King and I

King and I

4.8 22
Director: Walter Lang

Cast: Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner, Rita Moreno


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The King and I, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1951 Broadway musical hit, was based on Margaret Landon's book Anna and the King of Siam. Since 20th-Century-Fox had made a film version of the Landon book in 1946, that studio had first dibs on the movie adaptation of The King and I. Deborah Kerr plays English widow Anna Leonowens, who comesSee more details below


The King and I, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1951 Broadway musical hit, was based on Margaret Landon's book Anna and the King of Siam. Since 20th-Century-Fox had made a film version of the Landon book in 1946, that studio had first dibs on the movie adaptation of The King and I. Deborah Kerr plays English widow Anna Leonowens, who comes to Siam in the 1860s to tutor the many wives and children of the country's progressive King (Yul Brynner, recreating his Broadway role-and winning an Oscar in the process). The culture clash between Anna and the King is but one aspect of their multilayered relationship. Through Anna, the King learns the refineries and responsibilities of "modern" western civilization; Anna meanwhile comes to realize how important it is for an Oriental ruler to maintain his pride and to uphold the customs of his people. After a successful evening entertaining foreign dignitaries, Anna and the King celebrate with an energetic dance, but this is cut short by a bitter quarrel over the cruel punishment of the King's new Burmese wife Tuptim (Rita Moreno), who has dared to fall in love with someone else. Despite the many rifts between them, Anna and the monarch come to respect and (to a degree) love one another. When the King dies, Anna agrees to stay on to offer help and advice to the new ruler of Siam, young Prince Chulalongkhorn (Patrick Adiarte). In general, The King and I tends to be somewhat stagey, with the notable exception of the matchless "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet, which utilizes the Cinemascope 55 format to best advantage (the process also does a nice job of "handling" Deborah Kerr's voluminous hoopskirts). Most of the Broadway version's best songs ("Getting to Know You," "Whistle a Happy Tune," "A Puzzlement," "Shall We Dance" etc.) are retained. None of the omissions are particularly regrettable, save for Anna's solo "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" This feisty attack on the King's chauvinism was specially written to suit the talents of Gertrude Lawrence, who played Anna in the original production; the song was cut from the film because it made Deborah Kerr seem "too bitchy" (Kerr's singing, incidentally, is dubbed for the most part by the ubiquitous Marni Nixon). When all is said and done, the principal attraction of The King and I is Yul Brynner, in the role that made him a star and with which he will forever be identified.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
All the qualities that made Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway smash The King and I a memorable stage experience are faithfully translated to the big screen in this dynamic 1956 film version. Another brilliant musical treatment of a "straight" work (like State Fair, Oklahoma, and Carousel), King tells the story of widowed British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (winningly played by Deborah Kerr), who accepts a commission to educate the children of the Siamese king (Yul Brynner), a crafty potentate who at once realizes the need for his offspring's tutelage in Western ways yet resists the resultant liberation from tradition. Kerr, who benefits from Marni Nixon's dubbed-in singing voice, invests Anna with the requisite charm, tact, and subtlety, all the while maintaining a self-assuredness that frequently borders on the defiant. Re-creating his stage role, Brynner is outstanding as the petulant but not altogether dictatorial monarch. Among the supporting players, Rita Moreno excels as the King's slave Tuptim, and Carlos Rivas commands sympathy as her lover Lun Tha. Young Rex Thompson portrays Anna's young son with the proper mixture of youthful exuberance and impishness, and veteran character actor Alan Mowbray steals scenes left and right as a minor functionary befuddled by the teacher's growing influence over the king. Although four of the stage show's numbers were eliminated from the film, the best songs were retained, among them "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Getting to Know You," "Shall We Dance," and "Hello Young Lovers." Having achieved the rare distinction of being more satisfying than the original stage presentation, this memorable movie still holds up as pictorially exquisite, dramatically sound, musically exciting, and altogether glorious.
All Movie Guide
The King and I typifies the elaborate Broadway musical adaptations with which Hollywood studios often tried to fight the advance of television of 1950s. Shot in an extreme widescreen version of CinemaScope to counter the smallness of the TV screen, the film offers equally grand set design, costumes, and cinematography. The songs and performances are equally impressive: Yul Brynner won an Oscar for his career-best performance as the King of Siam; and Deborah Kerr's singing was dubbed by the capable Marni Nixon, who had been responsible for Natalie Wood's singing voice in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn's in My Fair Lady. Based on the book Anna and the King of Siam, the story has been filmed at least three times: as the 1946 drama Anna and the King of Siam; as an animated musical of the same name, in 1999; and the non-musical Anna and the King, also from that same year.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Deborah Kerr Anna Leonowens
Yul Brynner The King 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 British Ambassador
Geoffrey Toone Ramsay
Yuriko Eliza, in ballet
Marion Jim Simon Legree, in ballet
Robert Banas Keeper of the Dogs
Dusty Worrall Uncle Thomas, in ballet
Gernze de Lappe Specialty Dancer
Charles Irwin Ship's Captain
Leonard Strong Interpreter
Jadin Wong Amazon
Jean Wong Amazon
Weaver Levy Whipping Guard
William Yip High Priest
Eddie Luke Messenger
Josephine Smith Guest at Palace
Thomas and Dennis Bonifla Twins
Fuji Actor
Marni Nixon Anna (singing)

Technical Credits
Walter Lang Director
Charles Brackett Producer
Ken Darby Score Composer
John De Cuir Production Designer
Paul S. Fox Set Decoration/Design
Ernest Lehman Screenwriter
Alfred Newman Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Jerome Robbins Choreography
Richard Rodgers Score Composer
Rodgers & Hammerstein Score Composer
Walter Scott Set Decoration/Design
Leon Shamroy Cinematographer
Irene Sharaff Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert L. Simpson Editor
Lyle Wheeler Art Director

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