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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 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.
"Magnificent cinematic medieval chess game!"
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
Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Jane Merrow, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Stock,
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
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.