Seen in 2021, the Academy’s Best Picture nod from 1966 more than fulfills the truth of the much older adage, “Plus ça change, plus c'est pareil”.
It’s not hard to substitute America’s Liar-in-Chief for Britain’s Henry VIII. Trump insisting he’d won (not even close) while His Majesty wanted to change his “lie” from barren Catherine of Aragon to the much more comely Anne Boleyn—and at the same time declare himself God’s representative.
Yet it fell to one within his most trusted circle—Sir Thomas More, done up to cool, calculating perfection by Paul Scofield—to deny his sire’s wishes with the best method of all: abject silence. In 2021, silence being unheard of in political matters, it has fallen to Liz Cheney (and precious few others…) to speak out, declare the petulant emperor has no clothes, and risk her livelihood and perhaps more by daring to speak truth to power.
Lurking in the weeds is the opportunistic, greedy, morally bankrupt, Rich (so appropriately named—John Hurt digs deep into portraying the slimy character and comes up, well, rich!). Centuries later, his like can be seen in the equally bankrupt Steve Bannon, Jeffrey Clark and Gordon Stone. Sans doute, none of them would recognize themselves in Robert Bolt’s script, most ably brought to life and death by Fred Zinnemann’s unerring direction.
It remains to be seen how the Big Lie will play out in the “land of the free”, but More, literally losing his head, assured his ascendancy into the hereafter and provides an example of courage to so many who should know better already. JWR