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The King and I (1956) Poster

Trivia

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The reality of the "Shall We Dance" sequence was that Deborah Kerr suffered continual bruising from the hoops in her skirt, and Yul Brynner - a chain smoker who had already lost a lung to his habit - had to take oxygen in between takes.
In Thailand (previously called Siam) the royal family is held in very high esteem. This film is banned in Thailand due to its real historical inaccuracies and the perceived disrespect to the monarchy. The real Prince Chulalongkorn grew up to be an especially good King Chulalongkorn and led the way for modernization, improved relations with the West, and instituted many important cultural and social reforms in Thailand.
The real-life Anna Leonowens was the maternal aunt of Boris Karloff.
Yul Brynner is the only man to have played a lead role in a Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II production both on the stage and on the screen.
Deborah Kerr's uncredited voice double Marni Nixon said that she realized the keys of Anna's songs were very low for her - "very contralto keys" - and that she was really too young (just 21) to be able to sound "adult" and "womanly". Hence, a modifier was placed in Nixon's microphone, to make her voice sound deeper and more mature. "I have a very light, bright ring to my voice, and I tried to take that out" she said. "But they were able to use this modifier to emphasize the lower partials of my voice. I also remember having a terrible cold at the time, not being able to breathe in those recording sessions. But that probably helped in matching Deborah's voice, deepening it."
Marni Nixon was hired on a six-week contract, and she was to be at the studio every day that Deborah Kerr rehearsed a scene with a song in it. Nixon would actually stand next to Kerr and walk through the whole scene - both of them singing - and Nixon would be looking closely at Kerr's facial expressions to try to imitate her speech pattern in the songs.
It was Yul Brynner who pushed for Deborah Kerr to be cast as Anna. He had seen some of her stage work, was highly impressed with her and was convinced that she was the one for the role.
At one point, Fox executives suggested that the story be changed so that the King would be gored by a white elephant, rather than become ill because of a personal humiliation. Understandably, this made Yul Brynner furious, and he insisted that the story stick to the stage version.
The cost of the film was ten times more than that of the original lavish Broadway production.
Baking under the hot lights on-set, Deborah Kerr lost over 12 pounds, and would often refer to herself as "The melting Miss Kerr".
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!"
The play was written for Gertrude Lawrence and her appearance in the film version was contractually guaranteed. However, shortly after the show opened she was diagnosed with cancer, and she died while still playing the role on Broadway.
Deborah Kerr's gowns, designed by Irene Sharaff, each weighed between 30 and 40 pounds, due to all the pleats, hoops and petticoats.
During the bible scene, the King mentions Moses. Yul Brynner had finished the Ten Commandment prior to this film.
Although this movie was filmed and promoted in the then-new 55 mm CinemaScope 55, it was actually shown in the standard 35 mm CinemaScope, with 4-channel stereo rather than the 6-channel stereo originally promised. CinemaScope 55 was discarded after being used on only two feature films (this and Carousel (1956)).
Three musical numbers and two fragments were recorded, and allegedly shot, but subsequently deleted. They were:
  • "My Lord and Master" (a ballad sung by Tuptim shortly after her arrival in the palace)


  • "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" (a soliloquy for Anna, in which she comically expresses her anger towards the King)


  • "I Have Dreamed" (another duet for Tuptim and Lun Tha)


  • It was felt that "My Lord and Master" and "I Have Dreamed" didn't do much to advance the plot, and that "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" would make Anna sound too whiny and nagging.


  • An extra opening verse of "Song of the King"


  • A choral reprisal of "Whistle a Happy Tune."


All these numbers can still be heard on the soundtrack album, however.
Although Walter Lang is given sole directorial credit on the film, Yul Brynner repeatedly clashed with him and made many of the directorial suggestions which found their way into the finished film.
Deborah Kerr's signature in cement for Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood was actually cast on the set of The King and I (1956) and not at the theater.
Marlon Brando was briefly considered for the role of the King of Siam.
Art directors John DeCuir and Lyle R. Wheeler spent $750,000 designing the 40 sets required for the film.
Rita Moreno said that the heavy Siamese headdresses she and the ballet dancers wore in "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet sequence gave all of them headaches, which lasted for days.
The original Broadway production of "The King and I" opened at the St. James Theater on March 29, 1951, ran for 1246 performances and won the 1952 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Musical.
According to Maureen O'Hara's autobiography, 20th Century Fox had actually cast her for the starring role, but Richard Rodgers objected and said "I won't have that pirate queen playing our Anna."
Dorothy Dandridge was the original choice for the role of Tuptim. It has been reported that Miss Dandridge, who had just made history as the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in Carmen Jones (1954), was strongly advised to refuse the role because Tuptim was a slave. The role went to Rita Moreno, who was of Puerto Rican descent.
Patrick Adiarte made his film debut as Prince Chulalongkorn.
The subplot involving Tuptim, although heavily altered by Oscar Hammerstein II in the play to make it more of a definite romance between Tuptim and Lun Tha, was once thought to have a basis in reality, but it has turned out to be completely fictional, part of the embellishments that Anna Leonowens added to her autobiography during her years as governess and schoolteacher to the King's children.
The short scene in which Anna is taken through the streets of Bangkok to the King's palace by the royal entourage required 25 sets on a three-acre area on the Fox backlot, not counting the stables for the elephants used in the sequence.
It was announced, early on, that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II would write a set of new songs for this film adaptation of their 1951 hit Broadway musical, but of course, this didn't come to pass.
Dinah Shore, who was a singer as well as an actress, was initially considered for the role of Anna Leonowens.
Marni Nixon dubbed Deborah Kerr's singing in the film.
Both Yul Brynner and writer Ernest Lehman were determined to include the song "Is a Puzzlement" in the film, but this idea was refused by hands-on producer and 20th Century Fox head, Darryl F. Zanuck. He did relent on this to the extent that if he deemed that the film needed it upon completion, then he would allow for re-shoots. This is exactly what happened. "Is a Puzzlement" was shot, as indeed was an opening sequence showing Anna and her son arriving in Bangkok, all to the tune of an additional $400,000.
Maureen O'Hara was originally meant to play the lead role in the movie version of "The King and I", but Yul Brynner specifically asked for Deborah Kerr.
The "Small House of Uncle Thomas" segment in this film is the only American theatrical version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to be made in the sound era. It was filmed in 1965 as a German theatrical movie, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1965), and in America, for TV in 1987 (Uncle Tom's Cabin (1987)), but not as a film per se. (The very obscure Uncle Tom's Cabin (1976) does not count, as it's an exploitation movie centered on torture and with little more than the title to do with Harriet Beecher Stowe's story.)
Yul Brynner won the 1952 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Musical for "The King and I" as the King of Siam and recreated his role in the movie version.
Leona Gordon was hired to augment the singing of Rita Moreno.
One of the background voices in the "Small House of Uncle Thomas" sequence is that of a young Marilyn Horne.
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Though Richard Rodgers rejected Maureen O'Hara for the title role of Anna, she had previously starred in the 1941 Rodgers and Hart musical "They Met in Argentina."
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

In real life, the King died of malaria, not a broken spirit.

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