Camelot is my all-time favorite movie.
I estimate that I have seen it at least 300 times. Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero first captured my heart in 1970 when my high school English teacher took a group of us students to the Capri Theatre in Nashville to see the show on the big screen.
I have also seen the Julie Andrews version on TCM, the HBO version with an aging Richard Harris, the live TPAC version with Robert Goulet as King Arthur, and several amateur versions performed by local theatres.
However, in my opinion, the Oscar goes to the Lerner and Lowe version which I showed in my classroom for over thirty years.
In the early years my students had to strain to see my VHS taped version on a small classroom television. Later, as technology improved, I used the DVD, projector, and big screen to make King Arthur the larger-than-life hero I still think him to be.
I didn’t just show this movie to kill time with my students. I wanted them to see virtue in action.
The King Arthur Legend dates back to the 6th century when historians documented a war chief who exhibited heroic qualities. King Arthur, a paragon of virtue, has withstood the test of time because of those virtues.
T. H. White created the ultimate Arthurian hero in his book The Once and Future King, which became the basis for the musical first produced in 1960. White’s Arthur knew war, but he also believed in grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness because of the Word of God.
According to White, “Perhaps wars happened because nations had no confidence in the Word. They were frightened, and so they fought. Nations were like people—they had feelings of inferiority, or of superiority, or of revenge, or of fear. . . . The hope of making it would lie in culture.”
Throughout his story, White gives King Arthur an admirable faith in the Word. As a young king, he’s scared; but he steps out in faith. With the aid of an “eccentric necromancer with a weakness for humanity,” he creates a utopian world which knows no boundaries. He encourages everyone to believe in a motto of not “might is right,” but “might for right and justice for all.”
When both his wife and his best friend betray him, Arthur first wants a man’s vengeance. However, upon reconsideration, he chooses a path of civility and compassion and forgiveness.
As evil enters the picture in the form of a pompous and poisonous Mordred, Arthur is forced to fight. Nevertheless, before going to battle, he advises Mordred, “It is better to be rubbed clean than to be rubbed out. Happiness is a virtue. No one can be happy and wicked, triumphant perhaps, but not happy.”
At the end of the movie, Richard Harris gives an emotional performance when he clutches Lancelot’s armor-clad bicep and bids farewell to his friend. He says not a word, but forgiveness is there in his eyes. What a guy! You gotta give him and this movie the Oscar!
Arthur’s last words give us all hope when he refers to a young boy, Tom of Warwick, as a new beginning. Young Tom is “one of what we all are, less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea, but it seems that some of the drops do sparkle.”
To quote Dave Mallett, a Nashville folk singer and songwriter, “Arthur, where are you now? We need ya.”
Micah 6:8; Ephesians 4:31-32