The King and I (1956) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
89 Reviews
Sort by:
10/10
Brynner is irresistible and seductive, a towering figure as the king...
Nazi_Fighter_David17 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
In the Golden Age of musical movies, Rodgers and Hammerstein took three looks at the clashes of Eastern and Western cultures: Joshua Logan's "South Pacific," Henry Koster's "Flower Drum Song" and "The King and I."

'The King and I' derived from Margaret Landon's fascinating novel 'Anna and the King of Siam.' The film concerns a genteel British governess who, with a son of her own, journeys from England to 19th century Siam (now Thailand) to instruct the king's many children, in the ways of the West...

Upon her arrival in 1862, the uptight widow immediately clashes with the powerful ruler over his refusal to give her 'a brick residence' of her own outside the walls of the palace as had been promised...

As the film progresses, and in a world where women had basically no rights, the 'very difficult' governess learns to temper her outrage at the Siamese court and its treatment of women.. And while she was admiring the king's personality and brilliant mind, she quickly discovered that the major challenge facing her is much more in the education of the volatile king than of his cute family...

Despite his open-mindedness about other cultures, the proud bald king was besieged by both colonial powers and Siamese traditionalists... At least in private, he consults Anna on how to handle the threats against Siam from England, Burma, and France... He turns a deaf ear to her complaints about having to live in the royal palace, and fascinated by science and geography.. he gives 'a puzzlement,' the proper mixture of arrogance, wonder, and confusion...

In this historical account of conflicting cultures and sexual mores, we watch two people of very different backgrounds drawing apart and then together, culminating in that most moving and triumphant of moments, when they dance together for the first time... The image of Anna is swept 'high up' by the king as they whirl across the palace floor... His bare feet seductively touching lightly the edge of her satin gown...

When the king tells Anna that something is not correct with the way they are dancing, and extends his right hand to place it around her waist, it's the climax of a romantic love that never ignites...

This good-hearted story, enriched by some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most enduring tunes, permits the meeting of two polar cultures explored with wit and humor... It permits us also to enter into the complex mind of a stubborn king, stern and imperious, whose words and whims become the law of Siam..). But the king is graceful, comic and virile... And into the feelings of an intelligent woman equally-stubborn, intrigued, and deeply irritated by a man, that quickly found she was also instructing him in the niceties of dancing and dining...

Brynner is irresistible and seductive, a towering figure as the king... He is blessed with a resonant baritone voice, both for speaking and singing... His stance, fierce, and magnetic eyes (denoting a royal leader who cannot be questioned or denied) have an optimum vision and an inquisitiveness that reflect an agile mind as well as a vulnerable heart... He is humorous without imagining it, particularly when receiving the bows of his adorable children...

Like Yul Brynner, Kerr radiates charisma, and the two work well together... From their first meeting to their last tearful parting, the give and take of their relationship provides the performance its emotional spark...

The supporting cast is also strong...

Rita Moreno is Tuptim's ill-fated lover who criticizes the system of slavery and concubinage and voices her desire to be free; Carlos Rivas carries his role comfortably as her Burmese beau, Lun Tha; Terry Saunders arouses Anna's sympathy for Tuptim by explaining that she and Lun Tha are deeply in love; Martin Benson plays Kralahome, the King's right hand man; Patrick Adiarte brings tears to our eyes and pride to our hearts in his far-seeing strength of character necessary to bring the film to a triumphant finish...

Graced with a rich and singularly beautiful score, and skillfully directed by Walter Lang, 'The King and I' was nominated for nine Academy Awards... It received five, including the Best Actor Award to Brynner... The sets and scenery are gorgeous, and Lang did everything to convey its grandeur... You'll certainly love the impressive procession ("March of the Royal Siamese Children") when the king summons his sixty-seven children to meet their delicate schoolteacher...

Under Lang's direction, 'The King and I' proves to be the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptations, for reasons that involve East-meets-West flirtation, racism and authoritarianism, pageantry and spectacle, female determination coming up against vanity, civilization against barbarism, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...
36 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A Hollywood fairy tale
jlacerra25 June 2001
Having read most of the comments on this picture, I was astonished to see how little understood this classic musical is. Yes, it takes place in 19th century Siam, but it is a fairy tale Siam in the same sense as the fairy tale Paris in An American in Paris. It is not supposed to be a true representation of Asian life. Wake up, Folks! Its a Hollywood adaptation of a Broadway musical! Let's leave the realism to Phat and Foster.

This picture, with its infectious score and dynamic performances, is one of the best of its genre. Who can fail to see the sexual tension between the two leads? Who can not marvel at the entrance of the royal children (check out Brynner's different reaction to each child). How can one not applaud the fantastic House of Uncle Thomas performance at the diplomatic dinner. How can your heart not reel to Shall We Dance?

This is old-line Hollywood at its very best, and may be the last truly great musical. Check your historical, racial, and PC hats at the door and don't miss it!
55 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A magnificent, emotionally packed unusual love story
mrussnow29 October 2000
I originally saw THE KING AND I at the Roxy Theatre in New York when I was ten years old. My grandmother took me after a day trip to the Statue of Liberty, and I was expecting to see one of my favorites, Jan Clayton, the star of LASSIE, in the starring role.

When the movie unfolded I was enraptured by the beautiful redhead playing the lead and realized it wasn't Miss Clayton (whom I later learned had played in the road version of the show, and kids that age don't really know the difference). I went out into the theatre lobby and looked at the ornate program, which listed Mrs. Anna as Deborah Kerr.

What an impression this woman has had on my life over the years from the retelling of the classic tale of the British woman who comes to Siam to teach the king's children. It is superb, not only musically, but from a story standpoint holds up as the best of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. It is essentially a women's lib story, which makes it as relevant today as it was fifty years ago when it premiered on Broadway.

The fiery, but compassionate Mrs. Anna who is at first turned off by the king and then charmed by him, and who little by little changes him from a near-despot to a man who can grow.

The subplots are fanciful, but lovely and, in the ballet of Uncle Tom, as performed by Tuptim draw a direct analogy to the unpleasant lives endured by Siamese slaves, in particular women. It does so with majesty and intelligence, no less so than Arthur Miller did in "The Crucible," contrasting the Salem Witch Trials with the awful McCarthy political witchhunts on Capitol Hill.

It is an extraordinary achievement, and it is shocking that it did not even make the top 100 AFI films a year ago. It is continually fresh and alive, and every time there is a festival or re-release it does well. Indeed, a few years ago it was shown on a huge screen at The Hollywood Bowl, with orchestral accompaniment, and it was a smash again.

My only regret is that Deborah Kerr (six times nominated for an Oscar) was not gifted with an Academy Award along with her co-star Yul Brynner.

It is a film that should be seen for generations to come.
36 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera
jotix10020 June 2005
"The King and I" was a personal triumph for Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence when the musical made its debut on Broadway. The king of the story seemed to be tailor-made for Mr. Brynner, who made it his signature role and returned with it to the musical theater, again and again.

As captured in film, directed by Walter Lang, "The King and I" is quite a splendid showcase for Mr. Brynner. Since Ms. Lawrence was not chosen to repeat the role of Anna that she created on the stage, her substitute was Deborah Kerr, an immensely talented actress who was a delight in any of the films she graced with her talent and charm.

As a spectacle, this movie is full of exotic colors of what Hollywood thought Siam would look like in the years where the story takes place. The film works as well because of the charismatic performance of Yul Brynner and the terrific chemistry he and Ms. Kerr projected in the film.

All the elements of a Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical are in place. The music serves the story being told. "The King and I" will charm its viewers because of the amazing impact Yul Brynner made in it.
33 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
So Many Happy Tunes
bkoganbing27 August 2007
The King and I has been my favorite Rodgers&Hammerstein show for many years. I love the score and the only real criticism I have of this film version is that it did not contain the entire score from the Broadway show. It also did not contain the magical performance of Gertrude Lawrence in her final role. But that was beyond the scope of 20th Century Fox and Darryl Zanuck.

The versions of The King and I that we usually see performed give emphasis to the role of the King. As Gertrude Lawrence was dying in 1952 she made a deathbed request that the billing on the show be changed and that Yul Brynner be given top billing instead of whatever female would be replacing Lawrence as Anna Leonowens. That was done and it has remained so ever since.

The role of King Mongkut of Siam became like Dracula was for Bela Lugosi, a part that no matter what else he did, Yul Brynner couldn't escape from. The air of authority he establishes as the King holds you and binds you to every move he makes in the part. I'm told that as good as this screen version is, to see him on stage was the real deal. The critical acclaim he got from the Broadway run no doubt led to him winning an Oscar as Best Actor for 1956.

Standing in for Gertrude Lawrence quite ably is Deborah Kerr who got one of her several nominations for Best Actress for this film. Unfortunately her voice is dubbed by that well known vocal stand-in Marni Nixon as is Rita Moreno as Tuptim and Carlos Rivas as Lun Tha the second romantic leads. The part does call more for an actress than a singer. Gertrude Lawrence was the very best of both.

So many popular standards come from this score, more than any other score Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II wrote. From philosophical tunes like Getting to Know You and I Whistle a Happy Tune and such romantic ballads as Hello Young Lovers, We Kiss in a Shadow, Something Wonderful and Shall We Dance will be done forever. Somewhere now on planet earth there is some theatrical company doing the King and I and performing these great songs. You can't also forget those that didn't make the cut here like I Have Dreamed and My Lord and Master.

The most interesting song that Dick and Oscar wrote is the solo for the King, A Puzzlement. It's very similar to the Soliliquy in Carousel where the song explains all the character motivations of Billy Bigelow. King Mongkut, a very real historic figure who wanted very much to move his country into the modern era, but his entire upbringing fights against his desire. A Puzzlement is a wonderful number that goes into the problems of governing and not just for monarchies. Listen to Hammerstein's lyrics, they are very much relevant today.

I visited Thailand in 1999 and learned a great deal about the country in those two days. King Mongkut's descendants rule today as constitutional and beloved monarchs. In fact this film which probably did more to encourage tourism to Thailand than anything else is banned in that country. Because it shows the king in what the Thais feel as an irreverent light. It is indeed a puzzlement.

The film has preserved forever one of the great Broadway shows of all time forevermore. Reason enough to see it and whistle its happy tunes.
18 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Wonderful, glorious colour and Brynner in his finest hour.
Brynner is so strongly identified with this role that it is difficult to remember him in anything else. He gives his all in this performance, sometimes way over the top, but it fits with this movie which is in itself over the top, offering us the Hollywood version of Siam and introducing 1955 sensibilities to the era of 1862. No matter.

The musical numbers are great and hummable, most done by Marni Nixon, who dubbed for so many in that era of endless musicals and no-voice stars.

People who protest about the insensibility and racial aspect of these musicals (Showboat and South Pacific, etc. also comes to mind)don't get it - that this is a musical, composed about an unenlightened era and is not a documentary and cannot be taken seriously.

The play within the play is truly magical, I could watch it over and over again, it is a perfect little opera.

Deborah Kerr is terrific in this and should have received an Oscar. I felt sorry for the boy who played her son - I think they appeared again together in Tea and Sympathy, but I could be wrong - there was not much to his role, he had to stand around and just be pretty and nod at his mother a lot. Very difficult.

Rita Moreno excelled as usual.

8 out of 10. Not to be missed.
23 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A wonderful musical that will be loved and remembered forever!
Eva Ionesco21 December 1999
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.
26 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The King and I: All About A Great Film ****
edwagreen17 February 2006
Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner lit up the screen with this 1956 great film as English teacher, Anna, who takes a position as tutor to the king of Siam's children and along the way finds adventure and love, be it ever so brief.

A widow, accompanied by her son, around the time of the American Civil War, Anna soon finds cultural differences exist to a great deal between the two societies.

Yul Brynner, as the king, does a magnificent job depicting those differences.

The music and dancing are enchanting though Marnie Nixon sings for Miss Kerr.

Look for brief appearances by Rita Moreno as a young lover caught among the kingdoms social mores.

" Getting to Know You," a lovely tuneful song sets the mood for this charming, romantic, endearing film. Great picture for children as well. Be brave young lovers, so eloquently done, in a masterful production producing yet another Oscar losing nomination for Deborah Kerr. 1956 was a big year for Brynner. Besides this great film, where he received the best actor Oscar, he also appeared in "The Ten Commandments," and "Anastasia."
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Best musical EVER
Cara2 July 2005
Though I don't remember the first time I saw the movie it was a movie I grew up on. I grew up on Rodgers and Hammerstein and have loved all (but State Fair) of their movies that I've seen. And I have to say that this movie is their very best and the very best musical ever made. Yul Brynner was great and was very deserving of the best actor Oscar. I love every thing about this movie and it tugs on my heartstrings every time I watch it. Even know I know how it will end a huge lump comes to my throat as my heart sings when he dances with her across the room just wishing that they can be together some how.If a movie can move you like that every time, than it's top notch and The King and I does it best.
15 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A musical classic
Calysta16 January 2000
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.

Rating: 10/10
13 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
3/10
Good......If You Like This Sort Of Thing ('50s Musicals)
ccthemovieman-125 January 2008
This is a kind of genre thing, meaning you either like the 1950s musicals or you don't. If you do, you'll love this. Personally, I prefer the 1930s and most of the '40s musicals with the dancing talents of Astaire and Rogers, and Eleanor Powell, Bill Robinson, Ruby Keeler, James Cagney, Shirley Temple and so forth but the songs of the '50s, the slower dance numbers and the soapy melodramas of the decade all turn me off.

This film is a case-in-point. The first song was okay but the next three did nothing for me. By then, the story didn't have much appeal, either. The presence of Deborah Kerr is another minus. I don't think I've seen a movie she starred in that I liked, including this one, where the goody two-shoes English teacher she portrays spends half the movie threatening to leave Siam. (I which she had!).

However, divorcing myself from likes-and-dislikes, there is no denying this Rogers and Hammerstein production has a lot of appeal to many folks, particularly those who liked "The Sound Of Music" a decade later. There are similarities in the R&H musicals. Thus, if you liked the Julie Andrews flick, you should like this, too.

This is a Lavish production with, yes, a capital "L." This is the kind of big-production musicals you rarely saw after that generation. You also get the dubbed singers, unlike today, where the actress isn't able to really sing so Marnie Nixon comes to rescue of Kerr, as she did with Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady."

Yul Brynner is "King Mongkut" and is the stereotypical traditionalist, the kind filmmakers always portray in a negative way. He isn't "progressive," as the left wingers like the say, but the education teacher (Kerr, as "Anna Leonowens") will set him straight. Secular-progressives of today always place teachers higher than people trying to cure cancer! However, Yul is good in this role and even employs some comedy along with his more-bark-than-bite character. Justifiably, he is the big star of this film. Brynner had magnetism. Even in "The Magnificent Seven," Yul was the one cowboy who mesmerized the audience.

In summary, it's a fine movie for its day and millions of people enjoyed it. I'll leave it at that.
16 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
a decent musical marred by two big problems
MartinHafer9 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The music is lovely and the is a very visually pleasing film as well. However, two outstanding problems really prevented this movie from being anything other than just average.

First, the movie DIDN'T have an ending. After running about 2 hours, the king inexplicably announces he is feeling depressed and is about to die. Everyone cries and then the king (so vigorous only a scene or two before) just drops dead! Huh? Were they running out of film so they slapped on this ending?! Second, and probably more important is the fact that the movie portrays the King of Siam as some sort of idiot who needs the educated Westerner to show him what a boob he really is. The best example is the king's idea to send President Lincoln a herd of MALE elephants so they can populate the forests of America. NO ONE is that stupid! This is made worst by the fact that the REAL king was college educated (Cambridge or some other high-brow school) and Anna was by far the less intelligent of the two. This just seems rather insulting the way they are portrayed in the film.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lively songs, fiery Brynner, very entertaining
long-ford25 February 2009
Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner give spirited performances in 'The King and I', a musical adaptation of Margaret Landon's book. Brynner in particular brings an athleticism and intensity to his role which won him an academy award. The two share an unusual chemistry. The film is dated but remains entertaining and ranks among the best musicals of the fifties. The music is very enjoyable with several catchy tunes which are well choreographed. I specially liked "A Puzzlement" and "Shall We Dance". Some parts are a bit corny but the film is still well worth watching.

Overall 8/10
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Terrific
Neil Welch1 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Films and stage shows come from the oddest sources. The diaries of Anna Leonowens, the English nanny/tutor to the children of King Mongkut of Siam are not the most obvious choice to be turned into a musical, yet the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage show was enormously successful, as was the film which inevitably followed. And the reasons why are easy to see.

The culture clash story is engaging, being both entertaining and thoughtful. The performances are all good, with Deborah Kerr being excellent, and Yul Brynner perfect: regal, mercurial, thoughtful, imposing, and humorous. It is a most human portrayal of a man whose position often required him to suppress his humanity. The production value (with a small caveat for an element of staginess) is spectacular and sumptuous.

And the songs... Rodgers and Hammerstein never came up with a bad song, but all the songs in The King And I - every last one of them - is a showstopper.

A wonderful film.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
Stick with The Sound of Music
wglenn28 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Yul Brynner is highly entertaining, the sets and costumes are impressive, and there are a couple of interesting or funny moments, but The King and I is fairly dull and shallow most of the time. Lang's direction crawls along, Lehman's script is surprisingly weak, and the main character - Kerr's Anna - is too priggish and tiresome to be very much fun. (Where's Julie Andrews' Maria when you need her?) Most disappointing of all are the songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which are mostly unmemorable. Only "Getting to Know You" and "Shall We Dance" standout much. The subplot romance between the two Latinos (Rita Moreno and Carlos Rivas) playing Asian lovers is achingly unoriginal and uninteresting. The film is also condescending in its view of the "little Asian people." And what are we to make of Anna's son? He appears at the beginning, then disappears throughout most of the film - which isn't a bad thing - only to reappear at the very end. Finally, the tear-jerk ending seems rushed, unclear and disappointing. One wants to be moved by the King's unexpected death, because Brynner makes us like him so much during the film, but it all goes by so quickly that we just don't care.

The film does contain one of the most surreal Hollywood sequences of all-time, up there with Marlene Dietrich singing in an ape costume in Blonde Venus: The Jerome Robbins choreographed dance of "The Small House of Uncle Tom." Here we have a latina actress playing a Burmese girl, narrating a play based on a novel about blacks in the southern U.S. written by a white woman from Connecticut, and the "Thai" dancers strut their stuff to Western music that sounds vaguely Asian, and there's some blackface and a statue of Buddha and amazingly cool costumes and the whole thing takes place at a lavish dinner given by the Siamese king trying to act civilized in front of the wealthy Europeans living in Bangkok, and it's all quite bizarre and post-modern in its own way... but Jerome Robbins wins out, giving us the most interesting part of the film.

All in all, if you want a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, stick with the Sound of Music.

I do want one of those cool jackets Yul Brynner wears, though.
8 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
4/10
Gives 'old-fashioned' a bad name...
moonspinner5517 July 2005
Disappointing musical version of Margaret Landon's "Anna and the King of Siam", itself filmed in 1946 with Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, has Deborah Kerr cast as a widowed schoolteacher and mother who travels from England to Siam in 1862 to accept job as tutor to the King's many children--and perhaps teach the Royal One a thing or two in the process! Stagy picture begins well, but quickly loses energy and focus. Yul Brynner, reprising his stage triumph as the King, is a commanding presence, but is used--per the concocted story--as a buffoon. Kerr keeps her cool dignity and fares better, despite having to lip-synch to Marni Nixon's vocals. Perhaps having already played this part to death, Brynner looks like he had nothing leftover for the screen translation except bombast. Second-half, with Anna and the moppets staging a musical version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is quite ridiculous, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are mostly lumbering. Brynner won a Best Actor Oscar, but it is feisty Kerr who keeps this bauble above water. Overlong, heavy, and 'old-fashioned' in the worst sense of the term. ** from ****
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Brynner's masterful performance is the film's high point
funkyfry26 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The wonderful performance of Yul Brynner is definitely the high point of this film adaption of Rodgers and Hammerstein's play. The production is very impressive, with a fully fleshed out technicolor Siam practically bursting out of the screen. Deborah Kerr's costumes alone are just about worth the price of admission. The only thing bringing the film down somewhat is the fact that the film occasionally feels patronizing towards Asian culture and the sometimes deliberately infantile lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein, excellent in some places as far as characterization but in other places again seeming to reinforce the film's patronizing attitude towards its characters (and audience?).

Brynner's performance ranks among the very best in the history of musical film. It's important that we do not see him sing or dance right away, and in fact he waits until some of the film's final scenes to actually bust out on the dance floor. When he and Kerr go into "Shall We Dance?" and he is practically sprinting around the dance floor barefoot, I'm sure many in the audience literally drop their jaws. In general, we can say that Brynner's performance managed to capture both the menace, dignity, and authority of the King, while at the same time he was able to wring buckets of humor from the premise of the King's attitudes about women and society in general without compromising that dignity. That alone is a great achievement, but Brynner also manages to give the character great warmth and charm, making him a very appealing character to the audience and almost making us feel that his many transgressions are just minor details in his overall makeup. Simply astounding work.

Kerr is decent, actually quite good through most of the film until it comes to the point where she has to be completely angry at the King (because he would not let one of his wives escape with her lover). Then it seems like the work she's done to give this character equal dignity (and almost equal authority) with Brynner's King seems to collapse and we're left with the impression that she's a bit silly, especially as she tells the Prime Minister (Carlos Rivas) "I wish I had never come to Siam!" and runs off crying. We have the same problem here dramatically speaking, though to a lesser extent, that we have in "South Pacific" when Nellie decides she can't love the frenchman because he has native children. This doesn't have those racial problems, but it's equally unconvincing really as a dramatic stimulus, making us feel that the primary character has somehow failed to learn what we the audience have learned just through watching them go through their travails! I also feel that the ending in general was a bit rushed. We have Anna going off in a pout crying, and then in the very next scene not only is she leaving Siam but we hear the King of Siam is dying. All very abrupt and feels a bit forced, as if the King had to go onto his deathbed just to wrap the film up.

As far as the humor in the King's character, although I admire the way Brynner was able to pull off all these elements, there were times when I personally felt uncomfortable to laugh at the King... something I did not feel when I saw this film as a young child in the early 80s. I guess you can say I'm more "racially conscious", but it seemed to me that they were at times encouraging the audience to laugh at the King and even at his court simply because of how "backward" they were. For instance here we have a King who seems to have a good command of English but who mispronounces a word or skips a word in the sentence if it will make the crowd in America laugh. Not that I think the King should have spoken like an English professor, but I'm convinced that there were moments where I and most modern audiences would cringe where the film's and play's creators would have wanted us to laugh.

I didn't want these comments to pass without giving notice and praise to the "Little House of Uncle Thomas" vignette designed by Jerome Robbins I presume and which also shows some really amazing camera work. The effects here are very cinematic but it's done in such a way that you can believe that the things you're seeing could actually have been done in the 1860s when the film was set. Really excellent work on that portion of the film.

Hammerstein's lyrics do not in my opinion rise to the level of Rodgers' music. The patter songs that Brynner does like "A Puzzlement" are wonderful, but there are just too many songs on here that feel like an imposition of warm family vibes on the story. That's Hammerstein's MO: create supremely dramatic situations and surround them with songs that wouldn't be out of place in a nursery school. Things like "Hello, Young Lovers", "Getting to Know You" and "I Whistle a Happy Tune" make this musicals fan wish for the days of Rodgers and Hart when Rodgers' music could be funny without being so darn clean and family friendly. "Something Wonderful" is a technically superb song that is completely un-memorable, an example of where Rodgers tried to imitate Kern's style to suit Hammerstein's ambitions. But the duo do make it up to us somewhat with the superb "Shall We Dance" and Rodgers' solo contributions like "March of the Siamese Children".

All in all, this is a very solid musical entertainment. Because of Brynner's performance it is a true classic for all the ages. There is enough good here overall to outweigh the bad. This is one that people will be talking about many years after we are all gone. But it's not a perfect film.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
A Worthy If Not Ideal Screen Adaptation
evanston_dad14 August 2006
Director Walter Lang does his best to ruin what may be Rodgers & Hammerstein's strongest stage musical, but he's no match for the stellar material.

He directs with a stodgy, anonymous style -- why actually move your camera around a set when you can root it to the floor as if it's a potted plant? With the exception of Yul Bryner and Deborah Kerr, he elicits performances from his cast that would be at home in a cheesy sword-and-sandal Biblical epic. And the film has that overblown, garish visual design too common to big films from this time period, that manages to look both cheap and expensive at the same time, as if all the sets are made out of brightly colored plexiglass.

But, and this is a big "but," this musical tells a beautiful story about cultural tolerance that remains intact in the film, and the movie offers the strong performances of Bryner and Kerr, both perfectly cast in their roles. "Carousel" may have given audiences the most sophisticated R&H score, but for me, the music in "The King and I" remains the most glorious. Too bad the adapted film score severely truncates its stage counterpart: many songs are missing entirely, and almost all of those left are shortened versions.

Happily, the "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet sequence remains in the film and retains the original Jerome Robbins choreography as it appeared on stage. It may just be the most memorable musical number ever conceived for stage or screen.

This film isn't the best possible screen adaptation of a nearly perfect stage show, but thanks to Bryner and Kerr, and of course R&H, it'll do.

Grade: B+
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
something wonderful
didi-58 August 2003
Yul Brynner took the role of the King of Siam that he had done a few years earlier on stage with the incomparable Gertie Lawrence (she died during the run) and makes his definitive stamp on the movie version. Deborah Kerr takes on the role of Mrs Anna - interesting to compare her with Irene Dunne (the same role in Anna and the King of Siam, the earlier non-musical version of the story) though Kerr comes off better backed by those wonderful songs. "Hello, Young Lovers" is one of the best to appear in a musical film.

Two other laurels need to be offered - Terry Saunders for the song 'Something Wonderful', beautifully put-across; and for Rita Moreno's Tuptim. "The King and I" is a spectacle, and the widescreen and colour did it justice. The animated version recently is a pale shadow of this classic.
4 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Absolutely Enchanting: Perhaps the Best of Rogers and Hammerstein On Film
gftbiloxi10 June 2007
THE KING AND I has a remarkably convoluted history. Anna Leonowens (1831-1915) was indeed a real person who did indeed teach in the royal court of Siam. She did not allow fact to get in the way of a good story; while her memoirs were extremely popular, they were also fictionalized. They became further so in 1944, when novelist Margaret Langdon retold the story in the novel ANNA AND THE KING; a play and film, the latter with Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, soon followed and proved popular as well. According to theatre lore, actress Gertrude Lawrence, one of the great talents of her era, encountered the material and recommended it to Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein with the thought that she herself might play Anna in a musical version.

Opening on Broadway in 1951 with Lawrence in the lead, it proved a tremendous success. Sadly, Lawrence did not live to recreate the role for the screen; she died of cancer during the New York run. After much indecision and not a little argument, the role fell to Deborah Kerr--a memorable actress--but one whose singing voice was hardly up to the role. In consequence the songs were voiced by the ubiquitous Marnie Nixon, a performer who specialized in this work throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

As a film, THE KING AND I belongs to a period during which Hollywood tended to approach musicals from a theatrical rather than a cinematic point of view: there is no pretense that we are any where but on a sound stage and the camera itself seldom moves, creating an effect that is very much like that a performance given on a proscenium stage. It is a style which has not aged well--but THE KING AND I is the exception that proves the rule: with outrageously colorful sets, brilliant costuming, memorable music, and remarkable performances it remains as enchanting as it was when it first debuted in 1956.

It is also distinctly of its era in terms of casting. Voice aside, Deborah Kerr was a natural choice for the role of Anna; she too was a cultured Englishwoman. But although minor roles were generally played by people of Asian origin, none of the leads and few of the major supporting roles were. Yul Brennar was of Russian origin; Rita Moreno was Puerto Rican (and, like Kerr, her singing voice would be dubbed); Martin Benson (Kralahome) was English; Carlos Rivera (Lun Thai) was Mexican-American; and so on. Such would be quite unthinkable today, but there is no getting around the fact that all these performers give performances which are not only credible, but often extraordinary--with Brennar and Moreno cases in point.

Regardless of who, what, why, and how, the end result is enchanting from start to finish, the sort of musical that is stamped as "a special event" from start to finish. Everything glitters; the music is among the best created by Rogers and Hammerstein; the larger-than-life performances are spot-on. The story itself is both endearing and touching--and, as is often the case with Rogers and Hammerstein, makes an oblique statement against racial prejudice. While it may not be good history (the story so annoys the Thailand government that it is banned from that nation in all its many incarnations), it is delightful entertainment... and, in my opinion at least, the best of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals both on the stage and on the screen.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Brynner and Kerr create Cinema Magic in one of the Greatest Musicals to come to the Screen
Isaac585521 July 2006
The 1956 film version of THE KING & I was one of the most lavish and enchanting film versions of a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical ever made. Based on a book by Margaret Landon and a 1946 film starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne, this is the story of a widowed schoolteacher during 1860's who accepts the position of teacher to a tyrannical King in primitive Siam that leads to the ultimate culture clash/battle of the sexes, set to some really lovely music. Yul Brynner recreates his original Broadway role as the King in an electrifying, Oscar-winning performance that made Brynner an instant film icon who will forever be associated with the role and the gold standard to which all other actors who tackle the role aspire to. Deborah Kerr makes a lovely Anna Leonowens who, even though her singing is dubbed by Marni Nixon, still delivers a charismatic performance as the strong-willed Anna that also earned her an Oscar nomination. The chemistry between Brynner and Kerr is immediate and obvious and they absolutely light up the screen together in the most romantic non-romantic relationship ever portrayed on screen. A young Rita Moreno also makes a strong impression as the slave girl, Tuptim, whose best song, "My Lord and Master", has been cut from most versions of this film. But we still have "Whistle a Happy Tune:. "Hello Young Lovers", "We Kiss in a Shadow", "Getting to Know You", "A Puzzlement", and "March of the Siamese Children." There is also an extraordinary ballet entitled "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" which merits attention. Lavish scenery and Oscar-winning costumes are icing on the cake in one the most emotion-charged and moving screen adaptations of a Broadway musical to the movie screen. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
Fit To Be Thai'd
writers_reign15 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
First I suppose I should declare an interest: I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Larry Hart fan and though I understood the reasons why Dick Rodgers finally decided to call time on Larry and throw in his lot with Oscar I've never really forgiven him. There's a paper waiting to be written on why the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musicals - or at least the first four - seem so lacklustre when transferred to the screen - and, YES, I know that lots of posters claim to love them and even claim Classic status for them on these very Boards and all I can say is they're easily pleased. It's undeniable that Dick Rodgers only had to sit down at a keyboard to pour out glorious melodies but sure as shooting Oscar would schmaltz them to high cholesterol level. Actually that's incorrect because unlike Larry Hart, who would set a melody by Rodgers, Oscar wrote his schmaltzy frustrated-poet lyrics first and then Dick would set them so we have to conclude that Dick was incapable of writing a banal melody even when faced with banal lyrics. I've seen all the film adaptation with the exception of The Sound Of Music which I've made a point of avoiding as I avoid all formulaic movies - though I had a lot of fun imagining the story conferences: Let's see, singing nuns, that'll give us the Catholics; young kids, there's your family audience; Nazis, that'll draw the action buffs, but SAY, do you think we could work in a part for Lassie that way we've pretty much covered ALL the bases - and on balance I guess I'd say Carousel was the best of a bad bunch. This time around they begin by omitting I Have Dreamed, a strong ballad then assembling a cast who contrive to give the impression they're performing in different movies, God knows who came up with Martin Benson - a veteran of dozens of British Z movies and Short Ends king - for a major supporting role. Deborah Kerr's take on winsomeness is akin to being held hostage in the Hershey plant and force fed. One poster made the bizarre claim that Deborah Kerr was 'substituted' for Gertie Lawrence who created the role on Broadway whilst the truth is, of course, that Gertie died in harness a short way into the run.The score is the usual competent stuff we've come to expect from the duo but there's the constant feeling that something's missing. Oh, yes, Larry Hart.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A Classic Musical
Desertman8426 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The King and I is a musical directed by Walter Lang.It stars Deborah Kerr,Yul Brynner,Rita Moreno,Martin Benson and Terry Saunders.The screenplay comes from the story written by Anna Leonowens, who became school teacher to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is adapted on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical which was based in turn on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon.

English widow Anna Leonowens comes to Siam in the 1860's to tutor the many wives and children of the country's progressive King. The culture clash between Anna and the King is but one aspect of their multi-layered relationship. Through her, the King learns the refineries and responsibilities of "modern" western civilization.She 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, who has dared to fall in love with someone else. Despite the many rifts between them, Anna and the monarch come to respect and 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.

The movie boasts a career-making performance from Yul Brynner, repeating his stage triumph as the titular monarch and proving to moviegoers that bald can be beautiful. It's Brynner's proud king that provides the fulcrum to the plot, and it's Brynner himself, with his piercing gaze and graceful physicality, that demands our attention.While Deborah Kerr is superb as Anna.Also,it has a the composers insert a superb score, echoing Asian motifs, as well as a bouquet of lovely songs including "Hello, Young Lovers," "Shall We Dance," and two ensemble pieces for Anna and the royal children such as "Getting to Know You" and "I Whistle a Happy Tune".Overall,it was a big-costumed and classic musical.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
A Prequel to "Sound Of Music"
cldavisj19 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I am a big fan of R&H, the musical genre has unfortunately faded away but there exists the corpus of their work that are among the best ever created. This is Yul Bryner's signature role and deservedly so. Deborah Kerr's counterpoint to his King is rather less than equal. That's OK though since another performance like Yul's on the same screen would have been overpowering. A brief but important note on the hurt feelings of the Thai peoples: In 2002 I can't imagine anyone seeing this movie from 1956 and believing it represents truth. But I would encourage them to tell the actual facts of their beloved king at every opportunity. Perhaps then the movie will act as a jumping off point for expanded knowledge of Thai history.

Taking the movie at face value (a period piece musical) it does work most of the time. But this film is important for another reason: just seven years later, R&H did "The Sound of Music" wherein a red-headed, English speaking actress portrays the role of a governess with a mind of her own to a large house full of the children of a very stern man. Sound familiar? Same picture different cast...almost. Point is Hammerstein would not have much of a stretch to change a palace to a large villa or a King into a Captain. Not that this is bad...perhaps they just gravitated to certain stories fit for musical treatment. This is one of R&H's best. As far as the tunes go I'm guessing audiences were humming "Shall We Dance?" as they left the theaters in 1956. I wouldn't know...I weren't borned yet! The subplot of the young lovers with a pre-"West-Side Story" Rita Moreno is a tad weak. And without too much of a spoiler WARNING......PLOT REVEALED!!... there is not the classic happy ending seen in a lot of musicals. I think the main plot or the main idea, if you will, is a metaphor: out with the old, in with the new. The issue of slavery comes up several times in the film. The time is 1860's or so and slavery is an issue in the USA and in active practice in SIAM (Thailand). Perhaps R&H were adding a little social consciousness to this film on the eve of the civil rights movement. Take a look at their films. Without being heavy-handed they addressed a range of social themes in their work. Or maybe their works are rich enough to support multiple interpretations at many levels. I give this a top 5 in R&H's work and a top 10 in all musicals. When you see it, try to imagine yourself in 1956, otherwise you'll come away less than satisfied. But Yul is perfect........
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
East meets west, and the barbarians rule
helpless_dancer29 August 2001
Lots of gorgeous scenery, beautiful Oriental women, great props and colorful clothes, sterling performances, and interesting dialogue and songs makes this one of the most lively musicals I've seen to date. Yul was perfect as the arrogant, deluded King; I loved his crisp gestures and butchery of the English language. He was most amusing. I bet this one would be great on stage.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews