Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
United Kingdom/USA, 1964. Wallis-Hazen, Paramount Film Service, Keep Films. Screenplay by Edward Anhalt, based on the play by Jean Anouilh, as translated by Lucienne Hill. Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. Produced by Hal B. Wallis. Music by Laurence Rosenthal. Production Design by John Bryan. Costume Design by Margaret Furse. Film Editing by Anne V. Coates.
The relationship between Kenry Henry II of England and his best friend Thomas Becket, later to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, makes for an unforgettable viewing experience in this excellent film by Peter Glenville. After ascending the throne and following the death of the previous Archbishop, Henry (Peter O’Toole) decides that his former drinking buddy Becket (Richard Burton), who often accompanied him on wenching expeditions, would be the perfect replacement for the job. Thinking that his conflicts with the church will now be over, Henry is astounded to learn that Becket has turned towards a new admiration of the institution and intends on taking his job very seriously.
The fantastic screenplay, based on the play by Jean Anouilh, is further given strength by the two powerhouse performances in the lead roles; O’Toole again played Henry II in The Lion In Winter, but this is the better role and performance of the two, and Burton was probably never in a better film or better role except maybe for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Though they rule the story, there is much to be said for the excellent supporting performances as well, including scene-stealing turns by Pamela Brown as Eleanor of Acquitaine (Henry’s wife), the always wonderful Martita Hunt as Queen Matilda (his mother) and John Gielgud as King Louis VII of France. At first it seems like a stodgy old drama, but get into it and this film will prove to be satisfying, intelligent viewing.
Academy Award: Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Richard Burton); Best Actor (Peter O’Toole); Best Supporting Actor (John Gielgud); Best Director (Peter Glenville); Best Cinematography-Colour; Best Art Direction-Colour; Best Costume Design-Colour; Best Film Editing; Best Sound; Best Music Score-Substantially Original
Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Peter O’Toole)
Nominations: Best Actor (Richard Burton); Best Director (Peter Glenville); Best Original Score