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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
Becket's tomb became a popular destination for pilgrimages for centuries, but it was looted and destroyed in the early 16th century in the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Henry VIII's reign, as part of the Church of England's break from Rome. A shrine was later created at the site. See more »
In the excommunication scene, which took place in 1164, the monks are chanting the Dies Irae, a hymn said to have been composed by Thomas of Celano, who lived from 1200-1260. The hymn is also heard in the opening scene as Henry walks through the cathedral, which would have been in 1173. 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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