The Lion in Winter (1968)

134 mins | Drama | 30 October 1968

Director:

Anthony Harvey

Writer:

James Goldman

Producer:

Martin Poll

Production Designer:

Peter Murton

Production Company:

Haworth Productions
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HISTORY

James Goldman’s play, The Lion in Winter, opened on 7 Feb 1966 in Boston, MA, and on 3 Mar 1966 at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Reviews were mixed, and the Broadway run was set to end, after only ninety-two performances, on 21 May 1966, according to a 5 May 1966 LAT item. The following year, a 16 Aug 1967 Var news item announced that Martin Poll had acquired film rights, and planned to produce the film through his Marpol Productions. James Goldman was brought on to adapt his own script. The 6 Dec 1968 LAT noted that Goldman initially turned down the job, on the grounds that he had never written a screenplay.
       A “Just for Variety” column in the 21 Nov 1968 DV stated that four major film studios declined the project, but Embassy Pictures’ Joseph E. Levine “snapped it up” within two days of hearing Poll’s plans. The 20 Sep 1967 Var confirmed Levine’s involvement, and announced the casting of Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn in the roles of “King Henry II” and “Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine,” originated onstage by Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris. O’Toole was thirty-five at the time of his casting, and had to be aged to play the fifty-year-old King Henry II. Coincidentally, a few years earlier, O’Toole had been nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a young King Henry II in Becket (1964, see entry).
       In the 20 Sep 1967 Var, the project was described as “suddenly-put-together” after production on The Ski Bum, a ... More Less

James Goldman’s play, The Lion in Winter, opened on 7 Feb 1966 in Boston, MA, and on 3 Mar 1966 at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Reviews were mixed, and the Broadway run was set to end, after only ninety-two performances, on 21 May 1966, according to a 5 May 1966 LAT item. The following year, a 16 Aug 1967 Var news item announced that Martin Poll had acquired film rights, and planned to produce the film through his Marpol Productions. James Goldman was brought on to adapt his own script. The 6 Dec 1968 LAT noted that Goldman initially turned down the job, on the grounds that he had never written a screenplay.
       A “Just for Variety” column in the 21 Nov 1968 DV stated that four major film studios declined the project, but Embassy Pictures’ Joseph E. Levine “snapped it up” within two days of hearing Poll’s plans. The 20 Sep 1967 Var confirmed Levine’s involvement, and announced the casting of Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn in the roles of “King Henry II” and “Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine,” originated onstage by Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris. O’Toole was thirty-five at the time of his casting, and had to be aged to play the fifty-year-old King Henry II. Coincidentally, a few years earlier, O’Toole had been nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a young King Henry II in Becket (1964, see entry).
       In the 20 Sep 1967 Var, the project was described as “suddenly-put-together” after production on The Ski Bum, a Poll-Levine collaboration also set to star Peter O’Toole, was postponed. The Ski Bum was ultimately released in 1971 (see entry). In the meantime, “key technical personnel and production crew” who were initially assembled to work on The Ski Bum were transferred to The Lion in Winter crew.
       The budget was listed as $1.5 million in a 29 Nov 1967 Var article. However, later sources, including the 8 Nov 1968 LAT and 21 Nov 1968 DV, cited a production cost of $4 million. Due to a devaluation of the British pound in late 1967, filmmakers were expected to save roughly $200,000 by shooting overseas. Poll, who was paid a producer’s fee, was also set to receive 5–7.5% of the worldwide gross. Meanwhile, O’Toole’s salary was listed in a 1 May 1968 Var item as $1 million – a number that would have constituted one-quarter of the $4-million budget estimate.
       O’Toole aided in the casting process, as noted in the 21 Nov 1968 DV. The actor reportedly reached out to repertory directors with whom he was friends, and flew to meet the actors they recommended.
       Principal photography was originally scheduled to begin on 1 Nov 1967 in Dublin, Ireland. The twelve-week-shoot was due to be in conflict with Katharine Hepburn’s next project, The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969, see entry), slated to begin shooting on 15 Jan 1968. The potential conflict grew when filming on The Lion in Winter was delayed several weeks. Ten days of rehearsals at the Haymarket Theatre in London, England, preceded the 27 Nov 1967 start of production, as confirmed in various sources including an 8 Dec 1967 DV production chart.
       Two months of mostly interior shooting took place at Ardmore Studios in Bray, Ireland, according to the 29 Nov 1967 Var. As noted in a 27 Dec 1968 Var article, shortly into filming, a six-day-per-week, “breakless” schedule (known to Europeans as a “French schedule”) was enacted to allow “uninterrupted working hours” between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Instead of lunch breaks, which often resulted in creative lulls according to Poll, cast and crew were provided a buffet service. The “round-the-clock” schedule was expected to continue in Arles, France, where production was set to relocate the week of 31 Jan 1968, according to a Var item published that day. Prior to the move, “hurricane force winds” caused damage to sets at Ardmore, which had cost $100,000 to build. Repairs, including fixes to “two wind-cracked towers,” were completed on a rushed schedule. In Arles, interior and exterior scenes were filmed at the Montmajour Abbey, which stood in for the Chinon Castle, as stated in a 14 Feb 1968 Var brief. Improvements were made on the 10th-century structure, including added facades, walls, arches, and doorways. Art director Peter Murton estimated that $100,000 in enhancements were added to the abbey, and local authorities reportedly planned to retain the changes and, subsequently, increase admission fees for tourists.
       Three weeks of filming in Arles were followed by a week in Tarascon, France, where riverboat sequences depicting the arrival of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine at Chinon Castle were shot, according to the 21 Feb 1968 Var. In early Mar 1968, cast and crew were scheduled to film sequences at a castle in Carcassonne, also in the south of France. On 6 Mar 1968, Var reported that Hepburn had recently completed her work on the picture. Filming continued through 5 Apr 1968, according to a 1 May 1968 Var brief. Final battle sequences were scheduled to be shot in Wales, as stated in the 13 Mar 1968 Var.
       An item in the 18 Mar 1968 DV noted that actor Anthony Hopkins broke an arm during a jousting scene shot in Southern France. The grueling shoot also caused director Anthony Harvey to suffer exhaustion and a case of jaundice, according to the 6 Dec 1968 LAT.
       During production, an item in the 13 Dec 1967 DV reported that The Lion in Winter would be Embassy Pictures’ first roadshow release, and a booking had already been scheduled at the Warner Beverly Hills Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. However, when the film opened in Los Angeles, the 17 Dec 1968 LAT review noted it was playing exclusively at the 4 Star Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard. Months prior to release, Embassy was acquired by the Avco Corporation. The 4 May 1968 NYT detailed Avco’s plans to gain control over Embassy via a stock purchase of $40 million. The newly formed Avco Embassy Pictures Corp. thus distributed the picture, which opened on 30 Oct 1968 at the Lincoln Art Theatre in New York City, grossing $23,178 in its first six days, as stated in the 6 Nov 1968 Var. A benefit screening at the same theater was scheduled to take place on 13 Nov 1968, to raise money for the Girls and Boys Service League, according to a 1 Nov 1968 NYT brief. A Los Angeles premiere, benefitting the UCLA Foundation Children’s Fund, was set to follow on 17 Dec 1968 at the 4 Star Theatre, the 8 Nov 1968 LAT reported.
       Although the 134-minute picture was initially released without an intermission, by late Nov 1968 Avco Embassy decided to add one. The 25 Nov 1968 DV stated that, henceforth, altered reels would be provided to exhibitors. Avco Embassy was said to have based its decision on feedback from “some exhibitors and other industry personnel” who claimed that intermissions added “class” to roadshow presentations. The 15 Apr 1969 DV quoted Poll as saying that he and Levine had disagreed over the intermission; however, Poll agreed to add the break in the spirit of compromise.
       The Lion in Winter received largely positive reviews and was commercially successful. On 19 Mar 1969, DV noted that the film, showing in seventy-one theaters at that time, had taken in $5 million in U.S. box-office receipts, to date.        Academy Awards went to John Barry for Music (Original Score – for a motion picture [not a musical]), James Goldman for Writing (Screenplay – based on material from another medium), and Katharine Hepburn for Best Actress. Hepburn shared the award with Barbra Streisand, who won for Funny Girl (1968, see entry), in the first tie for that award in the ceremony’s forty-one-year history, according to a 16 Apr 1969 NYT brief. Academy Award nominations also went to Peter O’Toole for Best Actor, Margaret Furse for Costume Design, Anthony Harvey for Directing, and Martin Poll for Best Picture. The Lion in Winter was named Best English-Language Film of 1968 by the New York Film Critics Circle, as noted in the 31 Dec 1968 DV, and Best Film by the Foreign Language Press Association, which also named Harvey Best Director, and O’Toole Best Actor, according to the 28 Mar 1969 NYT. Harvey won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for Best Feature Direction, as reported in the 24 Feb 1969 DV, and the picture was chosen for the inaugural Senior Scholastic Merit Award from Scholastic magazine, according to a brief in the 22 Jan 1969 Var.
       A 17 Jul 1968 Var brief stated that Dell Publishing would release a paperback version of Goldman’s screenplay.
       Thirty years after the film’s release, Poll expressed interest in producing a remake, according to a 10 Mar 1999 NYP item. In response to the news, Harvey gave a statement, lamenting that the original film was “languishing in a British vault, rotting away in Technicolor,” and was in desperate need of restoration. Harvey stated, “It’s not that I want to keep Mr. Poll from remaking it; I just wish we could also save the original.” Since Joseph E. Levine had died in 1987, no one had clear ownership of the film. Poll was eventually credited as executive producer on a made-for-television remake, starring Glenn Close and Patrick Stewart, which premiered on Showtime on 25 May 2004. Twelve years later, a “4K restoration” of the 1968 picture was announced in a 6 Nov 2016 LAT listing of upcoming theatrical releases. The restored film was scheduled to be released on 16 Dec 2016 at the Film Forum in New York City, and the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1966
p. 18.
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Dec 1967
p. 12.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1967
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1968
p. 8.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 Nov 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 Feb 1969
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1969
p. 22.
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1969
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
5 May 1966
Section E, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
18 Feb 1968
Section O, p. 15, 19.
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1968
Section F, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
6 Dec 1968
Section H, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1968
Section J, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
21 May 2004
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
6 Nov 2016
Section E, p. 15.
New York Post
10 Mar 1999
p. 14.
New York Times
4 May 1968
p. 53, 55.
New York Times
31 Oct 1968
p. 54.
New York Times
1 Nov 1968
p. 53.
New York Times
28 Mar 1969
p. 34.
New York Times
16 Apr 1969.
---
Variety
16 Aug 1967
p. 17.
Variety
20 Sep 1967
p. 4.
Variety
20 Sep 1967
p. 17.
Variety
1 Nov 1967
p. 21.
Variety
15 Nov 1967
p. 26.
Variety
29 Nov 1967
p. 7.
Variety
29 Nov 1967
p. 22.
Variety
27 Dec 1967
p. 18.
Variety
31 Jan 1968
p. 19.
Variety
14 Feb 1968
p. 23.
Variety
21 Feb 1968
p. 21.
Variety
6 Mar 1968
p. 30.
Variety
13 Mar 1968
p. 32.
Variety
1 May 1968
p. 17.
Variety
1 May 1968
p. 76.
Variety
17 Jul 1968
p. 68.
Variety
6 Nov 1968
p. 27.
Variety
22 Jan 1969
p. 6.
Vogue
1 Dec 1968
p. 180.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Martin Poll Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir cine
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir french seq
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dir
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Lion in Winter by James Goldman (Boston, 7 Feb 1966).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 October 1968
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 30 October 1968 at Lincoln Arts Theatre
Los Angeles premiere: 17 December 1968 at the 4 Star Theatre
Copyright Claimant:
Haworth Productions
Copyright Date:
30 October 1968
Copyright Number:
LP40224
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
134
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1183, King Henry II of England summons his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom he has imprisoned for ten years in Salisbury Tower for her part in civil wars and plots against him. Henry has called a Christmas Court at Chinon Castle to determine which of their three surviving sons--the impetuous Richard, the conniving Geoffrey, or the clumsy and insecure John--will be named successor to the crown. Also present are Henry's mistress, Princess Alais, who has been promised as wife to the new heir, and her 18-year-old brother, Philip, the king of France. Henry chooses John as successor, but Eleanor, fully aware that Henry holds all three sons in low esteem, proclaims that the throne rightfully belongs to Richard. Almost immediately, the protagonists plot to attain their own selfish ends: Eleanor offers to yield Aquitaine if Richard is named heir; Geoffrey, neglected by both parents, conspires with John and Philip to rob Richard of the throne; and Henry confesses to Alais that he intends to get his way without giving her up. It is decided that an alliance with the king of France might solve all their problems, and Eleanor sends Richard to convince Philip of the merit of their cause. The youthful king is equal to the machinations of his elders, however; confronting Henry, he exposes the homosexual bent of Richard, the treachery of Geoffrey, and the disloyalty of John. Outraged, Henry disowns his sons and demands from Eleanor an annulment of their marriage, declaring that he will marry Alais and father a new heir, but Alais insists that Henry execute his sons to protect any child she might bear. Intent on murder, Henry descends into the ... +


In 1183, King Henry II of England summons his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom he has imprisoned for ten years in Salisbury Tower for her part in civil wars and plots against him. Henry has called a Christmas Court at Chinon Castle to determine which of their three surviving sons--the impetuous Richard, the conniving Geoffrey, or the clumsy and insecure John--will be named successor to the crown. Also present are Henry's mistress, Princess Alais, who has been promised as wife to the new heir, and her 18-year-old brother, Philip, the king of France. Henry chooses John as successor, but Eleanor, fully aware that Henry holds all three sons in low esteem, proclaims that the throne rightfully belongs to Richard. Almost immediately, the protagonists plot to attain their own selfish ends: Eleanor offers to yield Aquitaine if Richard is named heir; Geoffrey, neglected by both parents, conspires with John and Philip to rob Richard of the throne; and Henry confesses to Alais that he intends to get his way without giving her up. It is decided that an alliance with the king of France might solve all their problems, and Eleanor sends Richard to convince Philip of the merit of their cause. The youthful king is equal to the machinations of his elders, however; confronting Henry, he exposes the homosexual bent of Richard, the treachery of Geoffrey, and the disloyalty of John. Outraged, Henry disowns his sons and demands from Eleanor an annulment of their marriage, declaring that he will marry Alais and father a new heir, but Alais insists that Henry execute his sons to protect any child she might bear. Intent on murder, Henry descends into the dungeon where his sons are imprisoned, but Eleanor has preceded him and armed the three princes to aid their escape. Although Henry raises his sword over Richard's head, he cannot bring himself to wield it. Once the others have left and Eleanor and Henry are alone, the two adversaries face the incontestable truth that the bond between them is too strong to be broken by any struggle for power. The next morning, with nothing resolved, Henry escorts Eleanor to the barge that will return her to prison; she leaves, hopeful that there will soon be a summons to appear at Chinon for an Easter Court. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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