<script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script> <!-- Showbiz Portal Bottom 1 300x250, created 10/15/10 --> <ins class="adsbygoogle" style="display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px" data-ad-client="ca-pub-1272644781333770" data-ad-slot="2530175011"></ins> <script> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </script>
Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 8, 2021



THE LIVES of British royalty has been a source of endless fascination for ordinary mortals so it’s not surprising so many movies and TV series have been made about them. 

The stories of monarchs in the past abound and even up to the present, the interest has not at all waned, which is why we now have “The Crown” Seasons 1 to 4 and soon, 5 and 6.

We’ve just seen “The Lion in Winter” which we first saw in 1968 when we were 22 years old. We were awed then by the acting of the two leads, Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter O’Toole as Henry II. 

Katharine won her third best actress Oscar for this film. She tied that year with Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl”, which we also just rewatched during Holy Week and remains to be one of the best musicals ever.

“The Lion in Winter” is a fictional account of what happens to Henry II, the first king of the house of Plantagenet, in the Christmas of 1183. He reigned from 1154 to 1189. 

He married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. Eleanor was first married to King Louis VI of France but their marriage was annulled then she married Henry who is 11 years younger than her. 

They had 8 kids, 3 daughters and 5 sons, but only 3 sons are featured in this film: Richard, Geoffrey and John. They became separated when she supported the rebellion of their eldest son, young Henry, who died in 1183. 

The film starts with King Henry II (O’Toole) inviting Eleanor and sons Richard (Anthony Hopkins), Geoffrey (John Castle) and John (Nigel Terry) to his castle in Chinon, France for a Christmas reunion. 

Since the eldest son is now dead, they must decide on who will inherit the throne from Henry II. Eleanor, temporarily released from her prison, pushes her favorite son, Richard, while Henry himself favors their youngest son, John. 

Also in the castle are Alais (Jane Merrow), Henry’s mistress and her brother Philip (Timothy Dalton), the young king of France who demands that Henry II return the dowry they gave for her if no wedding with any of his sons would take place.

The next few days are spent with all characters scheming and plotting against each other for their own selfish motives. 

Plans and deals are made, only to be thwarted at the last minute with Henry saying all his sons are not suitable to be king and so he imprisons them in the country’s wine cellar.

The film is helmed by British director, Anthony Harvey, who was nominated in the Oscars for his work here but didn’t win, but he won as best director in the Directors Guild of America. 

He’d later direct another historical film, “The Abdication”, about Queen Christina of Sweden (Liv Ullman), who falls in love with a cardinal in Rome.

“The Lion in Winter” introduces two fairly new actors: Anthony Hopkins as Richard and Timothy Dalton as King Philip. 

We all know both would later have a successful film careers, with Hopkins winning the Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs” and Dalton becoming the 4th actor to play James Bond 007 in two films.

“The Lion in Winter” is a fictitious account of the Royal family based on a play by James Mangold, which didn’t do well on stage but is very successful on screen. 

It was even remade on TV in 2003 with Glenn Close doing the Eleanor role and winning the Golden Globe best drama actress award.

The film is really a personal drama of palace intrigue, backstabbing and double-crossing in the Royal family, with ferociously intense performances by the whole cast. 

The sharp and witty script is peppered with stinging dialogue and insults. It is so satisfying to see it transferred on screen intelligently, just like “A Man for All Seasons” about St. Thomas More and his conflict with Henry VIII in the 15th century.

The production values are all superb, specially the vivid production design that evokes imaginatively a historical time and place with its gritty realism. 

The castle is a character in itself and you can almost feel the chill of its drafty rooms and halls, with its surroundings full of dirt and grime from the peasants and the livestock around. 

Its staging and mounting of the medieval life smack of authentic but highly polished theatricality.

Eleanor is truly one of the crowning achievements of Hepburn's career. Her Eleanor is a headstrong woman who wants to control her own fate and doesn’t want to be a mere pawn in a game of thrones played by the men around her. 

We relish her sly machinations peppered with her acerbic and pungent delivery of her lines, yet combined with humor.  

The best for us is when she reminisces about her once glorious past with Henry: “Henry was only 18 when we met. And I was queen of France. He came down from the north to Paris with a mind like Aristotle and a form like mortal sin. We shattered the commandments on the spot.” 

She and O’Toole both do scenery chewing artfully and with panache. It’s a pleasure seeing them play off with each other, with O’Toole matching her compelling intensity in all their scenes together. 

When they’re on screen, they exhibit sheer emotional power, bringing a mixture of both marital love and hate to operatic heights with their brilliant interpretation of a very dysfunctional family.

The film is somewhat ahead of its time as it also portrays Henry as a pervert who goes to bed with young boys. This is also insinuated in a previous film where O’Toole also played Henry II, “Becket”. 

There’s a revelation that Richard and King Phillip were once homosexual lovers, although this is not historically proven as accurate.

The film ends with the question of succession not resolved, but history shows that when Henry died six years later in 1189, it’s Richard who ascends the throne. 

Eleanor is finally released from her prison and becomes Richard’s regent when he joined the Third Crusade as Richard The Lionheart, so he really spent very little time in England. 

When he died in 1199, the simpleton John replaced him and had an unsuccessful reign, losing most the lands gained by his father in France. He also antagonized the English barons who revolted and made him sign the now famous Magna Carta. 

John is the also king who’s portrayed as a villain in the Robin Hood stories.