithful version of the play and last 150m.



    The film is indeed an all-time classic and the entire cast are brilliant. Apart from Scofield and Shaw my favourite performance is from John Hurt. Superb!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by batman
    The film actually lasts longer than the play! The film runs for 170m, when I last saw it on stage it ran for 140m.

    The 1988 TV version with Charlton Heston is a more faithful version of the play and last 150m.

    The film is indeed an all-time classic and the entire cast are brilliant. Apart from Scofield and Shaw my favourite performance is from John Hurt. Superb!
    Interesting! I knew that Heston performed the role, but I didn't know it was recorded.



    And I am in full agreement about Hurt: a poignant performance.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: England faginsgirl's Avatar
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    I nearly bought this DVD the other day but didn`t. So thanks for the review , I think I may go and buy it now!



    xx

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faginsgirl
    I nearly bought this DVD the other day but didn`t. So thanks for the review , I think I may go and buy it now!

    xx
    I hope you enjoy it - it's beautifully written and acted.

  8. #8
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    I hope they release it on BD soon - superb movie.

  9. #9
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    Not a brilliantly original choice, but - "Man for all Seasons". I rated it very highly as a movie, but it also has a sentimental meaning for me. Way back when it was made, my father was a teacher and for some reason - I don't know how - he and a number of colleagues were asked to become extras in the film. By all accounts, it was an amazing experience for my father.

    The joke, of course, was that in the final cut, he was visible for about three nanoseconds, looking over Leo McKern's shoulder (and even then, you could only see half his face).

    A couple of years ago, I bought the DVD, ripped it using Premiere Pro and, although I say so myself, did an excellent job of 'altering' the credits at the start of the movie (what a wonderfully atmospheric sequence that is) such that it now starred him, and his name appeared before those of Paul Schofield, Wendy Hiller, the pretty blonde whose name escapes me and Leo McKern.

    Needless to say, he was chuffed to bits. During the same exercise, I also managed to grab the frame where he appeared and turned that into a photo. He was delighted with that too.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ianmcm
    the pretty blonde whose name escapes me
    ... you don't mean me ol' mate Yorkie!







    Robert Shaw was excellent as Henry VIII in the film too.

  11. #11
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    Mrs Bentley adores this flick, if it's on TV we're watching it, no doubt about it. As per usual Robert Shaw is a great watch.

  12. #12
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    I have the original brochure to the film and also the double disc vinyl LP on RCA of the spoken-word soundtrack featuring the major scenes. Its a treasure.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: Scotland narabdela's Avatar
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    An excellent film indeed. I remember though being mightily dissapointed when I first saw it, as one of the major characters in the play, The Common Man, was missing. I seem to remember that Leo McKern played him in London. He played Cromwell in the movie.



    He was of course a theatrical device, and wouldn't have worked in the film, but his presence makes a good stage production a more satisfying experience than the movie.

  14. #14
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by narabdela
    ... one of the major characters in the play, The Common Man, was missing ... and wouldn't have worked in the film ...
    In the TV version with Charlton Heston (surprisingly good) The Common Man is played by Roy Kinnear and it works very well. While not in the same class as the film version it is a worthwhile and entertaining production because of his appearance.




  15. #15
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    name='batman'] ... you don't mean me ol' mate Yorkie!

    Robert Shaw was excellent as Henry VIII in the film too.


    That's the one! Gorgeous or what?

  16. #16
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ianmcm
    That's the one! Gorgeous or what?
    She's even more gorgeous in person!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by batman
    She's even more gorgeous in person!
    [not at all jealous]

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by batman
    The 1988 TV version with Charlton Heston is a more faithful version of the play and last 150m.
    Heston made the film after playing the part on stage to mixed reviews (I saw him at Newcastle and thought him very good) because he replaced Tony Britton in a production that originated at Chichester.



    The best thing about the Heston version is the it restores the part of the 'common man' played by Leo McKern in the original production. Roy Kinnear was superb on stage and the TV film in the part. It was Kinnear's last stage part and in tribute the Theatre Royal Newcastle named their bar after him.

  19. #19
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    Here's a bit of trivia I hope some AMFAS enthusiasts find interesting - apparently the location of Sir Thomas More's house in Chelsea was on Beaufort Street, between the King's Road and Chelsea Embankment - there's now an RC chapel on the spot - the guide book I came across this fact in also mentions that part of the original garden wall of the house survives, though I couldn't see anything when I went looking. Does anybody know where the house used in the film is located? I've had a look on IMDB, but it lists several locations without giving any specific details.

  20. #20
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    Beaufort House, drawn by Kip with the hills of Kensington on the skyline, 1708


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