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In 1862, young English widow Anna Owens accepts the job of teaching the royal children of Siam. On her arrival in Bangkok, culture clash is immediate. The king respects Anna for standing up to him, though this appalls his courtiers. In due course, she becomes the king's confidant and diplomatic advisor; their relationship endures through many trials. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rex Harrison thoroughly enjoyed co-starring with Irene Dunne. He thought her "an excellent actress" and was pleased that she had the confidence to follow her own instincts. He recalled, "She too went her own way and tactfully used the director, as I later learned to do myself, to her own advantage; she listened to what he had to give, and discarded it or used it, as she wished." See more »
As the various Consulates are being established, there are several errors involving the national flags; the British Union Jack is shown upside down, the French flag is replaced by that of The Netherlands, and the US flag is shown with 48 stars (correct for 1946, but in 1870 there were only 37 states). See more »
[the Kralahome has just arrived to tell King Mongkut of the loss of Cambodia. Anna, meanwhile, continues to press the King about the issue of a private residence, to the point where even the King's staff members are singing "Home, Sweet Home"]
Your Majesty! It has begun, Toongramon. We've lost Cambodia. Our governor of Cambodia has made a treaty with the French government. They have recognized Cambodia as independent of Siam, placed it under their "protection," and this governor of ours still ...
[...] See more »
This has always been my favorite version of this story.
Why? Not just because it was done first (1946); that is, before the King and I (Play-1951; Film-1956), does it make it better. Not because the original story was a drama rather a lively Broadway musical. Not even because the story was written by a woman about a woman and not about a man as was shifted later by Brynner.
The performances by Irene Dunne, Rex Harrison, the production values, the direction are all done at such a fine intimate level. The true nuance of the hardship that Anna went through in her dealings with this imperial king is felt throughout. The musical never depicts this which such finely-wrought detail and care.
With our 21st century sensibilities we might think that there is something goofy about Rex's performance. Does anyone really know what life was in 19th Century Siam? I believe this even after reading about the difficulty Harrison had with the depiction of this role. There is nothing Charlie Chan-ish about this performance. The strictness and order of the Asian mindset does create a cultural chasm at times for us in the West. The Asian languages are structured differently than our Western languages. The use of articles is almost non-existent, therefore the sometimes stilted manner of vocal delivery may sound staccato. The Asian vocal chords are sometimes different from Western vocal chords. There exists a predominance of higher pitched voices. And so what of it? Was the King and I more real than this movie? The only thing that can be said about Brynner is that he is physically more imposing than Harrison and Brynner has a rather slight Mongolian aspect to him which brings more authenticity to his appearance.
Finally and besides my objections above, ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM is movie full of heart and compassion. Each turn of events is handled with care and not given a Hollywood finish and sheen. ANNA is recommended hands down.
The finale, though some jaded observers would dismiss as formulaic, is indeed a grand and quiet moment not to be missed.
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