Billy Bigelow has been dead for fifteen years, and now outside the pearly gates, he long waived his right to go back to Earth for a day. But he has heard that there is a problem with his ... See full summary »
Mrs. Anna Leonowens and her son Louis arrive in Bangkok, where she has contracted to teach English to the children of the royal household. She threatens to leave when the house she had been promised is not available, but falls in love with the children. A new slave, a gift of a vassal king, translates "Uncle Tom's Cabin" into a Siamese ballet, expressing her unhappiness at being with the King. She attempts to escape with her lover. Anna and the King fall in love, but her British upbringing inhibits her from joining his harem. She is just about to leave Siam when she hears of the King's imminent death, and returns to help his son, her favorite pupil, rule his people. Written by
Randy Goldberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The credits first say "Twentieth-Century Fox presents a Cinemascope Picture in Cinemascope 55", and then they go on to say "Darryl F. Zanuck presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I'". See more »
Known best as a musical version of 1946 FOX film "Anna and the King of Siam" starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, "The King and I" often takes a back seat to "The Sound of Music". Whilst the latter is both my favourite all time movie and musical, "The King and I" is only second to it. Most of this, is due in part to the wonderful performances of Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner and a delightful supporting cast.
Musical characters have been immortalised by few in the time musicals were fashionable. A few would be Julie Andrews' Maria, Gene Kelly's character from "Singin' in the Rain", Judy Garland's Dorothy and James Cagney's George M. Cohan from the biopic "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Brynner, in his best and most defining role, has forever left his mark on the King, arrogantly fierce, so simple, so desperate, so true.
Although not a singer and well known to be dubbed by Marni Nixon, the 'ghost' favourite of Hollywood musicals, Deborah Kerr gives another beautiful and loved performance as the English governess, with son Louis, travels to 1860s Siam to be tutor to the Royal children. Her performance demanded character, command and charm, and Kerr managed to successfully combine all three in a memorable performance.
But it is the Rodgers and Hammerstein score that tops it all off. The element of the screenplay in the FOX movie adaptions was not always the strongest. Tentative and urging was "Something Wonderful". "I Whistle a Happy Tune", bright, calming and inspirational. "Getting to Know You" sets the mood of happiness, "Hello, Young Lovers" keeps a note of optimism, and the rich, lush score of the overture and throughout the film make it memorable. But it is "Shall We Dance?", a joyful song that I believe to be the best of the lot. Although it is melodiously challenged because of Gertrude Lawrence's low voice range, it is still one of the best of the duo's scores.
Cinemascope, used first in the first of the Rodgers and Hammerstein movies of the year "Carousel", provided opportunities to open up moments in the picture. On a widescreen print, only then can the real grandeur, splendour and colour of the enormous sets and opulence of the movie itself can be fully appreciated.
Despite my love for the musical, since viewing both "Anna and the King of Siam" and the new Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat movie "Anna and the King", the flaws in what was previously believed to be an accurate and true account of Anna Leonowens story, have unfortunately ruined the musical, both in Anna's life and the depiction of the Siamese court. The non-musical versions have been obviously more historically accurate, and the comparison of the three different FOX versions have all been noticably scripted to the fit the time of release.
But I have not yet allowed that to get in the way of enjoying a great musical. With "Anna and the King" as my favourite movie of 1999 of the moment, I hope it won't spoil things further.
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