A WORD ABOUT CASTLES
THE LION IN WINTER was a special and peculiar sort of history play. To make its style and intention clear on film, the look of the castle where it occurs and the sense of castle life need to be earthly real and, at the same time, strikingly different from what we're used to seeing in King Arthur movies.
Almost nothing is known about the castle at Chinon as it was in Henry's time; and little enough is known about 12th century castles in general. One thing is clear, however, and important for our purposes: only that such castles looked nothing like what we expect.
The stone fortresses that remain today were only the shell of castles as they were lived in. Most of the shelter for most of the staff, all of the workshops -- the armories, forges, stables and so on -- were made of wood. A castle courtyard was a crowded, teeming, dirty place with much more wood than stone to greet the eye.
A major castle, as Chinon was, was like a miniature town. Everything necessary to the life of the establishment existed inside the walls. Poultry, livestock, looms and tailors, mills for grinding grain, vast storerooms, water wells, boot makers, gardens -- everything vital to life under siege was somehow packed in.
At special times, like the Christmas Court during which the film occurs, the congestion was even worse than usual. All guests, the visiting nobles and clergymen, traveled with trains of varying size. So that, in addition to the usual crowding, we find hundreds of soldiers and servants living outdoors, jammed together in tents, huddling for warmth around dozens of fires.
Living conditions, even for royalty, were crude and rough. The castle rooms were spartan: a bed, a few chairs, chests for storage, clothes hung in the open on racks. Floors were covered with straw which was swept away and replaced only occasionally. Interiors at high noon on a clear day were always dark, illumination coming from extremely smoky torches and candles. In winter, wind whistled through the open slit windows and the place was freezing cold.
A lot of their habits seem oddly contradictory. In spite of the cold, everyone from the King to his vassal slept naked. In the midst of the general crudeness, nobles wore the most exquisite fabrics -- cloths of gold and silver, delicate brocades. Clothing was generally dirty and even at a Christmas Court, nothing looked clean. Tables were set with fine linen and napkins of a kind were used; yet most of the eating was done with fingers. Sanitary conditions were appalling. For some reason, castles, in addition to their human tenants, were populated by hundreds of dogs.
All these things -- the grime and dirt and cold, the coarseness and crudity of life in general -- are vital to the look of the film. On the whole, there are few specific references to these elements in the screenplay. Rather than clutter up the goings on with data, it seemed better to suggest them here and let the castle that the story moves in be imagined.
[start of notes]
A Word About Castles is an excerpt (pages i-ii) from the screenplay (second draft) for The Lion In Winter, written by James Goldman.
The first page of the screenplay contains the phrase "Revised 11th October", but no year is mentioned.
Regarding the time and place of the play, I find on page iii:
THE TIME: Christmas, 1183
THE PLACE: Henry's castle at Chinon, France
I used the site ocrconvert.com to convert the PDF scan of the screenplay to a text file. I used this text file as my starting text and corrected it manually.
Changes from the original text:
- I have removed word-breaking hyphens.
- I have not preserved the original line breaks. I treat each paragraph as a single line.
- I have not preserved page divisions or page numbers.
- I changed the final line from "Rather than clutter up the goings on with data. It seemed better to suggest them here and let the castle that the story moves in be imagined." to "Rather than clutter up the goings on with data, it seemed better to suggest them here and let the castle that the story moves in be imagined.".
I first heard of The Lion In Winter via Trilema (link).
I also first heard of ocrconvert.com via Trilema (link).
According to Wikipedia (link):
"The Lion in Winter is a 1966 play by James Goldman, depicting the personal and political conflicts of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their children and their guests during Christmas, 1183. It premiered on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre on March 3, 1966, starring Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris, who won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Eleanor. It was adapted by Goldman into an Academy Award-winning 1968 film of the same name, starring Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn."
I used the site kickass.unblocked.bid to find a torrent file for The Lion In Winter (torrent name: "The Lion in Winter (1968) 720p BrRip x264 - YIFY"). I used the uTorrent client to download the video file.
Video file details:
Kind: MPEG-4 File
Size: 970.4 MB on disk (970,415,068 bytes)
Dimensions: 1280 x 544
Codecs: H.264, AAC
Audio channels: 2
Total bit rate: 960
SHA256 hash digest:
=== Some transcribed details from the video file:
[from near the beginning:]
an Avco Embassy film
Joseph E. Levine presents
in a Martin Poll production of
THE LION IN WINTER
Copyright © MCMLXVIII by Haworth Productions Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.
executive producer Joseph E. Levine
screenplay by James Goldman
based on the play "The Lion in Winter" by James Goldman
produced on Broadway by Eugene V. Wolsk, Walter A. Hyman, & Alan King in association with Emanuel Azenberg.
produced by Martin Poll
directed by Anthony Harvey
[from near the end:]
Eleanor of Aquitaine
MCMLXVIII in Roman numerals is 1968, so this confirms the year of release of the film.
[end of notes]