Lucky 13 Film Club: The Lion in Winter

Katharine Hepburn won an Oscar for Best Actress as Eleanor of Aquitaine. James Goldman won an Oscar for adapting his own play. John Barry‘s score won for Best Score. It’s 1182 and King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) is the scene-chewing roaring lion passionately defending his kingdom while three sons vie for the crown and a sour wife is his greatest adversary.  Ultimately, it’s a love story between a husband and wife whose bitter disappointments in each other flail out to those around them. Their manipulations tarnish the relationships between their three sons. Betrayal is the prominent theme. My heart goes out to son number one, Richard, played to perfection by Anthony Hopkins and Alais, the pretty pawn by Jane Merrow.  

As a conversation starter, I focused on the CINEMATOGRAPHY by Douglas Slocombe (Indiana Jones, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Great Gatsby, Never Say Never Again). It helps when you film at the gorgeous locale of Wales and England. The sweeping battle scene on the beach was impressive with black horses and sardonic son number 2 (John Castle) looking on.  Even in winter with barren trees and frosty glens and a cold castle, the wide angles were beautiful. However, I think his use of close-ups provide a balanced contrast and interesting angles. For example, I liked Eleanor at her dressing table having a monologue in a mirror. The turn of a skeleton key in the dungeon door. The shocked face of Richard behind the curtain as he learns his lover has betrayed him. The face of King Henry on his knees out on the ramparts and the camera pulls away from his face as he looks up to the stars. Did you like the cinematography? How about that pulling back technique Slocombe employs?  Did you find it distracting? 

Please welcome KATE LOVETON who has a great blog and where she shows off her creative writing talents. This was her idea to form a film club where we could discuss with one another a topic and a film. Kate focused on the DIALOGUE, a huge part of the success of the film:


What a pleasure it was to watch this intelligent film once again. There is so much to like about “The Lion in Winter,” and many aspects worthy of discussion:  staging, costuming, the score.  Best of all is the excellent acting and crisp, often biting dialogue.  It is by turns witty, wise, searing and venomous.
Henry II and Eleanor, once lovers, are now old-age combatants; rather than swords, their weapon of choice is the tongue – and each employs it well. When asked by his mistress how his wife is, Henry (who has kept Eleanor locked away in a nunnery for ten years) responds corrosively, “Decaying, I hope.”
Ah, but Eleanor gives as good as she gets.  She tells Henry’s mistress, “Henry’s bed is his province. He can people it with sheep for all I care. Which, on occasion, he has done.”  Ouch!
Confronted with the treachery and sodomy of her offspring, Eleanor, a master of understatement, dryly remarks, “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”
I think my favorite line was uttered by Henry after he’d locked his conniving sons up in the wine cellar. (Henry apparently has a talent for locking up family members). His mistress asks where Henry’s sons are. “The royal boys are aging with the royal port,” he replies.
If Henry and Eleanor are masters of waspish dialogue, their sons are masters of deception and murderous intent toward one another. When one of her sons pulls a knife on the other, the would-be victim whines that his brother was carrying a knife. The wearied Eleanor remarks, “Of course he has knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians!”
Just so… and now it is 2015, and we are still barbarians.
Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole employ just the right shadings of tone to convey sarcasm, anguish, fear… and the underpinnings of sexuality. Hepburn’s Eleanor is a dangerous woman… and yet beneath the vinegar and venom, one gets the impression that she still burns for Henry. Her lust no longer physical, it plays itself out in verbal jousting.  Her love is a deadly thing. Hepburn makes us pity and admire her indomitable Eleanor, even when we most dislike her.
And Henry? O’Toole does a masterful job. It was a revelation to me to see O’Toole as the expansive, bellowing, manipulative Henry. He chewed up the scenery… yet he never made Henry a clown. When Henry realizes just how estranged his boys are from him, he stumbles away and cries out, “I’ve lost my boys.” In that moment, my heart went out to him.  He never really had them to begin with.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the dialogue and cinematography?

Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club


Just a friendly reminder that in ten days we will discuss the period drama The Lion in Winter. With a fresh pair of eyes, re-watch or try out for the first time this highly-acclaimed classic starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.


On October thirteenth, join my guest speaker Kate Loveton and I as we begin the conversation starter. All are welcome to contribute.

See you on the thirteenth!

Lucky 13 Film Club

My friend KATE LOVETON requested I host a monthly series centered around a group discussion of a film. I thought about it and came up with this idea for which I hope you will take part when you’re willing and able.


I was born on the thirteenth, and I have claimed my lucky number was/is 13–so:

*I will announce the movie of the month to be discussed on the 13th day of the month.

*I will vary the genre and include classics, foreign, and contemporary films.

*3 guests will be a part of the forum to begin the conversation.

Here is my dogma about watching movies:

A revisit always elicits a different response because you’ve gotten older and notice nuances that escaped you the first time you watched it.

Some of life’s chapters were so engrossing, you never saw it in the first place. I’m embarrassed how many “great” films I have never seen. I enjoy catching up with the blind spots and listening to the blogosphere experts.

Even flawed films have aspects that are worth talking about when they illustrate the craft of the film-making or show the human condition excellently.

Films often say more about the decade than the story line. Social history is my passion and films are a legitimate way to explore history.

Kate has requested a period, classic film. Here is October’s film–the award-winning, The Lion in Winter (1968), starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn.


Each month I will ask for three guests who will focus on an aspect of the film. You could analyze a scene or critique the performances or analyze the motifs or expound on the cinematography. Anything goes. The guest statements should be brief. That is, no review is necessary since those in the club have agreed to watch the film; spoilers aren’t an issue. You don’t have to rate the film or feel like an expert on the subject. You may not even know what your focal point means but wish to bring it up for discussion.  I will post these conversation starters with a synopsis of the film and that’s when “club members” join in with the discussion.  I will gladly link your site, if you are a guest, so you get some exposure.

If you want to join the Lucky 13 Film Club, all you have to do is vow to re-watch the film with fresh eyes or watch the film for the first time during the month. On the 13th, come to my site and offer your opinions in the comment section to each other.  

If the film offered doesn’t interest you, no worries. Next month might be more to your liking.

Any volunteers to be a guest? EMAIL me at

Here we go!  Watch or re-watch The Lion in Winter and return on OCTOBER 13 to chime in with the others. Guests should send me their blurb by the 10th of the month so I can create the post. 

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