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Mr. Paul Scofield

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Goodness me, it seems The Culturatti is taking on a rather elegiac bent of late. Paul Scofield, one of my favourite actors, has died at the age of 86. While his passing is not as tragic as that of Anthony Minghella, it still strikes a melancholic chord.

Scofield made only a small number of films, as his true love was the theatre. Sadly, I will never see any of his theatrical performances, (aside from his Shakespeare outings, I would have loved to have seen him as Salieri in the first performance of Amadeus) so all I have of him to enjoy are images on celluloid. And his voice. What a voice! He was the narrator of a BBC Radio play about ancient Troy that I listened to several years ago. The drama was of the usual BBC standard, but Mr. Scofield’s voice was the highlight – the old cliché about great actors reading the phone book and making it enjoyable to listen to, is true in Scofield’s case. Actors like Alec Guiness and John Gielgud, or Lawrence Olivier, were undeniable masters of the craft, but Scofield’s voice possessed an other-worldliness, a certain timbre that was able to penetrate the soul. I can only imagine what it would have been like to hear it from the house at the Old Vic in London.

While he made few films, A Man For All Seasons still holds up as a powerful experience, and Scofield is wonderful in it. I think it rightly deserves its status as a classic, and it is hard to imagine anyone else as Sir Thomas More. Robert Redford’s Quiz Show features Scofield in a supporting role, but he’s very memorable. The scene in which Ralph Fiennes and he toss Shakespearian quotations back and forth at each other is a delight. John Frankenheimer’s The Train is also a cool bit of cinema, with Scofield playing a Nazi, and Burt Lancaster playing a member of the French Resistance (it works depsite Lancaster playing a member of the French Resistance).

It may seem funny to base an opinion of an actor on only a hand full of films and some radio work, but I think that only goes to serve how great an actor he was. His mark is indelible; he will be missed.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Friday, March 21, 2008 12:39 am

    Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001, also died recently.

  2. Friday, March 21, 2008 11:21 am

    Yes, it’s been quite a week.

    Though to be honest, if you had asked me last week whether Arthur C. Clarke was still alive, I’m not sure what I would have said…

  3. James17930 permalink
    Friday, March 21, 2008 10:55 pm

    Me too.

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