39. A Man for All Seasons (1967)

Title: A Man for All Seasons

Release Date: 12 December, 1966

Oscar Ceremony: 10 April, 1967

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Starring: Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Robert Shaw

Nominees: Alfie, The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?

“I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.” – Sir Thomas Moore

Are you Canadian? Do you own a TV? Have you ever watched CBC or CTV? If you answered yes to the previous questions, you are probably familiar with “Heritage Minutes.” You know, those short clips about a certain important moment in Canadian history where the actors take themselves way too seriously? Well, A Man for All Seasons is like a very very long version of a Heritage Minute.


If you’re looking to brush up on your 16th century British history and some of the events that went down behind the scenes of Henry VII’s quest to get a divorce from his barren wife Catherine of Aragon and marry his mistress Ann Boleyn, then you’ve chosen the right movie. A Man for All Seasons tells the story of Sir Thomas Moore, who refused to betray his conscience and religion when asked to endorse the king’s divorce. You see, the king’s actions directly went against the Church’s beliefs, and that just didn’t sit well with Thomas. He is the kind of man who would rather die than go against his deeply held moral principles, and that’s exactly what happens to him when he ends up being accused of treason. Obviously there’s more to the plot than what I just wrote, but I swear that’s pretty much all you need to remember.

This movie was just so utterly bland. It wasn’t bad at all, but there was really nothing special about it. When a movie is amazing, it’s easy for me to shower it with praise. When it’s bad, I have no problem listing everything I hate about it. However, when a movie tells a story that’s already familiar to a lot of people and doesn’t really bring much to it, there’s nothing much I can say about it. As a result, I have decided to give you a quick “Symbolism 101” lesson on the movie’s title.


So what exactly does it mean to be a man for all seasons? I’ve only really heard that about jackets. It turns out that this title comes from a 1520 book titled Vulgaria, where author Robert Whittington wrote the following about Thomas More:

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.

Interesting. Now before analyzing what that means, let’s take a look at some of the film’s key imagery. One of the first things you notice at the beginning is the beautiful weather and tranquility of the setting. Slowly, as More’s accusations grow more and more significant and as he is imprisoned, we see the seasons change through his window. Behold the screenshots I kindly took for you:

Finally, on the day of his execution, the sky is vividly blue and we can hear the birds sing again. I assume it must be spring. The movie literally takes us through all seasons. The point is, regardless of seasons or circumstances, Sir Thomas More remains the same man. He stays true to himself despite what comes his way. In other words, he is really a man for all seasons. Voila

Truth be told, while I gave this movie a fairly decent rating, I don’t necessarily recommend it. It’s a bit boring and it doesn’t really feel iconic in any way. Still, the lead actor has a very soothing presence as Thomas More. You can even see the late John Hurt in a pretty significant role. Last but not least, a young Vanessa Redgrave has a 5-second cameo as Anne Boleyn. Speaking of Anne Boleyn, if you’re more of a guilty pleasure romance type, watch The Other Boleyn Girl instead. Ok, you might not learn anything about Thomas More, but you’ll learn more about King Henry VII’s wives and you’ll get to see a lot of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Make it a double feature and you might just get the full picture of that period.


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