Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Man for all Seasons

Just a quick break from work to pay tribute to the great actor Paul Scofield, who died yesterday. The first thing I think I saw him in was Franco Zeffirelli's (better known as Mel Gibson's) Hamlet, in which he played a very touching but rather fast-spoken Ghost. But it was his performance as the father in Robert Redford's overlooked masterpiece Quiz Show, starring Ralph Fiennes, that made me sit up and take notice. He was absolutely devastating as the proud, loving, and ultimately anguished father who makes his grown son realize the extent of his, well, old-fashioned dishonoring of the family name.

No greater a performance but certainly a more iconic one is his famous Oscar-winning turn as Thomas More in A Man for all Seasons, a better movie than play (I think). That craggy face and hollow voice were ideal for the intellectual, principled More as a contrast for live-out-loud Henry VIII. The line that sticks with me is when More, on trial, sees that his protege has turned on him for the sake of promotion. He stops him and says, "It profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world and lose his soul thereby. But Richard -- for Wales?" Written down, it looks like a punchline of one of those UK Wales-bashing jokes, but in the film it was nothing but melancholy.

A great, great actor.

I should also pay quick tribute to director Anthony Minghella, who sadly and unexpectedly died this week as well. If he had just one more scene in him like the "creepy" one in The Talented Mr. Ripley or the church-by-candlelight-and-swing one in English Patient... well, the loss is great in any case.

No comments: