A Man for All Seasons (1966 film)

A Man for All Seasons is a 1966 British biographical drama film in Technicolor based on Robert Bolt's play of the same name and adapted for the big screen by Bolt himself. It was released on 12 December 1966. It was directed by Fred Zinnemann, who had previously directed the films High Noon and From Here to Eternity.

The film and play both depict the final years of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Lord Chancellor of England who refused to sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul King Henry VIII of England's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and refused to take an Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church of England. Paul Scofield, who had played More in the West End stage premiere, also took the role in the film, starring alongside Wendy Hiller, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles and Susannah York. Also appearing are Nigel Davenport, Leo McKern, Corin Redgrave and, in one of his earliest screen roles, John Hurt.

A Man for All Seasons was a critical and box office success. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 39th Academy Awards, while the cast and crew won another five, including Best Director for Zinnemann and Best Actor for Scofield. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama and the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Best British Film.

A Man for All Seasons
A Man for All Seasons (1966 movie poster)
Directed byFred Zinnemann
Produced byFred Zinnemann
Screenplay byRobert Bolt
Based onA Man for All Seasons
by Robert Bolt
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyTed Moore
Edited byRalph Kemplen
Highland Films
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
12 December 1966 (USA) March 1967 (UK)
Running time
120 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$2 million
Box office$28.4 million[2]


The title reflects playwright Bolt's portrayal of More as the ultimate man of conscience and as remaining true to his principles and religion under all circumstances and at all times. Bolt borrowed the title from Robert Whittington, a contemporary of More, who in 1520 wrote of him:

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 marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.[3][4]


The film covers the years 1529 to 1535, during the reign of King Henry VIII.

During a private late-night meeting at Hampton Court, Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England, chastises More for being the only member of the Privy Council to oppose Wolsey's attempts to obtain a divorce for King Henry VIII from the Vatican so that he can marry Anne Boleyn, as his present queen, Catherine, has not produced a male heir, risking another period of dynastic wars like the Wars of the Roses. More states that he can never go along with Wolsey's suggestion that they apply "pressure" on Church property and revenue in England. Unknown to More, the conversation is overheard by Wolsey's aide, Thomas Cromwell.

Returning to his home at Chelsea at dawn, More finds his young acquaintance Richard Rich waiting for his return to lobby for a position at Court. More recommends instead that Rich find a job as a teacher. Rich declines More's advice, saying that has little prestige. More finds his daughter Meg chatting with a brilliant young lawyer named William Roper, who announces his desire to marry her. The devoutly Catholic More states that he cannot give his blessing as long as Roper remains a Lutheran.

Some time later, Wolsey dies of a heart attack. King Henry appoints More as Lord Chancellor of England to succeed Wolsey. The King makes an "impromptu" visit to the More estate, but More remains unmoved as Henry alternates between threats, tantrums, and promises of unbounded Royal favour. After the King leaves, Cromwell promises Rich a position at Court in return for damaging information about More.

Roper, learning of More's quarrel with the King, reveals that his religious opinions have altered considerably: He declares that by attacking the Church, the King has become "the Devil's minister." More admonishes him to be more guarded as Rich arrives, pleading again for a position at Court. When More again refuses, Rich denounces More's steward as a spy for Thomas Cromwell. An unmoved More responds, "Of course, that's one of my servants."

Humiliated, Rich joins Cromwell in attempting to bring down More. Meanwhile, the King has Parliament declare him "Supreme Head of the Church of England" and demands that bishops and Parliament renounce all allegiance to the Pope. More quietly resigns as Lord Chancellor rather than accept the new order. His close friend, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, attempts to draw out his opinions in a friendly private chat, but More knows that the time for speaking openly of such matters is over.

Cromwell, in a meeting with Norfolk, implies that More's troubles would be over were he to attend the King's wedding to Anne Boleyn. When More declines the invitation, he is summoned again to Hampton Court, now occupied by Cromwell. More is interrogated, but refuses to answer. Infuriated, Cromwell declares that the King views him as a traitor, but allows him to return home.

Upon returning home, Meg informs her father that a new oath is being circulated and that all must take it or face charges of high treason. Initially, More says he would be willing to take the oath, provided it refers only to the King's marriage to Boleyn. Upon learning that it names the King as Supreme Head of the Church, More refuses to take it and is subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London.

More remains steadfast in his refusal to take the Oath and refuses to explain his objections, knowing that he cannot be convicted if he hasn't explicitly denied the King's supremacy. A request for new books to read backfires, resulting in confiscation of the books he has, and Rich removes them from More's cell.

More is finally brought to trial, but refuses to speak about the marriage or why he will not take the Oath, and cites his silence in defence. Rich then testifies that when he came to take away More's books, More told him he would not take the Oath because the King could not be Head of the Church, thus committing treason by contradicting the Act of Supremacy. More is convicted of treason on the perjured testimony of Rich, who has been made Attorney-General for Wales as a reward.

More says goodbye to his wife Alice, Meg and Roper, urging them not to try to defend him. With nothing left to lose, More denounces the King's actions as illegal, citing the Biblical basis for the authority of the Papacy over Christendom and further declaring that the Church's immunity to State interference is guaranteed both in Magna Carta and in the King's own Coronation Oath. As the audience screams in protest, More is condemned to death by beheading. Before his execution on Tower Hill, More pardons the executioner, and says, "I die His Majesty's good servant, but God's first."

A narrator intones the epilogue, listing the subsequent untimely deaths of the major characters, apart from Richard Rich, who "became Chancellor of England, and died in his bed."



Robert Bolt adapted the screenplay himself. The running commentary of The Common Man was deleted and the character was divided into the roles of the Thames boatman, More's steward, an innkeeper, the jailer from the Tower, the jury foreman and the executioner. The subplot involving the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, was also excised. A few minor scenes were added to the play, for instance Wolsey's death, More's investiture as Chancellor, and the King's wedding to Anne Boleyn, to cover narrative gaps left by the exclusion of the Common Man.

The Brechtian staging of the final courtroom scene (which depicted the Jury as consisting of the Common Man and several sticks bearing the hats of the various characters he has played) is changed to a more naturalistic setting. Also, while the Duke of Norfolk was the judge both historically and in the play's depiction of the trial, the character of the Chief Justice (Jack Gwillim) was created for the film. Norfolk is still present, but plays little role in the proceedings.


The producers initially feared that Scofield was not a big enough name to draw in audiences, so the producers approached Richard Burton, who turned down the part. Laurence Olivier was also considered, but director Zinnemann demanded that Scofield be cast. He played More both in London's West End and on Broadway; the latter appearance led to a Tony Award.

Alec Guinness was the studio's first choice to play Cardinal Wolsey, and Peter O'Toole was the first choice to play Henry VIII. Richard Harris was also considered. Bolt wanted film director John Huston to play Norfolk, but he refused. Vanessa Redgrave was originally to have played Margaret, but she had a theatre commitment. She agreed to a cameo as Anne Boleyn on the condition that she not be billed in the part or mentioned in the previews.

To keep the budget at under $2 million, the actors all took salary cuts. Only Scofield, York, and Welles were paid salaries exceeding £10,000. For playing Rich, his first major film role, John Hurt was paid £3,000. Vanessa Redgrave appeared simply for the fun of it and refused to accept any money.

Leo McKern had played the Common Man in the original West End production of the show, but had been shifted to Cromwell for the Broadway production. He and Scofield are the only members of the cast to appear in both the stage and screen versions of the story. Vanessa Redgrave did appear as Lady Alice in a 1988 remake.


Box office

The film was a box office success, making $28,350,000 in the US alone,[2] making it the fifth highest-grossing film of 1966.

Critical reception

It has received positive reviews from film critics, with an 82% "Fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.9/10, based on 38 reviews. The critics' consensus states: "Solid cinematography and enjoyable performances from Paul Scofield and Robert Shaw add a spark to this deliberately paced adaptation of the Robert Bolt play.".[5] A. D. Murphy of Variety wrote: "Producer-director Fred Zinnemann has blended all filmmaking elements into an excellent, handsome and stirring film version of A Man for All Seasons."[6]

Paul Scofield's performance was particularly praised. Kate Cameron of the New York Daily News said: "over all these fine performances, including Robert Shaw's opulent, bluff and forceful representation of the king, it is Scofield who dominates the screen with his genteel voice and steadfast refusal to kowtow to the king, even at the expense of his head."[7] However, Pauline Kael gave the film a more critical review, writing: "There's more than a little of the school pageant in the rhythm of the movie: Though it's neater than our school drama coaches could make it, the figures group and say their assigned lines and move on."[8]

In 1995, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of cinema, the Vatican listed it among the greatest movies of all time.[9] In 1999, British Film Institute named A Man for All Seasons the 43rd greatest British film of all time. In 2008, it came 106th on Empire magazine's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time list.


Award Category Name Outcome
Academy Awards Best Picture Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Director Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Actor Paul Scofield Won
Best Supporting Actor Robert Shaw Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Wendy Hiller Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Robert Bolt Won
Best Cinematography - Color Ted Moore Won
Best Costume Design - Color Elizabeth Haffenden, Joan Bridge Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Director Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama Paul Scofield Won
Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Robert Shaw Nominated
Best Screenplay Robert Bolt Won
BAFTA Awards Best Film Fred Zinnemann Won
Best British Film Fred Zinnemann Won
Best British Actor in a Leading Role Paul Scofield Won
Best British Screenplay Robert Bolt Won
Best British Cinematography - Colour Ted Moore Won
Best British Production Design - Colour John Box Won
Best British Costume Design - Colour Elizabeth Haffenden, Joan Bridge Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing - Feature Film Fred Zinnemann Won
National Board of Review Awards Best Film Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Director Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Actor Paul Scofield Won
Best Supporting Actor Robert Shaw Won
Top Ten Films Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Film Fred Zinnemann 2nd place
Best Actor Paul Scofield 4th place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Director Fred Zinnemann Won
Best Actor Paul Scofield Won
Best Screenplay Robert Bolt Won
Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards Best British Screenplay Robert Bolt Won

The film was also entered into the 5th Moscow International Film Festival where Scofield won the award for Best Actor.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "A Man for All Seasons (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 13 December 1966. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b Box Office Information for A Man For All Seasons. The Numbers. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  3. ^ Whittinton, R. in The Vulgaria of John Stonbridge and the Vulgaria of Robert Whittinton, ed Beatrice White, Kraus Reprint, 1971, at Google Books. Accessed 10 March 2012.
  4. ^ Cited by O'Connell, M. in A Man for all Seasons: an Historian's Demur from Catholic Dossier 8 No. 2 (March–April 2002), pp. 16–19, at Catholic Education Resource Center
  5. ^ A Man for All Seasons. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  6. ^ Murphy, A.D. (13 December 1966). "Review: 'A Man For All Seasons'". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  7. ^ "A Man for All Seasons": 1966 review. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  8. ^ Film Classic: "A Man for All Seasons" (February 25, 1967). Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Marking Centennial of Cinema, Vatican Names 45 Best Films". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 December 2013
  10. ^ "5th Moscow International Film Festival (1967)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2012.

External links

Alice More

Alice, Lady More (née Harpur; 1474–1546 or 1551) - also known as Dame Alice Moore - was the second wife of Sir Thomas More, who served as Lord Chancellor of England. She is a prominent figure in Tudor history and literature.She was the daughter of Elizabeth (née Adern) and Sir Richard Harpur. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Peter Adern and his wife Catherine.Her first husband was John Middleton, a merchant, with whom she had a son and two daughters, one of whom, her daughter also named Alice (1501-1563), survived infancy. John Middleton died in 1509, leaving her a young widow. After her marriage to Thomas More in 1511, he raised her daughter Alice as his own. They did not have children together.Historians have concluded that Sir Thomas More married Alice so he could have a step-mother for his four children after his first wife, Jane, died in 1511. One of her step-daughters was Margaret More. Alice was also considered wealthy, as her first husband left her all of his estate, and her family owned property. Historians also believe that Thomas More had known Alice and her family long before they were married, which is why the couple married without hesitation within weeks of Jane's death. Alice was seven years older than Sir Thomas. The family lived in London and later at the estate built in Chelsea. She was known for her love of animals, especially her dogs, and her pet monkey.She was married to Sir Thomas from 1511 until he was executed in 1535 after he was convicted of treason for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy. Before his execution, while he was locked in the Tower of London, she was in charge of taking care of his affairs. The last years of her life were poor, due to the family's property being confiscated. The crown voided the trust her husband had belatedly established for her, Henry VIII of England instead allowed her a smaller annuity of £20 in 1537, to live on after his death. Her death date is most often referred to as April 1551, but some sources state 1546. Her daughter Alice bore several children, giving her many blood descendants.Researchers have found that her family lineage makes her an ancestor of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.Her husband was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 as a martyr of the schism that separated the Church of England from Rome.

House of Tudor

The House of Tudor was an English royal house of Welsh origin, descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of Ireland) from 1485 until 1603, with five monarchs in that period. The Tudors succeeded the House of Plantagenet as rulers of the Kingdom of England, and were succeeded by the House of Stuart. The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII of England, descended through his mother from a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, which left the House of Lancaster, to which the Tudors were aligned, extinct.

Henry Tudor was able to establish himself as a candidate not only for traditional Lancastrian supporters, but also for the discontented supporters of their rival House of York, and he rose to the throne by the right of conquest. His victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field was reinforced by his marriage to the English princess Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty. The Tudors extended their power beyond modern England, achieving the full union of England and the Principality of Wales in 1542 (Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542), and successfully asserting English authority over the Kingdom of Ireland. They also maintained the nominal English claim to the Kingdom of France; although none of them made substance of it, Henry VIII fought wars with France trying to reclaim that title. After him, his daughter Mary I lost control of all territory in France permanently with the fall of Calais in 1558.

In total, five Tudor monarchs ruled their domains for just over a century. Henry VIII was the only son of Henry VII to live to the age of maturity. Issues around the royal succession (including marriage and the succession rights of women) became major political themes during the Tudor era. In 1603 when Elizabeth I died without heir, the Scottish House of Stuart supplanted the Tudors as England's royal family through the Union of the Crowns. The first Stuart to be King of England, James VI and I, descended from Henry VII's daughter Margaret Tudor, who in 1503 married James IV as part of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace.

For analysis of politics, diplomacy and social history, see Tudor period.

List of plays adapted into feature films

This is a list of plays that have been adapted into feature films. The title of the work is followed by the work's author, the title of the film, and the year of the film. If a film has an alternate title based on geographical distribution, the title listed will be that of the widest distribution area.

Films directed by Fred Zinnemann
Awards for A Man for All Seasons

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