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As the story opens, King Henry II, who ruled England from 1154 to 1189 has entered Canterbury Cathedral to do penance at the tomb of his former friend, Thomas Becket. Bare to the waist, the king kneels to receive a flogging from Saxon monks. He begins to reminisce, recalling at first the carefree, promiscuous adventures with Becket, then his favorite drinking and wenching companion. A violently emotional drama that probes the changing relationship between two young men - between two close friends bound together by similar pride of flesh and spirit who become deadly enemies as they pursue their separate destinies . . . that of king . . . and saint. Written by
Contrary to one of the film's central plot lines, Thomas à Becket was a Norman (Thomas Bequet), not a Saxon. Jean Anouilh admitted he discovered this after having finished his play, having based it on the outdated 1825 work "The History of the Conquest of England by the Normans", by Augustin Thierry; but he decided that it made a better story the way he had written it. See more »
King Henry II:
Well, Thomas Becket. Are you satisfied? Here I am, stripped, kneeling at your tomb, while those treacherous Saxon monks of yours are getting ready to thrash me. Me - with my delicate skin. I bet you'd never have done the same for me. But - I suppose I have to do this penance and make my peace with you. Hmm. What a strange end to our story. How cold it was when we last met - on the shores of France. Funny, it's nearly always been cold - except at the beginning, when we were friends....
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If this movie had won all that Academy Awards that it was deservedly nominated for it would be a well-remembered film today but it seems like a forgotten classic. I haven't seen it shown on TV in years and seldom hear people talk about or reference this film. It won a best screenplay Oscar but was basically shut out. Best Picture, Best Director, two Lead Actor, one Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Score and Sound nominations that all came up short. Two great Actors Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole during the peak or prime of their careers with the great John Gielgud as a bonus. Wow! What an acting duel between Burton and O'Toole. A great script and great direction. This film has a lot going for it and deserved and should have won most of it's nominations but any other two actors in the lead and I may not have given it a 10 but this is a 10 and I highly recommend it.
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