A Man for all seasons -- what else?
I’ve never been particularly enthralled by stars of stage, screen or television. Not that I dislike being entertained in a thespian realm. I certainly have a list of favorite films (very few of them being recent ones, deservedly), I love live theatre and have seen a few absolutely shining lights in London West End productions, including Alec Guinness, Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson and many others, and finally television is not something I disparage as some affected and pretentious souls like to do to set themselves apart as superior roles. I have a basic rule with TV, I never watch the shit shows, and am quite content to sit back with my Lost, Cold Case, L&O and the Simpsons. That’ll do me.
But, back to my original point. The actors and actresses in these things are just people doing a job. If they do it well, I applaud them. If they do it badly, I ignore them.
But, periodically there comes a person who can utterly enchanted me by his or her oeuvre. The giants in my lexicon are: Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart (who never did a bad thing, in my esteem), Jack Nicholson (who sometimes gets a little too self-consciously ‘Jack’ and lapses into self-parody), and one who just died – Paul Scofield.
I’ve seen Scofield little, mainly because he never did much film work, and preferred treading the boards. But, when he did appear in the celluloid realm, such a treat it was.
Scofield, who was 86 at the time of his death, happened to have the lead in what is arguably my favorite film of all time, the 1966 version of the Robert Bolt play, A Man For All Seasons. If you want to see Tudor England in its rough-hewn rawness, but also a certain beauty, this film is a treasure to be cherished over and over again. At least for me it is.
The cast is brilliant, and pay special attention to Robert Shaw (later of Jaws) as a vibrant and trim, yet boisterous and ultimately unspeakably cruel, Henry VIII. Leo (Rumpole) McKern is fabulous as the despicable Cromwell, and a very young John Hurt has a fine turn as the slimy and ambitious Richard Rich.
But, mainly the film is about Scofield as the martyred, and ultimately canonized Thomas More, briefly the Lord Chancellor of England and the man who penned Utopia.
More was a true martyr and intensely loyal to his convictions until the bitterest of ends. Would that I could be a tenth the man who was depicted. At the same time, as Scofield presented him, he was low-key, compassionate, loving, and loyal – even to his corrupt king. But, he could not fly in the face of his moral beliefs. For that, he lost his head.
Scofield, to me, became Thomas More. I can imagine no other in the role. His melifluous voice and calm manner carried it. Over-the-top Richard Burton would have been dreadful, Olivier was too much in the Olivier persona by that stage of his career, and Gielgud was too ‘lean-and-hungry’ looking. Scofield, still a relative unknown to filmgoers, was perfect in what became an Oscar winning role.
Not much more than, since this is just a simple homage to a fine actor. I have the video of A Man, and I just may watch it later.
Requiescat In Pace, Paul Scofield, and thanks.
Labels: The actor's actor