is an actor's film, the force of the drama being driven by their performances.
Exceptional acting by John Hurt, Leo McKern, Nigel Davenport and Robert
Shaw enhance lead actor Paul Scofield's Oscar-winning portrayal. In
the end, the church won out -- as More said at his execution,
remain the King's good subject, but God's first.'
Shaw's Henry VIII presents the mood swings and apparent callousness
toward human values reflecting the common judgment of his reign in traditional
history. Shaw displays a fine villain, but can touch only lightly the
complexity of Henry's position in Reformation England. Bolt's screenplay
denies Shaw the scope he might have used in depicting Henry's burdens.
and McKern portray Richard Rich and Thomas Cromwell, schemers and social
climbers of which royal courts are always full. Nigel Davenport as the
friend who becomes an enemy, himself turned by the political tides,
is also effective. The roles of More's wife Alice (Wendy Hiller) and
daughter Meg (Susannah York) are admirably played. Alice as the illiterate
yet intelligent wife of More is concerned for the family's well-being;
Meg as the educated daughter (More's experimental school practiced,
generations ahead of its time, gender equality in education) almost
steals the scene from Shaw at one point.
The message is unmistakable -- that in an age of moral and ethical relativism,
sometimes one must gamble all, even one's life, to cling to integrity
- and ultimately one's own soul. This parable is sorely needed in our
own day. We must leave the last word to Sir Thomas himself. Towards
the end of the film More asks to see chain of office that Richard Rich
was given to perjure himself and betray More. After examining it and
being told that Sir Richard was made the Attorney General of Wales More
it profits a man nothing to trade his soul for the whole world, but
for Wales ...’