A Man For All Seasons: Biography

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Robert Oxton Bolt (CBE) was born in Sale, Cheshire, England, on August 15, 1924. He attended Manchester Grammar School where he became interested in history, particularly the figure of Sir Thomas More. He went to Manchester University, and later after his war service, to Exeter University. After teaching English and history at Millfield School, he became a fulltime writer at the age of thirty-three when his play, The Flowering Orchard, was performed in London in 1958.

His most famous work was A Man for All Seasons (1960), which won awards as a play and a film (1966) (six academy awards, including best picture). Most of Bolt’s work was for screenplays or television, depicting individuals who go against the stream of convention. He himself was briefly jailed for protesting nuclear proliferation and refusing to sign an oath he would not protest again. Vivat! Vivat  Regina! (1971) contrasts Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots. When Bolt teamed up with film director David Lean in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), he won critical acclaim. He interpreted T. E. Lawrence as a mysterious misfit. With Doctor Zhivago, Bolt again used the vast canvas of history and Boris Pasternak’s novel about the Russian Revolution to highlight human stories and temptations. Ryan’s Daughter (1970), was another Lean film, the star of which, Sarah Miles, became Bolt’s wife.

Bolt also wrote the screenplay for the story of Fletcher Christian in The Bounty (1984) and for The Mission (1986), about eighteenth century Jesuits in South America. His final script was Political Animal, about the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Bolt was married four times, twice to British actress Sarah Miles. He had four children.

In 1979, Bolt had a heart attack and a stroke. He was paralyzed, and after a long illness he died in 1995 at the age of seventy, in Petersfield, Hampshire, England. He was appointed CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1972. He was one of the highest paid screenwriters of his time.

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