lion-winter

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lion-winter

THE LION IN WINTER (1968)

In this stylish and brilliantly-written and acted drama, England's King Henry II (O'Toole) and his dysfunctional family gather at his chateau, ostensibly to celebrate Christmas but actually to decide who will inherit Henry's throne. What follows is a no-holds-barred battle of wills that tears the tattered family bonds of love and trust. Henry favors his youngest son John (Terry), but his indomitable spouse, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn), believes the crown should go to eldest son Richard the Lionhearted (Anthony Hopkins, in a dazzling film debut)..

The stellar cast includes: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Jane Merrow, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Stock, and John Castle.

THE LION IN WINTER was nominated for the Best Picture award.

Director, Anthony Harvey, with "The Lion in Winter," offers a brilliant look and the life, loves, and troubles of Henry the 2nd. Harvey received a nomination for best directing.

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"Magnificent cinematic medieval chess game!"

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The basic plot line tells the story of the various problem relationships, intrigues and vigorous family infighting between Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Henry the 2nd and their sons, Richard (Anthony Hopkins), Geoffrey (John Castle), and John (Nigel Terry) over who would be the next heir to the throne. This all takes place during their Christmas holiday together. Talk about a dysfunctional family!

The stellar cast includes: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Jane Merrow, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Stock, John Castle.

This film, based on British history, is powered by the combination of a powerful screenplay, by the late James Goldman, great direction by Anthony Harvey and the absolutely wonderful casting, especially Peter O'Toole, as Henry II and Katharine Hepburn, as Eleanor of Aquitaine. Their performances are strong, eccentric and very memorable. The film won Oscars for composer, John Barry, and writer, James Goldman, and Katharine Hepburn. Peter O'Toole earned an Oscar nomination for his terrific performance.

Hepburn co-won the Best Actress Oscar for her well etched portrait of the conniving Eleanor of Aquitaine. Because of her tendency to incite rebellions against her husband, he had to keep her under house arrest, but lets her come home for Christmas.

O'Toole, as Henry II, King of England, at the height of his career, is fascinating and dynamic, in one of his best rules. O'Toole played the royal of Henry 2 previously in BECKETT (1964). It is perhaps unfortunate that he has rarely had such a good showcase for his talents since THE LION IN WINTER with the exceptions of THE STUNTMAN(1980), and MY FAVORITE YEAR (1982).

John Castle, Anthony Hopkins, and Nigel Terry all do a terrific job playing the couple's "Machiavellian-like" self-seeking, ruthless, plotting sons, who make present day parents thankful that their kids aren't like these three. Eleanor favors and encourages her eldest, Richard, in his scheming, as he was the next in line, after his oldest brother, Henry 111 was killed tragically. King Henry favored his youngest, John, who he indulges and spoils a lot. No one favors Geoffrey, because he is a little strange, to say the least, and has serious personality flaws, such as being sadistic, treacherous, deceitful and being a bit of a psychopath; which is not great king material.

In real history, Geoffrey winds up leading an attack against them all, but looses in battle. John does become the reigning regent for a time, because King Richard was busy fighting in the Crusades. Prince John abused his people. In the stories about Robin Hood, it was bad Prince John who was the villain, who overtaxed the people. In fact, during Prince John's time on the throne, people revolted and The Magna Carta was written, from which our own Bill of Rights was inspired.

The film provided the film debuts for Timothy Dalton, as the revenge-driven Philip II, King of France, who joins in the underhanded games and schemes.

Anthony Hopkins, as Prince Richard, portrays perfectly a man of "tortuous" inner conflicts, whose fierce courage and fantastic ability in battle, hides his homosexual urges.

Nigel Terry, who plays the youngest son, Prince John, went on to play King Arthur in the wonderful movie, EXCALIBUR (1981).

My favorite scenes in the film are the dramatic clashes between Hepburn and O'Toole. Loud, and with beautiful use of language, the two great actors are like perfectly matched, heavyweight boxers, battling it out to a draw in the movie arena.

If you enjoyed THE LION IN WINTER, you may like
BECKETT, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA, ROBIN AND MARIAN, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, THE TAMING
OF THE SHREW, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS,
and MY FAVORITE YEAR.