Becket

Today I watched Becket as part of my 2013 period drama challenge. I streamed it on Netflix.  Becket is not the type of movie that I usually go for, but I decided to expand my horizons a bit for the challenge and I am glad I did.  Watching this movie also made me want to learn more about Thomas Becket and I spent some time online reading up about him.
Thomas Becket was a loyal and trusted friend of King Henry II.  King Henry was actually emotionally attached to Thomas Becket.  When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, King Henry elevated Thomas Becket to that of Priest and then the next Archbishop of Canterbury.  King Henry believed that his friend Becket would continue to put him first over the church.  On June 3, 1162, Thomas Becket was consecrated as Archbishop and took his new position very seriously.   Becket now gave his allegiance to God first over King Henry.
 King Henry II is played by Peter O’Toole and Thomas Becket is played by Richard Burton.  Both actors are brilliant in their roles.
In the movie King Henry and Thomas Becket has such different personalities.  Henry has no respect for life, does not value women at all, happily cheats on his wife and cannot stand his own children.  Becket is kind, has a sense of decency and understands the suffering of men.  I wondered how the two became such good friends.  Peter O’Toole does a great job making sure that you can’t stand Henry.  Richard Burton brings nobleness to the character of Thomas Becket.

King Henry II standing in the crypt next to Becket’s tomb.

Becket was originally released on March 11, 1964 and cost 3 million dollars to produce.  Looking at this movie today there isn’t anything extraordinary about it, however, thinking back to when it was made you can easily understand why it was considered a grand production at that time.

The real Thomas Becket

Old-Fashioned Charm

6 comments

  1. Hamlette says:

    I actually didn’t mine O’Toole’s performance — the only part of this movie that jarred me was the murder of Becket — it just got silly and overstaged, IMHO. Thanks for reminding me of this movie, I haven’t thought of it for some time.

  2. gratianads90 says:

    Hi Xenia,
    I also enjoyed this film. The interweaving of these two men’s lives–the best of friends–is left in shreds by the end. Both O’Toole and Burton were superb.
    Cheers! Grati ;->

  3. servetus says:

    This is a personal favorite of mine; from time to time I show it in class although there are historical inaccuracies. My students tend to think O’Toole is over the top, though.

    • servetus says:

      The movie was based on a very successful stage play that tried to retell the story as a conflict between politics and conscience. Historians don’t think that was what the incident was about. But talking about that discrepancy can be a good tool for getting students to see how the medieval period was different from ours.

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