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 original Broadway play on which this filmed production is based opened at the St. James Theater in New York on October 5, 1960 and ran for 193 performances. Its script "Becket" by Jean Anouilh (as the basis for the screenplay) won the 1961 Tony Award (New York City) for Best Play. See more »
The film seems to assume that Henry and Thomas speak English. The French girl Marie is clearly depicted as speaking a different language. In fact, the native language of both Becket and Henry was French, and Henry spoke no English at all. 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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