The story is a little brush-up on English history. In the sixteenth century, King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine, so he could marry Ann Boleyn. His reasoning (besides being England’s grand playboy) was so he could produce a son, an heir to the throne. But with the Catholic Church, Henry cannot divorce, so he breaks from Rome and creates his own Church of England. Thomas More (Paul Scofield), chancellor of England and a devout Catholic sees the King’s action as heresy and refuses to approve. For this, he’s imprisoned in the Tower of London for years.
More’s family pleads that he just sign the agreement so he can be free, but More cannot keep a clear conscious by doing so. It’s an amazing concept today with so many people willing to bend and break over such little things today. The reality was that More just needed to sign a document and he could be free. One little scratch of the quill, but no dice. More has the prefect balance of strong moral fiber and utter stubbornness.
Robert Shaw plays a great Henry VIII. He’s just how I imagined from history books; a loud, crude, golden caped royal playboy who loves to be the center of attention. And Shaw has that perfect combination between a crazy gleam in the eye and a roaring laugh to pull this role off perfectly. I was disappointed that there’s only one real Henry VIII scene, this role is really one to milk and spread on real thick.
A Man for All Seasons went to the Academy Awards with eight nominations and came home with six Oscars. Of them were Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design and Paul Scofield for Lead Actor. With all those trophies it’s hard to argue against this film, it is done remarkably well and deserves these achievements. But I wasn’t moved, surprised or feel any real emotion outside of the joy of seeing Shaw as England’s most infamous king.
Honestly, the film is pretty dull. We understand More’s values and amazing fortitude early in the story, and anyone familiar with British history knows the rest. I would only recommend A Man for All Seasons if you love history, Paul Scofield or want to see Robert Shaw as Henry VIII. The whole thing is just an easy history lesson boosting More’s moral fiber. Best Picture winner? Not in my book.
“I trust I make myself obscure.”