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Mrs. Anna Leonowens and her son Louis arrive in Bangkok, where she has been 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. After expressing her unhappiness at being with the King, the slave decides to make an attempt to escape with her lover. Anna and the King start to fall in love, but her headstrong upbringing inhibits her from joining his harem. She is just about to leave Siam but something important she finds out makes her think about changing her mind. Written by
Randy Goldberg <email@example.com>
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!" See more »
In the "Shall We Dance" sequence, Anna lays her shawl on the bench before the dance and the King sits on it. When the camera is on the king again, the shawl is no longer on the bench or on the floor. See more »
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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