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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A wonderful musical that will be loved and remembered forever!
In the 1860's Mrs Anna Owens was appointed by the King of Siam as the teacher of his children. He wanted to give them (and himself) a "modern" education, to impress visiting dignitaries with how up-to-date he was, so that they would accept him as a world leader, like them. He thought it would be a simple communication of knowledge and understanding, like someone learning a new set of jargon.
This naive and misguided motive, seeking to impress without really wanting modernity, produced a clash of cultures. Fortunately for all of us (and especially for the film industry) Anna kept a scrupulous and detailed diary of the whole affair. It was made into a film starring Rex Harrison, which was rather more historically accurate than this musical version, and was a very appealing film in many ways.
This film, however, has become legendary. Although it is based on the principle "Never let historical facts get in the way of a great musical", that doesn't matter at all, because it is a truly great and deeply moving romantic musical film. For example, has there ever been a more loving love-song than "Something Wonderful", which the king's number one wife sings in explanation of her devotion to him? I seriously doubt it! It's one of the best-written songs of all time, and could only have been written by someone who truly understood love!
The simple charm and joyful exuberance of "Getting to Know You", the unforgettable "Hello Young Lovers" which is a message of hope and encouragement to all those who love under difficult circumstances, "Whistle a Happy Tune" which helps when we are frightened and alone, and all the other songs have become famous.
Yul Brynner, who had been a relatively unknown bit-part actor with hair, shaved his head and gave a towering performance for the part, then spent the rest of his life basking in the glory of that one role! Deborah Kerr, who had given so many exquisite performances in so many films, also rose to the occasion in this one. Rita Moreno, who was a pin-up girl as well as one of the world's greatest actresses, is beautiful as the runaway slave.
It's a film that everyone must see at least once, especially now that they've put out a restored version. I've given it 10 out of ten.
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