The King and I (1956) Movie Poster

Trivia for The King and I (1956)

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  • Deborah Kerr's gowns, designed by Irene Sharaff, each weighed between 30 and 40 pounds, due to all the pleats, hoops and petticoats.
  • Yul Brynner won the 1952 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Featured Actor in a Musical for "The King and I" as the King of Siam and recreated his role in the movie version.
  • When first choice Maureen O'Hara, who could have sung the role, was vetoed by composer Richard Rodgers, Marni Nixon was brought aboard to dub Deborah Kerr's singing in the film.
  • The reality of the "Shall We Dance" sequence was that Deborah Kerr suffered continual bruising from the hoops in her skirt.
  • 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.
  • Darryl F. Zanuck initially had Maureen O'Hara in mind as Anna because the essential qualities of her screen persona -- warmth, grit and fiery temperament -- were ideal for the part. In addition, O'Hara was a natural redhead who possessed a fine soprano voice, which would have eliminated the need for both wigs and vocal dubbing. After hearing sample recordings of her voice, composer Richard Rodgers agreed that O'Hara would sing the role gloriously, but he vetoed the casting based on the rough-and-tumble parts for which the actress was renowned, reportedly remarking "No pirate queen is going to play my Anna!" While Deborah Kerr certainly found her way in the role, one can't help but muse how much worthier an opponent O'Hara would have been to the equally fiery Yul Brynner. Audiences would finally hear O'Hara's glittering soprano when she starred in the short-lived Broadway musical "Christine" in 1960.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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. Deborah Kerr was also on the short slate of A List actresses that could open a movie at that point to begin with, so it didn't make Yul Brynner's decision that hard. Broadway star Gertrude Lawrence who had starred with Brynner on the stage was not on this list, so she was out of the running! Also, as noted before, Lawrence developed cancer while the Broadway show was still running and died shortly after it ended so she could not have been in the movie anyway.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 both a slave and a supporting role. The role went to Rita Moreno, who was of Puerto Rican descent.
  • Several musical numbers from the Broadway score were recorded, and allegedly shot, but subsequently deleted from the release print: "My Lord and Master," Tuptim's plaintive soliloquy after her arrival in the palace; "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" in which Anna comically expresses her anger towards the King; "I Have Dreamed," a duet for Tuptim and Lun Tha, slated to be sung immediately after "We Kiss in a Shadow;" and the verse of "Song of the King," which Yul Brynner speaks rather than sings in the finished film. All the deleted numbers can be heard on the Capitol Records soundtrack album, including a choral reprisal of "I Whistle a Happy Tune" that was never earmarked for inclusion in the film.
  • 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. A well-researched book that corrects the many myths of Anna's stated story is "Masked: The Life of Anna Leonowens, Schoolmistress at the Court of Siam," by Alfred Habegger.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dinah Shore, who was a singer as well as an actress, was initially considered for the role of Anna Leonowens.
  • Art directors John DeCuir and Lyle R. Wheeler spent $750,000 designing the 40 sets required for the film.
  • Baking under the hot lights on-set, Deborah Kerr lost over 12 pounds, and would often refer to herself as "The melting Miss Kerr".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Marlon Brando was briefly considered for the role of the King of Siam.
  • Yul Brynner is the only actor to have played a lead role in a Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II production both on the stage and on the screen, winning a Tony and an Oscar, respectively. He also played the role on the small screen in the Anna and the King tv series.
  • 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.
  • 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)).
  • The cost of the film was ten times more than that of the original lavish Broadway production.
  • Both Yul Brynner and writer Ernest Lehman were determined to include the song "A Puzzlement" in the film, but this idea was refused by hands-on producer and 20th Century-Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. He did concede that if he deemed the film needed the song upon completion, he would allow for re-shoots. This is exactly what happened. "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.
  • 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.
  • Patrick Adiarte made his film debut as Prince Chulalongkorn.
  • Though Richard Rodgers rejected Maureen O'Hara for the title role of Anna, she had previously starred in the Rodgers and Hart musical They Met in Argentina (1941).
  • 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."
  • The real-life Anna Leonowens was the maternal aunt of Boris Karloff.
  • During the bible scene, the King mentions Moses. Yul Brynner had finished The Ten Commandments (1956) prior to this film.
  • Originally Yul Brynner only wanted to direct, with Marlon Brando playing the King.
  • Jason Scott Lee and Ken Watanabe later played the eponymous king in stage adaptions.
  • Both Maureen O'Hara and Dinah Shore were considered for the role of Anna, which ultimately went to Deborah Kerr. Ironically, the first two ladies were singers while Kerr was not.
  • Although Marni Nixon did not sing for Rita Moreno in this film, she did sing for Moreno in the film, West Side Story. (Nixon dubbed Moreno's singing role in that film's "Tonight" quintet.)
  • This film featured three voice-only actors: Marni Nixon (for Anna), Leona Gordon (for some of Tuptim's scenes), and Rueben Fuentes (for Lun Tha). (Singer Marilyn Horne also contributes.)
  • Deborah Kerr's Best Actress Oscar nominated performance was the only one in the category in a Best Picture nominee that year.
  • Yul Brynner's Oscar winning performance in this film is his only Academy Award nomination.
  • The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Musical Score.
  • The first of three films released in successive years in which Deborah Kerr was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. This film was followed by Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) and Separate Tables (1958).
  • According to Stephen Bach's biography on Marlene Dietrich, Noël Coward was originally intended to play the king in the film, but he rejected the role when it was offered him. This opened the way for Yul Brynner who had already been playing the part on broadway.
  • This is frequently compared with The Sound of Music, another iconic historically based landmark 1950s Rodgers and Hammerstein based on a famous female author's memoirs. Both are musicals about a fiesty nanny going up against a fiery warlord in foreign land; how she teaches his kids and becomes a mother figure to them, how she breaks him down with her persistence, and how they eventually fall in love. This is also part of the Beloved Teacher genre; belonging to other similar movies like Conrack, To Sir WIth Love; Blackboard Jungle; Mr Hollund's Opus and Dangerous Minds.
  • The King and I was spunoff into a sitcom, developed by MASH executive producer Gene Reynolds and starring Yul Brynner, reprising his Oscar winning performance; in a show called Anna and the King. This was dropped into the Fall schedule on CBS for a half season in 1972; for 13 episodes; and was after that soon cancelled, and was considered a huge failure. It was such a bomb Anna and the King author Margaret Landon publicly charged the producers with "inaccurate and mutilated portrayals" of her literary property; she unsuccessfully sued for copyright infringement.
  • Margaret Landon's biographical novel, "Anna and the King of Siam", which was based on the memoirs of famous Victorian era British author and traveler Anna Leonowens, was translated into two straight movies, "Anna and the King of Siam" and "Anna and the King"; as well as a musical "The King and I", a sitcom ""Anna and the King", and a cartoon, 1999's "The King and I" animated feature; replete with evil magicians and special effects! Of all these incarnations, the most famous one that endures and has stood the test of time is still 1956's "The King and I"; which is mostly famous for Yul Brynner's Oscar winning performance.
  • Mongkut, also known as King Rama IV, reigning title Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua[a] (18 October 1804 - 1 October 1868), was the fourth monarch of Siam (Thailand) under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1851 to 1868. Outside Thailand, he is best known as the king in the 1951 musical and 1956 film The King and I, based on the 1946 film Anna and the King of Siam - in turn based on a 1944 novel by an American missionary about Anna Leonowens' years at his court, from 1862 to 1867. Leonowens became the official governess in the court of Mongkut and Siam during these years; which is what Margaret Landon's book "Anna and the King of Siam"; and the subsequent movie adaptations like "The King and I" are all based on.
  • The king's name was Mongkut; he was also known as King Rama IV; his reigning title was Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua. In the play and movie "The King and I" he is referred to simply as "the king"; they never say his full name. Anna's real name was Anna Leonowens. In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical they change it to "Anna Owens".
  • Critics complained that Rodgers and Hammerstein were ripping The Sound of Music off The King and I; that they took the true story of the Von Trapps and were just adding, copying and embellishing plot points from The King and I, their last big musical about a nanny and a brood of children, to make Sound of Music more dramatic and cinematic. Indeed, the real Von Trapps complained as the movie was being filmed that Georg was being portrayed as an unfeeling monster at the beginning of the story, and the real man was not like that. This was a plot point probably borrowed from King and I, where we have the tough, scary and belligerent Yul Brynner going up against free spirit Gertrude Lawrence. Also borrowed from King and I was the subplot about Maria going up against the Baroness, that never happened in real life and was probably borrowed from King and I's depiction of Anna sparring with Lady Thiang, the King's other wives and court members for dramatic purpose. The subplot with Leisl and Rolphe's star crossed romance was also borrowed from the King and I, and Tuptim's and Lun Tha's forbidden romance, (as well as being influenced by Romeo and Juliet). There were many musical numbers and scenes that Sound of Music seemed to copy from King and I as well. The introduction scene with the Von Trapp children and Maria is like the March of the Siamese children scene. Shall We Dance is like the waltze at the Von Trapps veterans cotillion. Climb Every Mountain is like a Man Who Needs Your Love. The Lonely Goatherd is like Uncle Tom's Cabin. My Favorite Things is like Whistle a Happy Tune. And Do-Re-Mi is very similar to Getting to Know You. Not coincidentally, Yul Brynner was approached to play Captain Von Trapp in the early steps of the casting process of Sound of Music. Also Marni Nixon was in both movies. She dubbed Deborah Kerr in King and I, and she played Sister Margaretta in Sound of Music.
  • Rita Moreno, who played Tuptim in this, and also won the Oscar playing Anita in West Side Story years later, describes herself as the "go to ethnic" in Hollywood during this period.

Spoilers

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