December 15, 2013

20,000 Vinyl LPs 29: The Lion In Winter & Peter O'Toole

The Lion In Winter soundtrack
album cover still from film
photo of album cover by Styrous®

Peter O'Toole died today, so, of course, I had to riffle through my vinyl LP collection to find the best thing I have for a tribute to him.  He will always be remembered in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia . . .

.        Peter O'Toole                                                                                                         T. E. Lawrence  .
 .      Lawrence of Arabia                                                                                         The 'real' Lawrence .
.        photo: Columbia Pictures                                                                         photographer unknown  .

. . . and Goodbye Mr. Chips . . . 

 movie still

. . . but for me the film I will always remember him in is The Lion In Winter.

O'Toole was born on August 2, 1932. Some sources give his birthplace as Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, while others have reported Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company, before making his film debut in 1959.

His most famous role was as  T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for which he received his first Oscar nomination. He received seven further Oscar nominations – for Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006) but never actually won an Oscar. He holds the record for the most Academy Award of Merit acting nominations without a win. He won four Golden Globes, a BAFTA and an Emmy, and was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in 2003. He was 81 when he died.

~ ~ ~

The Lion In Winter 

I loved this 1968 movie for dozens of reasons. It starred Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, John Castle, Anthony Hopkins, Jane Merrow, Timothy Dalton and Nigel Terry; that's seven of them for starters. O'Toole portrays Henry II, Hepburn was a perfect Eleanor of Aquitaine and Hopkins (his film debut) was brilliant as Richard the Lionheart. The film was made great by the performances of these actors.

The Plot
(from IMDb)

The story line takes place on Christmas, 1183. An aging and conniving King Henry II plans a reunion at Chinon, France, for a family Christmas where he hopes to name his successor. He summons the following people for the holiday: his scheming but imprisoned wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; his three sons (Richard, Geoffrey, and John), all of whom desire the throne; his mistress, Princess Alais, whom he wishes to marry, and the young but crafty King Philip II of France (brother of Alais). Philip is insisting Alais marries John (one of the brothers) as agreed years before or else he wants her dowry and the lands of the Vexen (France) returned. As Eleanor has already given the province of Aquitaine (also in France) to Richard, the outcome of this may decide the future of England. With the fate of Henry's empire at stake, everybody present, except perhaps Alais, are masters of double-dealing and deceit (all vividly demonstrated in the movie trailer, link below). 

Originally a stage play, the action is mostly in the dialogue of the characters. Each of the sons has some flaw that makes the decision difficult, but the pair have spent their lives fighting for position and even at the end can't stop. It could be a lively Yuletide.
movie posters

stage play poster

The music

John Barry won an Academy Award for The Lion in Winter in 1968. When Barry scored the film, he was at the height of his popularity mainly for his James Bond scores (and, to a lesser extent, for his jazz band recordings). Director Anthony Harvey let Barry create a score that would change his image forever. The fact that the grandiose style of Barry's score was unnecessary in the first place is what makes it a classic. Left by the director and producer to compose whatever would be appropriate for the film, Barry decided to write a dark, menacing, and gothic score, a style which cannot be classified with either his early jazzy works or his later lush romances. He masterfully captured the brutal sounds of the Middle Ages while still adhering to the domination of the Catholic Church.

The Main Title, with its majestic trumpet and trombone intro, goes into a fairly rapid beat, set by a grand piano and tympani, with orchestra. It has a Carmina Burana feel to it. The trumpets and trombones return to herald an impending, . . something, then a chorus enters singing in Latin for truly dramatic results. A nice piece of film scoring.

The music for Eleanor´s Arrival features a magnificent female and male chorus with orchestral backing.

Media Vita in Morte Sumus (In the Midst of Life We Are In Death) is quietly suspenseful with the chorus once more making an appearance.

Allons Gai Gai Gai features a gentle and beautiful male and female A-capella melody.

We're Jungle Creatures, this, the finale music for the film, is anything but jungle-like. It starts quiet but slowly builds with French horns, trumpets and opulent chorus to a grand, climatic finale. A very nice finish.

(Links to music on YouTube below)


Side 1:

1 Main Title - The Lion In Winter        
2 Chinon - Eleanor's Arrival        
3 Allons Gai Gai Gai        
4 To The Chapel        
5 The Christmas Wine (Lyrics By – James Goldman)

Side 2:
1 God Damn You        
2 To Rome        
3 The Herb Garden        
4 Eya, Eya, Nova Gaudia        
5 How Beautiful You Make Me        
6 Media Vita In Morte Sumus (In The Midst Of Life We Are In Death)    
7 We're Jungle Creatures

Music links:
Main Title on YouTube
Orchestral Suite on YouTube
Media Vita in Morte Sumus (In the Midst of Life We Are In Death) on YouTube
Allons Gai Gai Gai on YouTube
We're Jungle Creatures on YouTube 

other links:
movie trailer on YouTube
Anthony Hopkins remembers The lion in winter on YouTube    
full cast and credits of film on imdb  

Well, I guess this turned out to be more about the film than Peter O'Toole. But, you know, that's life. Hope your Christmas is not as stressful as it was for the characters in the movie.

Merry Christmas

Styrous® ~ December 15, 2013


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