One afternoon I was again drawn into watching the 1966 Best Picture winner A Man for All Seasons, when I was struck with a revelation. Robert Bolt’s brilliant screenplay captures the same power struggle that Vice President Mike Pence had with the former President on Jan 6th.
If you are loyal to me, then do my bidding, if not then you are a traitor to my administration.
By Anthony L. Mariani
This notion came to me when watching the scene where Henry pays a surprise visit to Sir Thomas More at his beloved home in Chelsea. If you don’t know it, Henry has just named More the new Lord High Chancellor and now expects him to return the favor by condoning a new marriage to his mistress Anne Bolen. It’s a marvelous cat-and-mouse game between two tremendous actors, Robert Shaw as Henry and Paul Scofield as More.
The scene starts with their friendship, where Henry admits that he needs More’s consent because More is known to be honest. And of course, that would make the married legitimate in the public eye.
The same pressure that was placed on Vice President Pence to overturn the 2020 election results. On January 6, 2021 when Pence refused, the former President put out a tweet at 2:24 pm criticizing the Vice President for not having the “Courage” to do what needed to be done that day. This tweet contributed to the march to the capital and the horrific events that took place that day.
Henry “How is it you cannot see what everyone else does?”
More “Then why does your grace need my poor support?”
Henry “Because you’re honest. For the good of the public you’re known to be honest. There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown. There are those like master Cromwell who follow me because they are Jackals with sharp teeth, and I’m their tiger. There is a mass that follows me because they follow anything that moves. And then there is you.”
More “I’m sick at how much I must displease you.”
At this point, Henry becomes irrational and explodes in anger, that More and all who oppose him are traitors. He then leaves in a huff.
A pious man who is asked to sell his soul to do the bidding of a head of a state, but refuses for the good of the people. Sound familiar? It was at this moment in the film, that I had discovered I had a newfound respect for Mike Pence, who previously had garnished none. It’s an interesting scene and well worth looking at from this angle the next time you watch it.
Anthony L. Mariani is a screenwriter, who studied at CalArts under the guidance of the late Alexander Mackendrick.
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