The Lion in Winter, based on James Goldman’s play (1966) about treachery in the family of England’s King Henry II, is an intense, fierce, personal drama put across by outstanding performances of Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. Director Anthony Harvey has done excellent work with a generally strong cast and a literate adaptation.
Title refers to the late period in the life of Henry II, when a decision on succession is deemed advisable. His exiled, embittered and imprisoned wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and three legitimate male offspring, are gathered, along with his mistress and her brother, youthful king Philip of France.
In one day, the seven characters are stripped bare of all inner torments, outward pretensions and governing personality traits.
Goldman has blended in his absorbing screenplay elements of love, hate, frustration, fulfillment, ambition and greed. O’Toole scores a bullseye as the king, while Hepburn’s performance is amazing.
1968: Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Peter O’Toole), Costume Design