a man for alll seasons

Movies on Chatham’s Introduction to A Man for All Seasons

Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII and Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More
Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII, and Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More

Upon viewing the timeless classic, A Man for All Seasons, members of Movies on Chatham were mesmerized by the superior acting performances of Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey, and Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII. This film does not need elaborate visual effects, for the acting shines like a sparkling piece of diamond jewelry worn on its own and not clashing with too many other pieces.

Critics of A Man for All Seasons Across the Decades

I read and skimmed plenty of reviews before watching the film to get a feel for the critics’ reception to it. Not surprisingly, the critics in the 1960s were overwhelmingly positive about A Man for All Seasons, which earned six Academy Awards.

Today’s movie reviewers (how easy it is to be a critic these days) were less positive. The common thread among today’s reviewers is that the film is one-dimensional, boring, and resembles a high school play. Have we become so accustomed to special effects and editing techniques that we fail to recognize the actors who pull off roles with convincing grace.

Today’s Viewers Have Seen Similar Stories

Today’s viewers have likely seen or been exposed to the following:

Jonathan Rhys Myers as King Henry VIII in The Tudors
Jonathan Rhys Myers as King Henry VIII

1. The Tudors (2007–2010) – a popular TV series on King Henry VIII starring the very handsome Jonathan Rhys Myers–who does not even have red hair!

2. The Other Boleyn Girl (2001) – an entertaining and page-turning book about the drama, romance, and intricacies of King Henry the VIII’s romances with the Boleyn sisters. It made its run through hundreds of book clubs and made Phillipa Gregory a wealthy author. The book’s raging success turned it into a movie (2008) starring the well-known actors Scarlett Johannsson, Natalie Portman, and Eric Bana.

3. Numerous documentaries on the Discovery/History channels on Henry VIII. It appears that A Man for All Seasons is consciously or unconsciously compared with the more modern material when viewed for the first time.

Some perceive A Man for All Seasons as outdated by today’s typical viewer of movies. However, Robert Zinnemann’s film is a classic that should never fade away with the passage of time.

Facts about A Man for All Seasons

Below are facts about A Man for All Seasons:

  • The movie takes place in 16th century England and focuses on the last seven years of Sir Thomas More’s life.
  • Director Fred Zinnemann spotlights the river Thames for its consistent presence in English history. In the movie, the river serves as the transition between Henry VIII’s castle and Sir Thomas More’s residence.
  • Zinnemann struggled with how to portray an ideological disagreement in a movie, a big challenge for any director.  He relied on  talented actors to meet this goal, and chose not to indulge in pyrotechnics (special effects, visual fireworks, etc.).
  • Knowledge of this period in English history helps to understand the lengthy discourses in the movie. If one is not familiar with England in King Henry VIII’s time, quick research beforehand is highly recommended. Good Source: Wikipedia (Henry VIII of England)
  • Many consider Sir Thomas More as  the greatest Englishman of the era—a man who would not compromise his principles under any circumstances (Thomas More). Men (or women) like Sir Thomas More come around only once in a century (e.g., Mahatma Gandhi in 20th century).


Special effects pyrotechnics

Pyrotechnics is a term for a range of special effect props—gas flame, waterfall, explosions, etc. These materials and mechanisms are used to create visual drama and stunning scenes in filmmaking.


Gregory, P. (2001). The other Boleyn girl. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

Chadwick, J. (2008). The other Boleyn girl [Motion Picture]. USA: Sony Pictures.

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, Oct 19). Henry VIII of England. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Henry_VIII_of_England&oldid=864840360

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, Oct 18). Thomas More. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from  https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Thomas_More&oldid=864651981

Zinnemann, F.  (Director). (1966). A man for all seasons [Motion picture]. USA: Highlands Films.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.