Sunday, March 23, 2008

Paul Scofield, The Actor for All Seasons, 86

Ms now Batangas Governor Vilma Santos is the Star for All Seasons. While she can act better than the once and future Superstar, she has no sole claim to her title. She never starred in a Shakespeare flick. The honour belongs to Paul Scofield, the overlooked Brit acting great. Unlike Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud or even Alec Guinness, he refused a knighthood and never took on stereotypical and campy roles in Hollywood. Scofield passed away last March 19 in Sussex, England.

Scofield is best remembered for playing Sir Thomas More on stage and in film in Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons". I have to confess, seeing Scofield essay More was one of the reasons why I decided to be Catholic. Later on while studying Bolt's play, the play isn't about Catholic martyrdom per se but paying the price for holding on to one's conscience. Here Scofield breathtakingly plays More's gentle refusal to bend to the King's will.

Of course the movie was made even more memorable by casting Scofield's More opposite Robert Shaw's Henry VIII. Shaw is probably the most memorable actor to have played the lusty Henry. (Ray Winstone would play Henry 35 years later but with a cockney tilt! Shaw would be better remembered for playing Quint in "Jaws"!)

Of all the villianous characters in the film, nothing is most scheming as was Thomas Cromwell, who succeeded More as Chancellor. Cromwell was played by the Australian actor Leo McKern, whose physiognomy closely resembled Holbien's portrait of Cromwell. McKern is also an actor of great versatility and would be best known for playing clerics such as Cardinal Leoni in "Shoes of the Fisherman". With these actors alongside Scofield, the film was destined to be a classic.

Scofield's More earned him the 1966 Oscar Best Actor plum. The film got the Best Picture that year.

Much of Scofield's work would be on stage. While best remembered for playing More, his best known Shakespearean role was his 1971 portrayal of King Lear which Richard Burton considers oneof the best 10 moments in theatre history.

Aside from "A Man for All Seasons" , I only saw Scofield in three other movies, "Quiz Show", the Kenneth Branagh starrer "Henry V" and "The Crucible".

An intensely private man who disdained show business glamour, Scofield was known to immediately take the London Commuter home as soon as the curtains went down.

Scofield in "A Man for All Seasons" has heaps of memorable lines. Bolt's lines can be horribly delivered as in some restaging of his plays but Scofield does justice. While the line "It isn't a matter of reason but a matter of love" has graced hagiographies of More, the best line in my opinion is something that can be said to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her lieutenants and is most apt.

Scofield was flawless here. Cromwell was interrogating More in Richmond Palace and shows the Act of Supremacy.of which More in good conscience won't sign. Cromwell threatens More.

More says "You threaten like a dockside bully!" Cromwell then asks "And how should I threaten?"

More replies "Like a Minister of State, with justice." Cromwell again "Is that so?"

More answers "Then I am not threatened."

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Raul Gonzales, General Esperon, Reynato Puno and even Jun Lozada would profit by watching Scofield play Thomas More.


No comments: