Robert Bolt

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Robert Oxton Bolt, CBE (15 August 1924 – 21 February 1995) was an English playwright and a two-time Oscar winning screenwriter.



He was born in Sale, Cheshire. At Manchester Grammar School his affinity for Sir Thomas More first developed. He attended the University of Manchester, and, after war service, the University of Exeter. For many years he taught English and history at Millfield School and only became a full time writer at the age of 33 when his play The Flowering Cherry was staged in London in 1958, with Celia Johnson and Ralph Richardson.

Although he was best known for his original play A Man for All Seasons - a depiction of Sir Thomas More's clash with King Henry VIII over his divorce from Catherine of Aragon - which won awards on the stage and in its film version, most of his writing was screenplays for films or television.

Bolt was known for dramatic works that placed their protagonists in tension with the prevailing society. He won great renown for A Man for All Seasons, his first iteration of this theme, but he developed it in his existential script for Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In Lawrence, he succeeded where several before him had failed, at turning T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom into a cogent screenplay by turning the entire book on its head and making it a search for the identity of its author. Lawrence, by Bolt, is presented as a misfit both in English and Arab society.

It was at this time that Bolt himself fell foul of the law and was arrested and imprisoned for protesting nuclear proliferation. He refused to be "bound over" (i.e., to sign a declaration that he would not engage in such activities again) and was sentenced to one month in prison because of this. The producer of the Lawrence film, Sam Spiegel, persuaded Bolt to sign after he had served only two weeks. Bolt later regretted his actions, and did not speak to Spiegel again after the film was completed.

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