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AFI’s Salute to the Political Peter O’Toole

The late Peter O’Toole was most widely known for his star turn in “Lawrence of Arabia,” a masterful interpretation of British officer T.E. Lawrence’s Middle East adventures during World War I. But O’Toole excelled in another political role, that of England’s King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter,” and the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater is showing it next week. If you think there’s dysfunction and division in Washington, watch and learn the snakepit that was the English court that Henry presided over in the 12th century. No one could deliver weary but vicious lines with a sly smile like O’Toole.

It wasn’t the first time O’Toole had played Henry — he also starred with his pal Richard Burton in 1964’s “Becket.” The 1968 “Lion,” though, is a political and family drama that has Henry sparring — just in time for Christmas! — with his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) over the future of the country’s leadership. Henry wants to install his youngest son John, played by Nigel Terry, when the time is right. Eleanor prefers the elder Richard the Lionheart, played by Anthony Hopkins years before anyone knew who Hannibal Lecter was. The middle child, Geoffrey, played by John Castle, has plans of his own. And France’s King Philip II has something to say about it all, too.

Showing on Monday at 4:25 p.m. and Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. at the Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md.

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