Paul Scofield (Sir Thomas More) and Wendy Hiller (Alice More)

A Man for All Seasons: Mary’s Perspective

“TV is going away.” my Dad exclaimed over lunch at Pasta Vino recently. He was proven right. Though my mother had given me a DVD of A Man for All Seasons, I balked at the inconvenience of opening the DVD, figuring out how to get the DVD machine to operate within our increasingly complicated systems of Netflix, Amazon Streaming, and DirecTV.

For the first time, it occurred me to consider how few DVDs my family watches these days. I took the lazy way out and paid $2.99 to “rent” A Man for All Seasons on Amazon video and watched it with the comfort of my Kindle Fire. I could not have been more content! It was today’s version of a “Blockbuster Night.”

Robert Shaw (King Henry VIII),
Robert Shaw (King Henry VIII)

The superior acting performances of Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey, and Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII were simply mesmerizing. It is the acting that makes this movie a timeless classic. A Man For All Seasons does not need elaborate visual effects, for the acting and dialog themselves stand out and shine like a sparkling piece of diamond jewelry worn on its own rather than clashing with too many other pieces.

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 1960’s 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 harsh. The common thread among today’s reviewers is that the film is one-dimensional, boring and resembles a high school play. It makes me wonder if viewers today recognize truly great acting when they see it? I struggle to think of any actor today who could pull off the part of Sir Thomas More with such convincing grace.

However, today’s viewers have likely seen or been exposed to the following:

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

2. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) – 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 starring the well-known actors Scarlett Johannsson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana.

3. Numerous documentaries on Discovery/History channels on Henry VIII.

Thus, it appears that A Man for All Seasons is consciously or unconsciously compared with the more modern material when viewed for the first time today. Most people are familiar with the story and could perceive A Man for All Seasons as outdated by today’s average viewer of movies. However, Robert Zinneman’s film is a timeless classic that should never fade away with the passage of time.

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