70. The Lion In Winter (1968)
Throughout the 1960's (and into the early 1970's), there seemed to be a slew of films based on the history of the monarchy in England. Some were very successful (like Beckett and A Man For All Seasons), others not as much (like Cromwell). The Lion In Winter is probably my absolute favorite among them. Based on the play by James Goldman (which he cleverly adapted for film), it tells the story of King Henry II (brilliantly played by Peter O'Toole, who had played the same role 4 years earlier in Beckett) and his complex relationships with his sons and with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitane (the astonishing Katharine Hepburn in one of her Oscar-winning roles). Henry, who has imprisoned Eleanor, has decided to hold a Christmas Court, where each of his sons and his wife are brought to his palace so he can decide on who his rightful heir will be. According to tradition (and history), his eldest son Richard (a young Anthony Hopkins) should ascend the throne when Henry dies. Richard is favored by Eleanor but not by Henry. Henry (in this story) seems to favor his youngest, John (played by Nigel Terry). Their middle son, Geoffrey (John Castle), is also just as ambitious and bitter over the favors of his parents. The film has some great cinematography (by Douglas Slocombe) which uses dark lighting to intensify the drama of the characters (it is set in the Dark Ages after all). The movie is a powerful historical drama that gives insight into the England before the Crusades (When king, Richard would play an important part in the Crusades). In addition to the intense screenplay, it is the performances that drive this film. O'Toole and Hepburn each play their parts so well and ignite the screen both separately and together. The supporting cast holds their own especially a young Timothy Dalton in the role of the devious Prince Philip of France. A great film that should be remembered.
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