Debauched King Henry II installs his longtime court facilitator Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury, assuming that his old friend will be a compliant and loyal lackey in the King's ongoing battles with the church. But Becket unexpectedly finds his true calling on the ecclesiastical side, and aligns himself against the king's selfish wishes, causing a rift and an eventual showdown not only between the two men, but also the institutions they represent. Written by
The play - and indeed the film - are riddled with factual inaccuracies as Jean Anouilh did practically no research once he learned the gist of the real story. See more »
Contrary to one of the film's central plot lines, Thomas 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 Jean Anouilh admitted he discovered this after having finished his play, having based it on the outdated 1825 work "The History of the Conquest of England by the Normans", by Augustin Thierry; but he decided that it made a better story the way he had written it.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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Classic historical drama with excellent performances from the two leads... Peter O'Toole as King Henry II and Richard Burton as his best friend turned nemesis, Thomas Becket. From the start Henry II is not the most benevolent of kings... he steals young girls from their families for his own carnal pleasures... and even tricks Becket into sending the woman he loves to the King's bed. King Henry gets the idea that it might end his problems with the church if he names his best friend Archbishop... but he underestimates Becket's faith (as does Becket himself). Eventually Becket has to choose between his duty to the King and his duty to God... an unenviable choice that bodes ill no matter which choice he makes. Obvious homoerotic undertones to the relationship between the two strong-willed individuals... hard to imagine that this sort of material was palatable to audiences in the early 60s. Great script, great actors, great sets and costumes... a must see!
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