The King and I
Directed by Walter Lang
Written by Ernest Lehman based on the musical play by Oscar Hammerstein III based on Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
When Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr begin to polka, I know I am in musical movie heaven.
Anna Leonowens (Kerr) arrives in Bangkok with her young son to take up a position teaching the children of the King of Siam (Brynner) and his many wives. The King is interested in making Siam more Western and “scientific”. At the same time, he is bound by hundreds of years of tradition that have made him an autocratic ruler. Anna’s first struggle is when he refuses to give her the private house he has promised her and requires her to live in the women’s quarters of the palace.
Over time, the King comes to rely more and more on Anna’s counsel. This comes to play particularly when the King fears that Siam will become a European colony,. Anna helps him organize an elaborate banquet to convince the British Ambassador that he is not a barbarian. Unfortunately, some ancient prerogatives prove to be a bridge too far for the King. With Rita Moreno as the King’s slave and cocubine.
Yul Brynner had years on Broadway to perfect this role and perfect it he did. It all feels very fresh, though. He brings to the part just the right blend of stubborness and doubt. Brynner is the principal reason to see this film but Kerr is very good as well and the production is lavish and beautiful. We don’t even have a dream ballet! Instead, we get a production of “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” a Siamese-flavored retelling of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This always holds my interest. Recommended.
The King and I won Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actor; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; Best Sound, Recording, and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actress; Best Director; and Best Cinematography, Color.