Monday 30 October 2023


This truly great movie was released on this day 55-years ago in 1968. Based on a brilliant play/screenplay by James Goldman and played to perfection by a legendary cast of stars and newbies, headed by Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn as King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The Lion in Winter has the wittiest, most quotable dialogue in any Hollywood movie since All About Eve...
Henry: Did the Channel part for you? 
Eleanor: It went flat when I told it to. I didn’t think to ask for more.
Eleanor: Henry.
Henry: Madam.
Eleanor:Did you ever love me?
Henry: No.
Eleanor: Good. That will make this pleasanter.


Geoffrey (fourth of the five sons of Henry II): I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family.


John (youngest sons of King Henry II): Poor John. Who says poor John? Don't everybody sob at once! My God, if I went up in flames there's not a living soul who'd pee on me to put the fire out!
Richard: Let's strike a flint and see.

Eleanor: What family doesn't have its ups and downs?
The film also has a sumptuous score by John Barry and impeccable art direction, creating an almost suffocating sense of claustrophobia. 
I vividly remember my first (of very many) viewings aged 19-years at a London preview in 1968 with my best pal: we were both captivated by the film and dashed out and bought copies of Goldman's play-script which we would regularly read together – in voices that were somewhat extravagant impersonations of the two leads. I'll leave it open to speculation which us guys was most often cast as Queen Eleanor!

A nice story recently posted on the Turner Classics Movie Fan Site relates an anecdote from Anthony Hopkins who made his full-length theatrical movie debut in the film, playing Richard (later the Lionheart). Apparently, Hopkins expressed anxiety about his performance compared to such established names as O'Toole and Hepburn, Hepburn allegedly advised him:
'Don't act. Leave that to me; I act all over the place. You don't need to act. You've got a good face, you've got a good voice, you've got a big body. Watch Spencer Tracy, watch the real American actors that never act, they just do it. Just show up and speak the lines.' 
Hopkins later regarded this as the best acting advice he had ever been given.

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