Midweek Myers Movie Review: The Lion in Winter (1968)

As Ponty and I have been going through the worst movies ever, it seems like a palette cleanser is in order.  Too much of a good thing is a problem, but too much of a bad thing is probably worse (by definition, I suppose it is!).

Thanks to good ol’ Audre Myers, we have a reminder that plenty of good—indeed, great—things have been imprinted on celluloid.  Not every film is a woke stinker with a strident “strong female character” who lacks any flaws or shortcomings.

Indeed, this film demonstrates how really to write a “strong female character”—and it was released in 1968!  I thought those philistines were still dragging women to their caves by the hair back then.  Well, they don’t come much stronger than Eleanor of Aquitaine; portrayed by the hyper-patrician Katharine Hepburn, 1968 Hollywood would run circles around Brie Larson.

Well, enough of my pontificating.  Here’s Audre Myers’s—our own “strong female character” here at TPP—and her exquisite review of 1968’s The Lion in Winter:

The problem with art of any nature is that it’s subjective – junk to me is gold to you and vise versa. However; there are times a particular piece of art transcends and rivets one’s attention and makes a lasting impression upon the person apprehending the art. The 1968 movie The Lion in Winter is one such transcendent film.

Always a Kid for Today, a contributing writer and frequent commenter on this blog, wrote a review of the movie Love Actually. You can read the ‘last rites’ given to the movie written in Kid’s own words (https://theportlypolitico.com/2022/08/01/monday-morning-movie-review-pontys-top-ten-worst-films-2-love-actually-2003/). I’ve never seen Love Actually and will, for the rest of my life, avoid it at all costs based on Kid’s review. But what happened, after finishing his exquisite demolishing of the movie, was that I remembered one of the very best movies I have ever seen about ‘love’ and the ways in which love is affected by life.

All of the celestial tumblers fell into place and the result is a story unlike any that you can call to mind. 1968 saw the release of the movie The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. The starring actors’ names alone should be a lock for movie lovers. In this movie the quintessential of talents – writing, staging, set direction, pacing, casting, cinematic quality, and acting – come together and deliver a performance unparalleled on the silver screen.

It’s Christmas time in 1183, King Henry the Second has ordered that his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, be released from her prison to share the holiday with him and their three sons – Richard (Anthony Hopkins – before he was knighted), Geoffrey ll (John Castle), and John (Nigel Terry), at a castle away from London. Also at the castle is Henry’s girlfriend Alais (Jane Merrow) and they are expecting the arrival of King Philip of France (Timothy Dalton). Philip is not there to celebrate the holiday but to see that either his sister Alais is married to Henry or Henry gives back her dowry – a piece of land that is convenient for Henry should he decide to declare war on France. In addition to the dowry dispute, the three sons are in competition to see which one Henry names as his successor.

But the love story – that story shared by Henry and Eleanor – is remarkable. Deeply in love and yet … intellect, battling wills of strength and domination, and a constant tally of wins and losses scored against each other has twisted that love into something difficult to define. It is love but it’s a kind of love that no longer resembles what poets might name as love.

You will find that there are lines from this movie that become part of your psyche, such as, “I wonder … do you ever wonder …” or the brilliant little speech by Geoffrey about ‘knowing’. There is humor – of the biting sort – and a good deal of irony. There is reference to sex and adultery and the real reason for tapestries and this all comes together to create a story and a film that is as satisfying as a good dinner after a day of heavy work.

The thing that you’ll remember most, years after viewing this movie, is the incredible talent of O’Toole and Hepburn. ‘Power house’ is weak when speaking of their performances; masters of their craft and at the height of their talent and ability.


30 thoughts on “Midweek Myers Movie Review: The Lion in Winter (1968)

  1. Superb, Audre. 🙂

    Tina and I will be adding this to our next Amazon shop. I’m intrigued, not so much by the stellar cast, but by the setting – I don’t know why but I get the impression the season will have as much a say in the direction of the film than it might be given credit for. We shall see. Your review has certainly intrigued us enough to buy it.

    Tina thinks she’s seen it but can’t remember. Nevertheless, she loves historical dramas and has a couple of recommendations to throw your way. A Man For All Seasons (1966) and Anne Of The Thousand Days (1969). She says you’ll love them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, 39; you are always so kind. Please tell your lovely English rose that I have seen A Man for All Seasons and it’s excellent, start to finish. I’ll have to track down Anne of the Thousand Days. I’ll let you know when I watch it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • As I recall, the setting is supposed to be Chateau Gailliard in Languedoc, that French air always makes problems 🙂 Henry was rarely in England. It’s tough to find a more powerful woman in human history than Eleanor, reputed to be the most beautiful woman in Europe, divorcing the King of France to marry the King of England and thus endowing him with more of France than the King of France owned. I’m not sure Tina did, maybe just heard a lot about it, Katharine Hepburn, never very forgettable, was incomparable in this role.

      I see Tina is a fellow Tudor enthusiast, Thomas Moore, and Anne Boylen do indeed make compelling characters on screen, I heartily second her choices, but not anything by Hilary Montel.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Tina and I spend a lot of time talking about films and I reckon, if she did her own top 10, it’d be a collection of historical dramas and films from the black and white era. I’ll give it a pop (no peeking from Tina) and say that her top 3 are Sunset Boulevard, Anne of The Thousand Days and A Man For All Seasons. I’ll let you know whether I got that right or wrong! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I do so love The Lion in Winter, but it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure me. I’m more than a bit of a historian and the characters were based upon some of the most lurid descriptions of the actual historical people – and there was no Christmas Court at Château de Chinon in 1183.

    I will, however, praise their costuming department for basing all the costumes on what depictions we have of the actual peoples’ clothing.

    Liked by 3 people

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