The King and I (1956)

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr
Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr

'The King and I' is a musical film made in 1956, directed by Walter Lang and starring Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr and Rita Moreno. The screenplay is by Ernest Lehman and is based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1951 smash Broadway musical hit of the same name, which, in turn, is based on the book "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon.

Search Amazon for 'The King and I'

The film was extremely successful on release, both with the critics and the public. It received nine Academy Award nominations and won five including Best Actor for Yul Brynner. From a musical point of view at least, it is regarded as the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and it is still extremely popular to this day. Four of the songs stand out as having become evergreen standards: "Getting to Know You", "Whistle a Happy Tune", "Hello, Young Lovers" and "Shall We Dance". On the American film Institute's List of "100 Years of Musicals" 'The King and I' is ranked at number eleven.

The role of the King was originally to have been given to Marlon Brando but eventually good sense prevailed and Yul Brynner re-created the role with which he had had so much success on Broadway and which is now closey identified with him. He starred in a sitcom version in the 1970's, and in the 1977 and 1985 Broadway revivals. He is one of the few people who have won both a Tony Award and an Academy Award for the same role. Brynner had a pleasing, resonant, baritone voice and was the only major cast member whose songs were not dubbed.

Deborah Kerr plays the role of the genteel British governess who, with a son of her own, journeys from England to 19th century Siam (now Thailand) to instruct the sixty seven children of the king. Hers is more of a charismatic acting role, with singing secondary, (her voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon). She and Brynner work well together and provide the emotional spark for the movie.

The basic plot line comes from a story written by Anna Leonowens, who, in the early 1860s, was the actual school teacher to the children of King Mongkut of Siam. Because of inaccuracies in the representation of King Mongkut the film was instantly banned in Thailand and still is to this day.

This is a thoroughly entertaining, good-hearted story, enriched by some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most enduring music, and expounded with wit, humor and great skill.

Main Cast

Deborah Kerr ... Anna Leonowens
Yul Brynner ... King Mongkut Of Siam
Rita Moreno ... Tuptim
Terry Saunders ... Lady Thiang
Martin Benson ... Kralahome
Rex Thompson ... Louis Leonowens
Patrick Adiarte ... Prince Chulalongkorn
Alan Mowbray ... Sir John Hay
Geoffrey Toone ... Sir Edward Ramsay
Carlos Rivas ... Lun Tha


Director ... Walter Lang
Producer ... Charles Brackett
Screenplay ... Ernest Lehman
Written ... Based on the novel "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon
Format ... Color (DeLuxe)
Music ... Richard Rodgers
Cinematography ... Leon Shamroy
Distribution Company ... 20th Century Fox
Release date ... June 28, 1956
Running time ... 133 minutes

Academy Awards

Five Wins:
Best Actor ... Yul Brynner
Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) ... Alfred Newman, Ken Darby
Art/Set Direction ... Lyle R. Wheeler, John DeCuir/Walter M. Scott, Paul S. Fox
Sound Recording ... Carl Faulkner, Sound Director
Costume Design ... Irene Sharaff
Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Charles Brackett
Best Director (Color) ... Walter Lang
Best Actress ... Deborah Kerr
Best Cinematography (Color) ... Leon Shamroy