In eighteenth century England, "first cousins" Tom Jones and Master Blifil grew up together in privilege in the western countryside, but could not be more different in nature. Tom, the ... See full summary »
The story takes place in 16th century England. But men like Sir Thomas More, who love life yet have the moral fiber to lay down their lives for their principles, are found in every century. Concentrating on the last seven years of English chancellor's life, the struggle between More and his King, Henry VIII, hinges on Henry's determination to break with Rome so he can divorce his current wife and wed again, and good Catholic More's inability to go along with such heresy. More resigns as chancellor, hoping to be able to live out his life as a private citizen. But Henry will settle for nothing less than that the much respected More give public approval to his headstrong course. Written by
In the first (London) run of the play, Leo McKern played not Cromwell but the Common Man, a narrator-figure who addresses the audience and plays several characters in the story - More's servant Matthew, the man who rows him home, his jailer, etc. These characters also appear in the film, but are played by several actors. The original stage device of having them all played by the same actor was kept in the 1988 version. In the play, the lines stating what happened to the historical figures after More's death are spoken by the 'Common Man'; in the film, they are spoken in voice-over at the end by Colin Blakely, who plays Matthew. See more »
Lord Chancellor Woolsey did not die in office; he was removed from the office of Lord Chancellor by Henry (because of his displeasure at Woolsey's failure to secure a divorce from Catherine), and died more than a year after Sir Thomas More became Lord Chancellor. Woolsey did, however, remain Archbishop of York. See more »
[first spoken lines are over 6 minutes into the film]
...there's the country every second bastard born is fathered by a priest.
[clears throat to get More's attention]
Why, in Utopia, that couldn't be.
Well, there the priests are very holy.
Therefore, very few.
Sir Thomas More:
Is it anything interesting, Matthew?
Bless you, sir, I don't know.
[...] See more »
Paul Scofield's rendition of Sir Thomas More as written by Robert Bolt and directed by Fred Zinneman is the greatest lead dramatic performance EVER in cinematic history. He is that magnificent. He IS Sir Thomas More. We feel his hope, weariness, fire, virtue, protectiveness, morality, and bemusement as richly as he conveys each one frequently, one right after another. He was made for Bolt's dialogue, and Bolt's dialogue is drilled forever into our conscious by Scofield's flawless performance.
Everything else is also here. Leo McKern is brilliant as politically motivated prosecutor, Lord Cromwell. A bit subtler, but no less brilliant is Nigel Davenport as a man of some conscience, but not quite enough. John Hurt is unforgettable as ambitious young Rich led into temptation by Lord Cromwell. The incomparable Dame Wendy Hiller -- who passed just last year -- adds several more dimensions than her rather sparsely written role as Scofield's wife should have allowed for. Every minute she is on the screen is magnificent. Susannah York walks a tightrope between being scholarly reason and her passion for what is right. Robert Shaw as Henry VIII and Orson Wells as Cardinal Woolsey are larger than life and completely compelling during their all-too-brief virtuoso solos. The cinematography is lush. The soundtrack is historically accurate and perfectly positioned. Key sounds punctuate three pregnant pauses with explosive impact. The movie is technically as perfect as an historical epic can be. The film is simply exquisite.
All that being said, as I reflect momentarily in my head on closing this, it is Scofield's incomparable and breathtaking performance which still leaves me in complete awe.
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