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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The King And I (1956)

Unlike many of its Broadway brethren, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical made a smooth transition from the stage to the screen. Based on the Margaret Landon book (which served as the basis of the 1946 ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM as well as the 1999 ANNA AND THE KING), the film follows an Englishwoman , Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr), who arrives in 1860s Siam, along with her son (Rex Thompson), to teach the children of the royal household. There actually was an Anna Leonowens though her accounts of her life in Siam and in the palace of the King were highly fictionalized. The makers were wise to have Yul Brynner recreate his stage role. It's almost unfathomable to imagine the film without him. Though her singing is dubbed (by Marni Nixon), Deborah Kerr makes a formidable Anna. The superb Oscar winning art and set direction is eye popping in its richness and color. The real star of the film is Alfred Newman who supervised the musical adaptation (and expertly weaves the R&H songs into a lovely underscore) as well as conducting the score. Jerome Robbins did the choreography, the highlight of which is the stunning Small House Of Uncle Thomas ballet. With Rita Moreno as Tuptim, Martin Benson, Alan Mowbray and Terry Saunders.

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