Adapted by Robert Bolt and Constance Willis from Bolt's hit stage play, A Man for All Seasons stars Paul Scofield, triumphantly repeating his stage role as Sir Thomas More. The crux of the film is the staunchly Catholic More's refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw)'s break from the church to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn (an unbilled Vanessa Redgrave). Sir Thomas willingly goes to the chopping block rather than sacrifice his ideals. Director Fred Zinnemann retains the play's verbosity without sacrificing the film's strong sense of visuals. The impeccably chosen cast includes Wendy Hiller as Sir Thomas' likably contentious wife Alice, John Hurt as the deceitful Richard Rich (More's put-downs of this despicable character provide some of the film's biggest laughs), Orson Welles as a dour Cardinal Woolsey, Leo McKern as the ambitious Thomas Cromwell, and Susannah York as More's daughter Margaret. The "Common Man," an important bridging-the-scenes character in the original play, is removed from the film version, which does just fine without him. A Man for All Seasons won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, as well as seven British Film Academy awards.
by Hal Erickson synopsis