Friday, October 22, 2010

Movie of the Week

This Week,


Starring- Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Wendy Hiller, Orson Welles

As a nod to my Halloween costume this year (I'm being Henry VIII) I am highlighting a great Oscar winning film that tells the story of Sir Thomas More and his struggle with Henry VIII over divorce and the king's ultimate break with the Catholic Church. Written by Robert Bolt, who adapted it from his successful play, the story portrays More as the ultimate man of principle- beloved by the common folk for his conviction and loyalty to his values and religion in the face of death. Scofield's work as More is top notch, and it garnered him an Oscar for Best Actor.

While the film takes some dramatic license with the facts, it is quite accurate overall. Henry VIII (Shaw) is upset at the fact that his wife Catherine of Aragon has been unable to provide him with a male heir, and so he wants a divorce. Unfortunately for the king, it is not up to him, but rather the Pope to grant the divorce. Henry's Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey (Welles), urges More to help him let Henry out of the marriage. More refuses and Wolsey dies, disgraced by Henry who is still married to Catherine. More succeeds Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, but angers Henry when he says his conscience will not allow him dissolve a marriage that he feels is valid.

More is also up against the ambitious Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern) who wants to gain power and take More down for his actions. Henry VIII, tired of waiting for the Pope to grant his divorce, creates the Church of England with himself as the head. He then marries his mistress Anne Boleyn. More refuses to recognize the union and is imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason. More is eventually put on trial where he boldly sticks to his principles. For that he is ultimately beheaded.

The story is a powerful one and is  masterfully executed by Director Fred Zinneman and his first rate cast. It is no wonder that this is still held up as the quintessential film about More and Henry VIII. Scofield was made a popular actor for his work as More and became forever tied to this role. See this film for the history, the performances- especially Scofield and Shaw, and the fact that it is way better than The Tudors.

Things to watch for-

A young John Hurt
The great score by George Delerue
A cameo by Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn
The epilogue

"I know a man who wants to change his woman."

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