I read an historical novel about Eleonar of Aquitaine a few days ago, and then I started thinking how awesome it would be to see The Lion in Winter again, and then one of the movie stations obliged by airing it that very night. Excellent coincidence.
The screenplay is one of the most brilliant every written. Acid tongued, alternately vicious and witty. Definitely not your average Christmas movie (though it does take place at Christmas)–boys will be boys, and if you’re Henry II, boys will try to take your kingdom before you’re dead.
Oldest boy Henry died the previous summer, King Henry has been keeping Eleanor in prison for 10 years and he’s boinking Alys, the supposed betrothed of Richard (to be the Lionhearted) who is Eleanor’s favourite and the inheritor of her lands of Aquitaine, thought King Henry wants them to go to John, the snivelling baby of the brood. History is often more intriguing than fiction.
You also get to see Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton before they were Hannibal or Bond. Never mind Hepburn and O’Toole, whose chemistry is amazing.
Here’s some selected interactions between Henry and Eleanor. Enjoy.
As I was watching it, I couldn’t help wonder if this wouldn’t be a perfect choice for Stratford. I should start a campaign for Martha Henry as Eleanor…