April 3, 2010

For The Love of Peter O'Toole: The Lion in Winter

The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey, 1968)

Role: King Henry II, older and more embittered

If there was one role Peter O'Toole definitely should have won an Academy Award for, it's The Lion in Winter. Like Lawrence, it was nominated in seven categories, its most notable win for Katharine Hepburn's fiery turn as Henry's conniving wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Instead, O'Toole lost to Cliff Robertson in Charly, but don't feel bad if you don't recognize the movie or the actor--few do. Charly's a good example of how playing a mentally challenged character almost guarantees an Oscar. With forty years of hindsight, it's easy to see O'Toole should have won. His Henry II is a monumental performance. His sparring with Hepburn is legendary.

The story concerns Henry's three sons plotting with their mother against him, jockeying for command of the kingdom. Eleanor, no stranger to political plotting, is released from exile by Henry, ostensibly to aid Henry--a man she loves and loaths with equal passion--in choosing an heir.

There are so many brilliant lines in this film, adapted by the play by James Goldman, I could read the script everyday and never get tired. Here are just a few clips to demonstrate the verbal wit and impeccable acting of O'Toole and Hepburn:

I admit I may be biased but just watch this scene in which a fed-up Henry castigates his plotting sons and tell me O'Toole shouldn't have won the Academy Award.

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