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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Becket (1964)

In a political move, Henry II (Peter O'Toole) appoints his beloved friend and fellow hedonist Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) to the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a means of keeping control over the church in England. But what he didn't count on was Becket developing a conscience and a commitment to the Church. Based on the play by Jean Anouilh and directed by Peter Glenville who directed BECKET on the New York stage in 1959. Anouilh's play is a historical drama and not to be taken as a history lesson. He uses actual historical personages to his own dramatic ends and they don't always fit with the historical facts. That being said, for most of its running time it's an entertaining historical spectacle with excellent acting. Burton is relatively restrained here, leaving the histrionics to O'Toole. It's a handsome looking film though it's easy to tell from the overly talkative screenplay (which won Edward Anhalt an Oscar) that it hasn't strayed far from its theatrical roots. But the end is bungled and it's sort of overstayed its welcome by that point anyway. With  John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit, Pamela Brown, Martita Hunt, Sian Phillips, Felix Aylmer and Veronique Vendell.

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