All this week we'll be highlighting some of our favorite scenes from Oscar-winning films and performances leading up to this year's Academy Awards on Sunday night.
There will only ever be one "best actress" for me, and her name is Katherine Hepburn. As everyone knows, she racked up 12 nominations and 4 wins in her legendary career (a record beaten at last by Meryl Streep), and she earned them all without playing a prostitute, feigning mental or physical handicap, or wearing prosthetic make-up. Instead, she won for her performance as one of the most formidable queens European history has ever seen: Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her solo monologue, as featured above, proves why. When I featured this film as a Christmas favorite, one commenter noted that you never know when Eleanor is being honest. In this scene, the brilliant tactician is seemingly all alone, emotionally vulnerable, and shook up by Henry's devotion to the young Alais. But are we really seeing Eleanor, or is she merely weaving us in her political web?
Some facts about The Lion in Winter, as per IMDB and Alison Weir:
- Hepburn is reportedly descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine -- and not just from her marriage with Henry II, but from the children she had with her first husband, King Louis VII of France.
- Peter O'Toole was 25 years younger than Hepburn(!), which makes the real life age difference between Henry and Eleanor of 11 years seem pretty darn ordinary.
- All historical fact suggests Eleanor really did sleep with Henry's father, Geoffery, although no one knows for sure. She really did go to the Crusades and eyewitnesses describe her as having entered Constantinople dressed as an Amazon -- though not bare-breasted, as she claims to Henry.