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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
Orson Welles used an exact duplicate of Cardinal Wolsey's official seal, as well as authentic sheepskin parchment and a quill pen. See more »
In the opening scene, when Wolsey is sealing the letter to More with wax and his official seal, after he hands the letter to Cromwell and he folds it and pours the sealing wax, there is a string of wax that trails from the ladle and over the letter. Yet in the closeup when Wolsey is applying his official seal, that trail of wax is gone, and the letter is clear of any dripped wax. Also, it's obvious that the long shot and the closeup of Wolsey applying the seal are separate takes: the blob of wax in the long shot is smaller than that in the closeup, and the letter is folded differently (there's more of an overlap in the folded letter in the closeup). 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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