Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"Man for All Seasons" Great as Film
Cleveland Press February 14, 1967
Civilized, intelligent and entertaining is "A Man For All Seasons," a handsomely made adaptation of Robert Bolt's award winning play.
Bolt has fashioned the screen play from his own work and director Fred Zinnemann has successfully surmounted the problem off filming a drama in which words are often more import.ant than action.
This historical chronicle of the last few years of Sir Thomas More's life, like the play; transcends history.
UNLIKE THE PLAY, it is offered in realistic terms. Filmed in England against stately Tudor mansions, the scenes are warm and appealing. The play was offered in the theater in purely stylized terms with minimum sets and no scenery.
Some will miss the character of the Common Man who commented, like a Greek chorus, upon the happenings on stage. But purely theatrical techniques would not have enhanced the movie.
"A Man For All Seasons" recounts the conflict between More and King Henry VIII when the king decides to divorce his queen and marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Opposed by the church, the king makes himself head of a new church and proceeds with his plan.
WHILE MORE does not block the king's action, he will not approve of it and when the king's other subjects recognize the king's authority, More refuses though he will not utter anything treasonable.
It is not rebelliousness as he goes about it, but an attempt to satisfy his conscience while obeying the letter of the law.
More's faith in the security of the law is almost as firm as his faith in God.
Bolt's play goes beyond the religious-political dispute and becomes a message for all times and especially ours. For Bolt argues the importance in the conflict as being the right of a man to keep at least a tiny corner of his conscience private, the right to silence, the right to respect one's own integrity though others may not.
In an age in which privacy is more elusive and thus more valuable the message is an important one. In a time in which expediency rather than principles dictate our actions the movie is timely. In a world in which it is not popular to oppose officialdom the story is terribly real.
But this is not a movie to scare one with a message. It is intelligent without being pedantic, entertaining without being frivolous. It is witty in unexpected moments.
Paul Scofield as More is a superb actor, a possessor of a voice of range and timbre somewhat like that of Richard Burton, but one given to more variety.
There are no nuances, no subtleties of characterization that are beyond him and his worn and rugged face is his servant in adding to the role.
Scofield's quiet acting is an effective counterpoint to Robert Shaw's volatile and explosive Henry VIII. Shaw brings much to a role which other actors might have made merely loud.
LEO McKERN is a malevolent Cromwell who tries to trap More and finally defeats him in a rigged trial. Wendy Hiller is sturdy as More's wife in a role that seems to have been reduced.
Orson Welles appears briefly as Cardinal Wolsey, a mountain of flesh clad in scarlet which is reflected in his bloodshot eyes. Welles is economical in gesture and movement which for him is true restraint.
This same sort of concern for small parts is in even greater evidence in the brief appearance of Anne Boleyn, a part with no dialog that lasts only a few seconds. She gets no billing, but that woman radiating an animal attractiveness is Vanessa Redgrave.