H has the habit of showing me movies that I would never otherwise watch, but always hit me somewhere unexpected and I think about them for days afterward.

This time it was The Lion In Winter(1968)

themoviedb.org/movie/18988-the

The Lion In Winter(1968) 

Based on the play, it's an historical drama set during Christmas 1183. The historical events feature Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages. Queen consort of France for a time, but rejected when she bore him no sons. Then became the queen consort of Henry II of England, and gave him five sons. (Oh, and she led a crusade. Look her up.)

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

Henry and Eleanor became estranged, Eleanor supported one of their sons in a revolt against Henry, and Henry imprisoned her for the rest of his life.
That's the history.

The movie (and play) takes place on Christmas where Henry has temporarily released Eleanor for the holiday.

What follows is the kind of conniving and whatnot that happens when you get the most powerful people in Europe together and cross-purposes. I couldn't summarize it in 100 toots.

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

The core conflict is that Henry wants one son to succeed him to be king, Eleanor wants a different son in the role.

Eleanor is played by Katharine Hepburn. Peter O'Toole plays King Henry. Both characters are wretched and desperate, pretending they're not. Both know exactly how to manipulate the other, and both are masters at it.

Watching the two of them is simply thrilling. O'Toole's rutting charm, Hepburn's incisive bitterness. (Hepburn won an Oscar for it.)

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

As if that wasn't enough cast to fill a movie with, it also features (Sir!) Anthony Hopkins in his first major film roll as Eleanor's preferred son, Richard the Lionheart. He probably shows the most range of anyone in the cast. He's just amazing. Incredibly competent proto-King, but also vulnerable. There wasn't a ton for him on the page but he elevated every bit of it, never falling into the shadow of Hepburn or O'Toole.

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

*AND* there is Timothy Dalton in is very first film role as Philip II, King of France.

Holy crap! I grew up thinking of him playing a lesser Bond or some kind of dandy. I had no idea he could ACT. Before he was typecast in those roles, he did this!

He plays the new, young and untested king of France. And he stands toe-to-toe with the rest of the stellar cast delivering linguistic blows as well as any of them! (And his facial hair would make Tony Stark envious!) So good!

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

There's a scene around 2/3 of the way through, with just Hepburn and O'Toole simply having it out, loving each other but also ripping each others guts out and stomping the pieces. It's relentless, maybe 15-20 minutes, and where you can tell it was a play because no one would ever put a scene like that in a movie. It's brutal.

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

Anyway, watch it, it's great!

Other Stuff:
- It also won the Oscar for best Original Score, which baffles me. The music is mostly nondescript and most scenes have no soundtrack, carried entirely by the actors. (And it was up against Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin that year!)

- There's a made for TV version (2003) with Glen Close and Patrick Stewart (and some stick-on hair) which has to be worth watching just for that.

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

Oh, and trivia: The real Henry II of England didn't speak (middle) English. Most English kings from the 12th to 14th c spoke Old French instead of English.

(I suppose this is common knowledge elsewhere, but I'm American and it's all bewildering over here.)

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The Lion In Winter(1968) 

@readsteven

I don't think I've read a better review of this play/movie.

The Lion In Winter(1968) 

@smays Thank you. It's mostly me thinking out loud, trying to figure out why this one grabbed me so deeply. It has been a week and I still woke up thinking about it today.

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