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Robert Shaw  




Columbia, 1966.  Directed by Fred Zinnemann.  Camera:  Ted Moore.  With Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, Susannah York, Nigel Davenport, John Hurt, Corin Redgrave, Colin Blakely, Cyril Luckham, Jack Gwillim, Vanessa Redgrave.

Sir Thomas More is named to replace the fallen Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor of England.  More's devotion to the Church and his deeply conscientious nature immediately bring him into conflict with young King Henry VIII.  While valuing More's integrity, Henry resents More's lack of cooperation in his efforts to divorce Catherine of Aragon, who has failed to bear him an heir, and marry Anne Boleyn.  Though More serves the King faithfully, he is bound by the law of the Church as the law of God.

Faced with the pope's refusal to grant him a divorce, Henry makes himself the spiritual as well as political sovereign of England.  The bishops of England in convocation give their consent to the act of Parliament making Henry head of the Church in England, whereupon More resigns from the King's service, hoping that he will be left to retire into private life.

More voices no opinion regarding the King's actions, but his silence is taken as a personal rebuke.  Henry, prodded by his ambitious advisers, particularly Thomas Cromwell, demands that More take an oath recognizing the King as head of both church and state; when More declines, he is imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In time, Cromwell and his opportunistic aide, Richard Rich, make false accusations against More, and he is called to answer the charge of high treason.  Found guilty, he freely avows his belief that the King's actions are repugnant to the law of God.  At peace, he goes to his death on the block.