The Lion in Winter by James Goldman

I love bolion-winter-betteroks that become movies. There are whole lists of books you can read “before they come to the theatre.” And, there are people (I used to be one of them) who would never dream of watching a movie before reading the book. Realistically, there are only a handful of movies that I believe have done the books justice and there are an even smaller number of cinematic experiences that outshine the written word they are based upon. The only clear winner in my opinion is The Last of the Mohicans because, well, when it comes right down to it James Finnimore Cooper is boring and Daniel Day Lewis is not.

Really the game changer for me was The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I had zero experience with the books before the first movie.  I went on a whim (with a date who was a big big fan) and fell in love with the weird little Gollum.  So, I went out and read the book. By the way, I was completely shocked that there was only one book. Seeing the movie first didn’t ruin it. Huh. My snobby little world tilted a bit and then was fine again.

Still, I have great friends (who are not snobby – that was just me!) who refuse to watch before reading. Fine! You be you people. But, what about plays?

Plays are tricky because they are not meant to be read.  They are written to be performed.  But, with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays are back in the game as reading material. But, should you read it before you see it? Conundrum!

Harry is not playing anywhere near me anytime soon so that is a no brainer. I have always wanted to be a Shakespeare snob but I am really struggling. But, I never give up! So, I picked up a copy of The Lion in Winter. And, this play had already been made into a movie in 1968 starring Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn.  Nice and accessible.  Then, another movie with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close.  I decided to read before I watched.

The play is excellent. At 104 pages it was a very quick but engaging read. The double entendre and verbal sparring made me thankful to not be invited to their Christmas celebration!  I cannot wait to rent the DVD and see all the familial dysfunction come alive.

So, what is the consensus?  Do you fall into the book-before-movie always club and, if so, where do plays fit?

By the way, the most excellent and always weird Christopher Walken played King Phillip of France in the first presentation of the play in New York in 1966.  Try reading and not hearing his voice. Sorry! This information is right in the book.


2 thoughts on “The Lion in Winter by James Goldman

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  1. Thanks! I usually get lost in Shakespeare when I read it but understand it when I see it performed. Have to admit, I am totally unfamiliar with this play. But I just saw Hamlet and it was tremendous. Good snowy day option I will keep an open mind for!

    Liked by 1 person

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