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.
  • Marni Nixon dubbed 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 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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 a slave. The role went to Rita Moreno, who was of Puerto Rican descent.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 "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.
  • 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.
  • At least four women were considered for the role of Anna, which ultimately went to actor Deborah Kerr. Potential candidates for the combination singing/acting role, were ruled out for various reasons and included Gertrude Lawrence, Maureen O'Hara, and Dinah Shore. All except Kerr were excellent singers.
  • 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.


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