When Director Anthony Harvey and playwright James Goldman (The actual playwright for the Theater production) teamed up to deliver a theatrical film adaptation of the Lion in Winter I wonder if they had an inkling of just how powerful a film they would end up creating. Upon all of that talent behind the camera they secured the likes of Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, John Castle, Nigel Terry, and Nigel Stock.
If you have not had the pleasure of catching this classic film on Turner Classic Movies or on DVD you owe it to yourself to hunt it down immediately. The story deals with the Christmas of 1183 at the court of King Henry II (O’Toole) where plans within plans are hatched as to who shall next claim the throne. Henry wants his youngest son Prince John (Terry) to be the successor to the crown but his estranged Wife Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn) who has been locked away in Salisbury Tower at Windsor Castle favors to have their oldest child Prince Richard (Hopkins) to be heir. To complicate matters King Philip II of France (Dalton) is in attendance during the Holiday, the son and successor of Louis VII of France, Eleanor’s ex-husband, Philip II has given his half-sister Alais, who is currently Henry’s mistress, to the future heir, and demands either a wedding or the return of her dowry.
I’ll go no further as to avoid spoilers but I must add that you just thought Clark Griswold had it bad during the Family gathering of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation…way until you get a load of King Henry’s kin.
The Lion in Winter was nominated for seven Academy Awards and ended up winning three of them for Best Actress (Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay (Goldman), and Best Music Score (John Barry). The dialogue could be made an actual physical meal in itself it is so…dense and meaty.
SPOILERS – BE WARNED
Thanks to IMP Awards for the awesome poster you see up top! Make sure to follow the link to see it in full size as well as the variant posters that were available back in 1968.