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The King And I (1956)
After the death of her husband, Anna Owens moves from England to Siam with her son Louis to become a teacher for the children of the king of Siam. She finds Siamese customs to be quite different from English ones, which brings her often in conflict with the king. However, after some time they find themselves getting along much better.
Deborah Kerr ... Anna Leonowens
Yul Brynner ... King Mongkut of Siam
Rita Moreno ... Tuptim
Martin Benson ... Kralahome
Terry Saunders ... Lady Thiang
Rex Thompson ... Louis Leonowens
Carlos Rivas ... Lun Tha
Patrick Adiarte ... Prince Chulalongkorn
Alan Mowbray ... Sir John Hay
Geoffrey Toone ... Sir Edward Ramsay
Director: Walter Lang
Music: Richard Rodgers / Oscar Hammerstein II
XVid / AC3
"The King and I" was a personal triumph for Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence when the musical made its debut on Broadway. The king of the story seemed to be tailor-made for Mr. Brynner, who made it his signature role and returned with it to the musical theater, again and again.
As captured in film, directed by Walter Lang, "The King and I" is quite a splendid showcase for Mr. Brynner. Since Ms. Lawrence was not chosen to repeat the role of Anna that she created on the stage, her substitute was Deborah Kerr, an immensely talented actress who was a delight in any of the films she graced with her talent and charm.
As a spectacle, this movie is full of exotic colors of what Hollywood thought Siam would look like in the years where the story takes place. The film works as well because of the charismatic performance of Yul Brynner and the terrific chemistry he and Ms. Kerr projected in the film.
All the elements of a Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical are in place. The music serves the story being told. "The King and I" will charm its viewers because of the amazing impact Yul Brynner made in it.
In the Golden Age of musical movies, Rodgers and Hammerstein took three looks at the clashes of Eastern and Western cultures: Joshua Logan's "South Pacific," Henry Koster's "Flower Drum Song" and "The King and I."
'The King and I' derived from Margaret Landon's fascinating novel 'Anna and the King of Siam.' The film concerns a genteel British governess who, with a son of her own, journeys from England to 19th century Siam (now Thailand) to instruct the king's many children, in the ways of the West...
Upon her arrival in 1862, the uptight widow immediately clashes with the powerful ruler over his refusal to give her 'a brick residence' of her own outside the walls of the palace as had been promised...
As the film progresses, and in a world where women had basically no rights, the 'very difficult' governess learns to temper her outrage at the Siamese court and its treatment of women.. And while she was admiring the king's personality and brilliant mind, she quickly discovered that the major challenge facing her is much more in the education of the volatile king than of his cute family...
Despite his open-mindedness about other cultures, the proud bald king was besieged by both colonial powers and Siamese traditionalists... At least in private, he consults Anna on how to handle the threats against Siam from England, Burma, and France... He turns a deaf ear to her complaints about having to live in the royal palace, and fascinated by science and geography.. he gives 'a puzzlement,' the proper mixture of arrogance, wonder, and confusion...
In this historical account of conflicting cultures and sexual mores, we watch two people of very different backgrounds drawing apart and then together, culminating in that most moving and triumphant of moments, when they dance together for the first time... The image of Anna is swept 'high up' by the king as they whirl across the palace floor... His bare feet seductively touching lightly the edge of her satin gown...
When the king tells Anna that something is not correct with the way they are dancing, and extends his right hand to place it around her waist, it's the climax of a romantic love that never ignites...
This good-hearted story, enriched by some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most enduring tunes, permits the meeting of two polar cultures explored with wit and humor... It permits us also to enter into the complex mind of a stubborn king, stern and imperious, whose words and whims become the law of Siam..). But the king is graceful, comic and virile... And into the feelings of an intelligent woman equally-stubborn, intrigued, and deeply irritated by a man, that quickly found she was also instructing him in the niceties of dancing and dining...
Brynner is irresistible and seductive, a towering figure as the king... He is blessed with a resonant baritone voice, both for speaking and singing... His stance, fierce, and magnetic eyes (denoting a royal leader who cannot be questioned or denied) have an optimum vision and an inquisitiveness that reflect an agile mind as well as a vulnerable heart... He is humorous without imagining it, particularly when receiving the bows of his adorable children...
Like Yul Brynner, Kerr radiates charisma, and the two work well together... From their first meeting to their last tearful parting, the give and take of their relationship provides the performance its emotional spark...
The supporting cast is also strong...
Rita Moreno is Tuptim's ill-fated lover who criticizes the system of slavery and concubinage and voices her desire to be free; Carlos Rivas carries his role comfortably as her Burmese beau, Lun Tha; Terry Saunders arouses Anna's sympathy for Tuptim by explaining that she and Lun Tha are deeply in love; Martin Benson plays Kralahome, the King's right hand man; Patrick Adiarte brings tears to our eyes and pride to our hearts in his far-seeing strength of character necessary to bring the film to a triumphant finish...
Graced with a rich and singularly beautiful score, and skillfully directed by Walter Lang, 'The King and I' was nominated for nine Academy Awards... It received five, including the Best Actor Award to Brynner... The sets and scenery are gorgeous, and Lang did everything to convey its grandeur... You'll certainly love the impressive procession ("March of the Royal Siamese Children") when the king summons his sixty-seven children to meet their delicate schoolteacher...
Under Lang's direction, 'The King and I' proves to be the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptations, for reasons that involve East-meets-West flirtation, racism and authoritarianism, pageantry and spectacle, female determination coming up against vanity, civilization against barbarism, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...
* Although this movie was filmed and promoted in the then-new 55mm CinemaScope 55, it was actually shown in the standard 35mm CinemaScope, with 4-channel stereo rather than the 6-channel stereo originally promised. CinemaScope 55 was never used or promoted again after this production.
* At one point, Fox executives suggested that the story be changed so that the King would be gored by a white elephant, rather than become ill because of a personal humiliation. Understandably, this made Yul Brynner furious, and he insisted that the story stick to the stage version.
* Dorothy Dandridge was the original choice for the role of Tuptim, but turned it down. The role later went to 'Rita Moreno' .
* In Thailand (previously called Siam) the royal family is held in very high esteem. This film is banned in Thailand due to its real historical inaccuracies and the perceived disrespect to the monarchy. The real Prince Chulalongkorn grew up to be an especially good king and led the way for modernization, improved relations with the west, and instituted many important cultural and social reforms in Thailand.
* Marni Nixon said that she realized the keys of Anna's songs were very low for her - "very contralto keys" - and that she was really too young (just 21) to be able to sound "adult" and "womanly". Hence, a modifier was placed in Nixon's microphone, to make her voice sound deeper and more mature. "I have a very light, bright ring to my voice, and I tried to take that out" she said. "But they were able to use this modifier to emphasize the lower partials of my voice. I also remember having a terrible cold at the time, not being able to breathe in those recording sessions. But that probably helped in matching Deborah's voice, deepening it."
* Leona Gordon was hired to augment the singing of 'Rita Moreno' .
* 'Rita Moreno' said that the heavy Siamese headdresses she and the ballet dancers wore in "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet sequence gave all of them headaches, which lasted for days.
* The cost of the film was ten times more than that of the original lavish Broadway production.
* The short scene in which Anna is taken through the streets of Bangkok to the King's palace by the royal entourage required 25 sets on a three-acre area on the Fox backlot, not counting the stables for the elephants used in the sequence.
* Marlon Brando was briefly considered for the role of the King of Siam.
* Deborah Kerr's gowns, designed by Irene Sharaff, each weighed between 30 and 40 pounds, due to all the pleats, hoops and petticoats.
* Baking under the hot lights on-set, Deborah Kerr lost over 12 pounds, and would often refer to herself as "The melting Miss Kerr".
* Marni Nixon was hired on a six-week contract, and she was to be at the studio every day that Deborah Kerr rehearsed a scene with a song in it. Nixon would actually stand next to Kerr and walk through the whole scene - both of them singing - and Nixon would be looking closely at Kerr's facial expressions to try to imitate her speech pattern in the songs.
* Darryl F. Zanuck first cast Maureen O'Hara as "Anna" because she was not only gorgeous but had a fine soprano voice and would not have to be dubbed. When Zanuck told her the news, she immediately sent sample recordings of her voice. Richard Rodgers agreed that O'Hara had a great voice but reportedly said, "No pirate queen is going to play my Anna!"
* It was Yul Brynner who pushed for Deborah Kerr to be cast as Anna. He had seen some of her stage work, was highly impressed with her and was convinced that she was the one for the role.
* It was announced, early on, that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II would write a set of new songs for this film adaptation of their 1951 hit Broadway musical, but of course, this wasn't to be so.
* Three musical numbers were recorded, and allegedly shot, but subsequently deleted. They were:
o "My Lord and Master" (a ballad sung by Tuptim shortly after her arrival in the palace)
o "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" (a soliloquy for Anna, in which she comically expresses her anger towards the King)
o "I Have Dreamed" (another duet for Tuptim and Lun Tha)
o It was felt that "My Lord and Master" and "I Have Dreamed" didn't do much to advance the plot, and that "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" would make Anna sound too whiny and nagging. All three numbers can still be heard on the soundtrack album, however.
* The opening verse of "Song of the King" was recorded, but later deleted. It can be heard on the soundtrack album.
* A choral reprisal of "I Whistle a Happy Tune" was recorded, but subsequently deleted. It can still be heard on the soundtrack album.
* Dinah Shore, who was a singer as well as an actress, was initially considered for the role of Anna Leonowens.
* Although Walter Lang is given sole directorial credit on the film, Yul Brynner repeatedly clashed with him and made many of the directorial suggestions which found their way into the finished film.
* The play was written for Gertrude Lawrence and her appearance in the film version was contractually guaranteed. However, shortly after the show opened she was diagnosed with cancer, and she died while still playing the role on Broadway.
* The subplot involving Tuptim, although heavily altered by Hammerstein in the play to make it more of a definite romance between Tuptim and Lun Tha, was once thought to have a basis in reality, but it has turned out to be completely fictional, part of the embellishments that the real Anna Leonowens added to her autobiography during her years as governess and schoolteacher to the King's children.
* Marni Nixon dubbed Deborah Kerr's singing in the film.
* The reality of the "Shall We Dance" sequence was that Deborah Kerr suffered continual bruising from the hoops in her skirt, and Yul Brynner - a heavy chain-smoker who had already lost a lung to his habit - had to take oxygen in between takes.
* Art directors John DeCuir and Lyle R. Wheeler spent $750,000 designing the 40 sets required for the film.
* Both Yul Brynner and writer Ernest Lehman were determined to include the song "It's a Puzzlement" in the film, but this idea was refused by hands-on producer and 20th Century Fox head, Darryl F. Zanuck. He did relent on this to the extent that if he deemed that the film needed it upon completion, then he would allow for reshoots. This is exactly what happened. "It's a Puzzlement" was shot, as indeed was an opening sequence showing Anna and her son arriving in Bangkok, all to the tune of an additional $400,000.