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BECKET (1964)
Becket image

CAST
RICHARD BURTON
PETER O’TOOLE
PAMELA BROWN
GINO CERVI
JOHN GIELGUD
PERCY HERBERT
MARTITA HUNT
SIAN PHILLIPS
PAOLO STOPPA
DAVID WESTON
DONALD WOLFIT

BASED ON THE PLAY BY
JEAN ANOUILH
LUCIENNE HILL

SCREENPLAY BY
EDWARD ANHALT

CINEMATOGRAPHY BY
GEOFFREY UNSWORTH

EDITED BY
ANNE V. COATES

MUSIC BY
LAURENCE ROSENTHAL

PRODUCED BY
HAL WALLIS

DIRECTED BY
PETER GLENVILLE

GENRE
BIOGRAPHY
DRAMA
HISTORY

RATED
AUS:PG
UK:PG
USA:PG-13

RUNTIME
148 MIN

 

 


Becket Prime Video
Becket image
Image Credit © Paramount Pictures

The battle between church and state takes on a personal nature in Becket, a handsomely made drama based on historical events that pits master thespians Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole against one another.

Directed by Peter Glenville (The Prisoner) and based on the French play by Jean Anouilh, Becket is set in late 12th century England and stars O’Toole as King Henry II and Burton as his Saxon-commoner friend and confidant, Thomas Becket. When the debaucherous Henry II receives word that the Archbishop of Canterbury has passed away, Henry – who has long had battles with the Church –installs Becket in the position of Archbishop under the assumption that his friend will do his bidding. When this does not happen, a once strong friendship is stretched to breaking point and ends in tragedy.

There are many similarities to be found with A Man for All Seasons, which was released four years earlier. A major difference in Becket is the star power of Burton and O’Toole, with the two delivering stellar performances that capitalises on a suitably wordy and drama filled screenplay by Edward Anhalt, for which he won the Oscar.

As with most royal historical dramas, there is more creative licence than historical accuracy to be found, yet what is on-point and relevant in Becket is its depiction of church and state, and how easily it can lead to friction and even murder when egos and ideologies clash.

The great drama of Becket is that this uneasy alliance is personified in the close friendship between Henry and Thomas, two men of different cultural and economic backgrounds who are nevertheless thick as thieves.

Loyalties, however, can only go so far, especially when one’s devotion towards their religion is brought into question. When an ugly judicial matter involving the death of a priest comes forth, Becket makes it clear that his duty is to his God and his church, severing his friendship with an enraged king while doing so.

Burton brings to life that steadfast morality and sharp intelligence that personified Becket, while O’Toole is terrific as the cheeky king whose emotions – be it lust or anger – often overrides any common sense. When the pair are on-screen together the results are simply fantastic.

Beautifully dressed and all so relevant in its subject matter, Becket still stands as one of the great historical costume dramas.


****

 

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Created and Edited by Matthew Pejkovic / Contact: mattsm@mattsmoviereviews.net
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