AManForAllSeasons 7537

Painting of the much-revered and respected Lord Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More.

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In the fall of 1984, veteran stage actor and play director John Grassilli ( noted for his many roles with the Theatre Project Company of St. Louis and other Gateway City theatres ) was contracted to serve as Professional Guest Director of the University Players of The University of Missouri-St. Louis revival production of Robert Bolt's acclaimed historical drama "A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS." The production was extremely well-received by students, faculty and the theatre attending public-at-large. The presentation was traditional in presentation and design except for one significant aspect of casting: a young, critically-praised, black professional stage actor named Darryl Maximilian Robinson became the first African-American theatre performer of note to play the leading role of the doomed and condemned Lord Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More. Of Mr. Robinson's and Mr. Grassilli's work in the show Theatre Critic Steve Givens in the Nov. 1, 1984 Edition of THE UMSL CURRENT wrote:"...Darryl Robinson truly moved me in his role of Sir Thomas More, hero of "A Man For All Seasons"...Robinson's strong stage presence and command of Bolt's words, and John Grassilli's direction combined to produce a character so realistic and inspiring that I was left with the feeling I had just been through a religious experience." Mr. Robinson's performance as Sir Thomas More ( due to his local and regional touring performance schedule as a professional actor / instructor with The MUNY / Student Theatre Project Company ) would prove his one and only appearance at The University of Missouri-St. Louis ( UMSL ).


Nov. 1, 1984 UMSL CURRENT Theatre Review by Steve Givens of The University Players' revival production of Robert Bolt's acclaimed play "A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS" at The Benton Hall Theatre of The University of Missouri-St. Louis courtesy of

Darryl Maximilian Robinson leads the play in the role of Sir Thomas more in the 1984 UMSL production of Robert Bolt's -A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS.-

Oct. 18, 1984 UMSL CURRENT Excerpt of Feature Writer Phillip H. Dennis' interviews with Director John Grassilli and African-American theatre performer Darryl Maximilian Robinson, who played the role of Sir Thomas More in the University Players' revival production of Robert Bolt's "A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS" at The Benton Hall Hall Theatre of University of Missouri-St. Louis courtesy of Rehearsal Photo of Director John Grassilli and Actors Darryl Maximilian Robinson ( Sir Thomas More ) and Kevin J. Polito ( Master Richard Rich ) by Mitch Wenchell.


Oct. 18, 1984 Edition of The UMSL CURRENT Theatre Ad listing the African-American stage performer Darryl Maximilian Robinson as Sir Thomas More in The University Players revival production of Robert Bolt's "A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS" at The Benton Hall Theatre of The University of Missouri-St. Louis courtesy of

A Man For All Seasons is a 1962 Tony Award-winning Best Play and acclaimed film by Robert Bolt. After successful runs in London (1960) and New York (1962), it was adapted to film in 1966. The play and film made a star of Paul Scofield, who won both a Tony Award and an Oscar for his performance as Sir Thomas More, the truly noble, yet condemned Lord Chancellor of England. The movie picked up five additional Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (Fred Zinneman). Inspired By actual historic events.

Once upon a time, Sir Thomas More was a barrister who became the most trusted adviser of Henry VIII. More was a Catholic with a keen moral focus, and his advice was good.

Then Henry wanted to divorce wife Catherine Of Aragon, who'd failed to produce a living son, so he could marry the fertile Anne Boleyn. More refused to support this plan; he considered it immoral, and against his religion. The fact that the original marriage had been arranged to help foster peace with another Catholic country (Spain) didn't help.

Henry VIII decided to Take a Third Option; leave the Catholic Church and found a new one, the Church of England, with himself as the head. More hated this idea and refused to support it -- his Catholicism forbade him from supporting a schism. But everyone else who was anyone in the government did support the king. More, rather than kick up a protest, resigned and kept his mouth tightly shut, but the fact that he would not publicly endorse the idea made it pretty obvious to everybody that he was against it.

King Henry VIII was now good and angry at Thomas More, and the persecution started in earnest...

Tropes Associated With A Man For All Seasons Include:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Richard Rich, whose climb up the political ladder requires him to deliver More to the executioner.
  • And Starring / Billing Displacement: In the 1966 film, Paul Scofield is in the "and..." position, appearing well after first-billed stars Wendy Hiller, Leo Mc Kern, and One-Scene Wonder Orson Welles.
  • Author Tract: The film makes it very clear that More is the fella we're supposed to be cheering for.
    • Somewhat justified, in that Bolt was responding to More's canonization.
      • Bolt was an agnostic and socialist; he was responding to More as a person of integrity.
      • Possibly because More was something of an early anti-capitalist himself.
  • Being Good Sucks: It's a major theme; Thomas More remarks that vice often brings greater rewards than virtue, so we must expend extra effort to be good.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the play, the Common Man addresses the audience directly.
    • Also in the 1988 film version, where the character is played by Roy Kinnear. And dedicated to him.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Subverted here. It isn't after a certain point, but More thinks it should be.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cromwell and, on occasion, Sir Thomas:

 Wolsey: The King wants a son- what are you going to do about it?

More: (dry) I'm very sure the King needs no advice from me on what to do about it.

  • Doomed Moral Victor: And how!
  • Downer Ending: The only person to get a happy ending in this story is Rich.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Sir Thomas knows exactly where his resistance is taking him.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress
  • Greek Chorus: In the play, the Common Man, who also takes on multiple roles (including More's executioner). Both the Common Man and most of his function disappear from the film, but Sir Thomas' servant, Matthew, takes over a little of the commentary.
    • In the 1988 film version Roy Kinnear plays the role to perfection.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: At More's actual trial, it is highly unlikely that Richard Rich committed perjury, as his own written account of his conversation with More would contradict him.
  • Hollywood History: Among other things, the play doesn't mention More had three children besides Margaret: Elizabeth, Cicely, and John, besides his various foster children. (BTW: It's historically correct that More made sure his daughters received full formal educations- a rarity at that time.)
  • Honor Before Reason: Done nobly.
  • Hot Consort: Anne Boleyn (in the five seconds we see her, anyway).
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Sir Thomas More.
  • Inspired By
  • Karma Houdini: As the 1966 film informs us:

 Richard Rich became Chancellor of England...and died in his bed.

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