The King's Good Servant -
But God's First
I was enthralled by the Paul Schofield movie of "A Man For All Seasons"from the very first moment the projector began to roll and the majestic, super - confident and exciting medieval music of the soundtrack filled the theatre! And my attention did not wane for a moment until the very end when the closing titles rolled out the fates of the villains who brought the Saint's neck to the block.

Summoned by Cardinal Wolsey
Every aspect of the Fred Zinnemann film  made in 1966 and based on the play by Robert Bolt, was exemplary. But the best of everything technical will still fail if the script and cast are inadequate. Here they were and are brilliant. Robert Bolt himself adapted the Play for the screen and, in fact, much of the Plays dialogue is very true to St. Thomas' own words which are known from his own writings, records of his interrogations and of his trial. The cast was stunning from the masterly Paul Schofield himself as Saint Thomas, to Leo McKern as the ruthless and venal Thomas Cromwell, Robert Shaw as the handsome , brilliant yet volatile younger Henry VIII ( not yet the fully syphillitic wreck he was to become) , Wendy Hiller as the solid but pragmatic Alice More the Saint's second wife (after the premature death of the first), and Orson Welles as the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, More's predecessor as Lord Chancellor.

On Trial prosecuted by Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern)"
Subsequent efforts to retell the story directly - the unhappy Charlton Heston version with Moses himself playing St.Thomas , and the more recent "THE TUDORS"TV Series went from the sad to the downright laughable . In the latter, we see Wolsey still around when a representation of Saint Thomas is walking around wearing the Lord Chancellor's Chain of Office. And in another scene we are treated to Wolsey coming back from a horse ride wearing a Cope!!! Both of those pathetic efforts serve only to emphasise the marvellous quality and integrity of the 1966 film.

The staging of the 1966 film was superb, with timber and stone being used in appropriate places, but in such a way as to highlight the dramatic quality of the unfolding story.Costumery was remarkable for its balance of opulence and restraint, reminding us of the constraints of the times, both economic,political and legal - for the sumptuary laws carefully governed what every layer of society might wear, and overdressing could have fatal consequences especially if you stood in line for the throne. This was a film that gave delight on so many levels that it is hard to do it justice. If any reader has NOT seen it, please get it out on DVD, better still buy the DVD and watch it and re-watch it, or download it. You could give yourself no more rewarding and entertaining gift. And at the same time you would learn so much about our Faith.

If you need to know something about St.Thomas More as a man , listen to
Robert Whittington writing in 1520, whose description gave the Play and Film their title :

"" Now that the Court has determined to convict me,
God knoweth how, I will discharge my mind........
"More is a man of an Angel's wit and singular learning, I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvellous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons."                   


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