AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The King and I
Alternate Title: Rodgers and Hammerstein's the King and I
Director: Walter Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   Jul 1956
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles premiere: 27 Jun 1956
Production Date:   early Dec 1955--late Jan 1956
Duration (in mins):   132-133
Duration (in feet):   11,981
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Cast:   Deborah Kerr (Anna Leonowens)  
    Yul Brynner (King Mongkut of Siam)  
    Rita Moreno (Tuptim)  
    Martin Benson (Kralahome)  
    Terry Saunders (Lady Thiang)  
    Rex Thompson (Louis Leonowens)  
    Carlos Rivas (Lun Tha)  
    Patrick Adiarte (Prince Chulalongkorn)  
    Alan Mowbray (British ambassador)  
    Geoffrey Toone (Edward Ramsay)  
    Yuriko (Eliza in Uncle Tom's Cabin ballet)  
    Marion Jim (Simon Legree in Uncle Tom's Cabin ballet)  
    Robert Banas (Keeper of the dogs)  
    Dusty Worrall (Uncle Thomas in Uncle Tom's Cabin ballet)  
    Gemze de Lappe (Specialty dancer)  
    Thomas Bonilla (Twin)  
    Dennis Bonilla (Twin)  
    Michiko Iseri (Angel in ballet)  
    Charles Irwin (Ship's captain)  
    Leonard Strong (Interpreter)  
    Irene James (Siamese girl)  
    Jadin Wong (Amazon)  
    Jean Wong (Amazon)  
    Fuji Levy (Guard)  
    Weaver Levy (Guard)  
    William Yip (High Priest)  
    Eddie Luke (Messenger)  
    Josephine Smith (Guest at palace)  
    Marie Tsien (Royal wife)  
    Mary Lou Clifford (Royal wife)  
    Grace Matthews (Royal wife)  
    Kathleen Shoon (Royal wife)  
    Judy Dan (Royal wife)  
    Nephru Malouf (Royal wife)  
    Margaret Fukuda (Royal wife)  
    Stella Lynn (Royal wife)  
    Lydia Wolf (Royal wife)  
    Maureen Hingert (Royal wife)  
    Jocelyn Lew (Princess Ying Yoowalak)  
    Jerry Chien (Royal child)  
    Nancy Chien (Royal child)  
    Yvonne Garosin (Royal child)  
    Dick Hong (Royal child)  
    Linda Hong (Royal child)  
    Warren Hsieh (Royal child)  
    Daro Induye (Royal child)  
    Candace Lee (Royal child)  
    Warren Lee (Royal child)  
    Jeanette Leung (Royal child)  
    Russell Ung (Royal child)  
    Rodney Yee (Royal child)  
    Virginia Lee (Royal child)  
    Stephanie Aranas (Royal child)  
    Evelyn Rudie (Royal child)  
    Dale Ishimoto (Crewman)  
    Amir Farr (Sailor)  
    Alladin Soufi (Sailor)  
    Leo Abbey (Guard)  
    Henry Fong (Guard)  
    Alice Uchida (Dancer)  
    Misaye Kawasumi (Dancer)  
    Shirley Nishimura (Dancer)  
    Kanna Ishu (Dancer)  
    Valentina Oumansky (Dancer)  

Summary: In 1862, Anna Leonowens, a young, widowed English schoolteacher, arrives in Bangkok, Thailand, with her son Louis, having accepted a job teaching English to the children of the King of Siam. Greeted by the king's stern prime minister, the Kralahome, and his half-naked minions, Anna puffs up her courage. After the Kralahome informs her that she is to live in the palace rather than being granted her own home as previously promised, the plucky Anna charges into King Mongkut's chambers just as the graceful Tuptim is being presented as a gift from the Prince of Burma. When the king refuses her an audience, Anna unceremoniously charges forward. Although entrenched in tradition, the imperious king sincerely desires to usher his country into the modern era of scientific enlightenment, and so decrees that Anna should also teach his bevy of wives. Charmed by Mongkut's myriad children, Anna agrees to stay even though the king refuses her request of a house. Curious about this Western woman, the king's wives, led by Lady Thiang, the Number One wife who learned English from the missionaries, address Anna as "Sir," because her knowledge of science places her above the status of a "lowly woman." When the wives deride Tuptim because she longs to be with her lover, Lun Tha, rather than the king, Ann fondly recalls her beloved late husband. To spite the king, Anna teaches her pupils songs and proverbs about houses and honor. When Anna introduces a new map of the world challenging the supremacy of Siam, the children rebel until the king appears and admonishes them to take advantage of their education. Later, Prince Chulalongkorn, the heir to the throne, impugns Anna when she criticizes slavery, an institution that is embraced by his country. Late one night, the king summons Anna to take his dictation of a letter to President Lincoln. Mongkut, reclining, proclaims that no subject's head may be higher than his, and so orders Anna to lower hers. As Anna sweeps out of the palace, she comes upon Lun Tha, pining for Tuptim. Touched, Anna arranges a meeting between the lovers, and Lun Tha promises he will return one day to free Tuptim. Troubled by reports of English imperialism, the king becomes incensed when Anna's pupils persist in singing "Home Sweet Home." When the king asserts that Anna is his servant, she resigns and runs out of the room in tears. Afterward, Lady Thiang pleads with Anna to help guide Mongkut, who is apprehensive over rumors that the British regard him as a barbarian and hence intend to overthrow his kingdom and turn Siam into a protectorate. Swallowing her pride, Anna goes to the king and offers her help. Upon discovering that the British ambassador, accompanied by his aide, Edward Ramsay, is coming to Siam, Anna, an old sweetheart of Ramsay, suggests staging a sophisticated banquet in honor of their guests. In gratitude, the king finally promises her a home of her own. At the banquet, Tuptim narrates The Small House of Uncle Thomas , a play about an innocent girl, the victim of the evils of slavery. After the play comes to an end, Tuptim condemns slavery and is about to plead for her own freedom when the king snaps his fingers and the room breaks into applause. By the time the audience calls for the play's author, Tuptim has disappeared. After the British leave that evening, the king gives Anna one of his rings in appreciation of her efforts. When she challenges his right to keep a harem, he retorts that while women must remain faithful, men are entitled to a plentitude of wives. Anna replies that in reality, one man can love only one woman, and then recalls her first dance and invites the king to dance with her. They swirl around the room, but their mood of merriment is shattered by the news that Tuptim has been found running away with Lun Tha. For her dishonor, the king orders Tuptim beaten, and Anna charges that he never loved anyone and never will. Taking the whip into his own hands, the king is about to strike Tuptim when he crumples and runs from the room. When the Kralahome then accuses Anna of destroying the king, she announces that she will leave on the next boat and hands him the ring to return to Mongkut. Several weeks pass, and on the night that Louis and Anna are to sail, Lady Thiang appears with news that the king is dying, having shut himself away, refusing to eat or sleep since the banquet. After the prince states he does not want to be king and begs for Anna's help, Lady Thiang hands her a letter written by the king. When Anna reads the letter, which voices the king's deep gratitude and respect, she breaks into tears and hurries to visit him on his deathbed. As the king hands her the ring once more, his children beg Anna not to leave them in darkness, and when the ship's horn sounds, Anna sends Louis to tell the captain to return their luggage. Passing his title to the prince, Mongkut asks Chulalongkorn what his first act as king will be. After issuing a proclamation against bowing to the king, Chulalongkorn declares that his subjects should look upon each other with a kindness of spirit. Satisfied that he is leaving his kingdom in capable hands, the king quietly dies. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Walter Lang (Dir)
  Eli Dunn (Asst dir)
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (Pres)
  Charles Brackett (Prod)
Writer: Ernest Lehman (Scr)
Photography: Leon Shamroy (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Lyle R. Wheeler (Art dir)
  John De Cuir (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Simpson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
  Paul S. Fox (Set dec)
  Lorry Haddock (Props)
  George Westenhiser (Asst props)
Costumes: Irene Sharaff (Cost)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus supv and cond)
  Ken Darby (Assoc)
  Edward B. Powell (Orch)
  Gus Levene (Orch)
  Bernard Mayers (Orch)
  Robert Russell Bennett (Orch)
Sound: E. Clayton Ward (Sd)
  Warren Delaplain (Sd)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
Dance: Jerome Robbins (Dances and mus numbers staged by)
  Trude Rittman (Ballet arr)
  Michiko (Consultant on Oriental dancing)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup)
  Hal Lierley (Deborah Kerr's makeup)
  Helen Turpin (Hair styles)
Production Misc: Mrs. Boonuam Boonsaith (Tech adv)
Stand In: Marni Nixon (Singing voice double for Deborah Kerr)
Color Personnel: Leonard Doss (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "March of the Siamese Children" by Richard Rodgers.
Songs: "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," "Getting to Know You," "Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello Young Lovers," "Shall We Dance?" "Something Wonderful," "Is a Puzzlement," "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" and "We Kiss in a Shadow," music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; "Home Sweet Home," words by John Howard Payne, music traditional.
Composer: Oscar Hammerstein II
  John Howard Payne
  Richard Rodgers
Source Text: Based on the musical The King and I , music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (New York, 29 Mar 1951), which was based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon (New York, 1944).
Authors: Margaret Landon
  Oscar Hammerstein II
  Richard Rodgers

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 28/6/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP7381

PCA NO: 17864
Physical Properties: Sd: Westrex Recording System
  col: De Luxe
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope 55
  Lenses/Prints: lenses by Bausch & Lomb

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Cultural conflict
  English in foreign countries
  Mothers and sons
Subjects (Minor): Ambassadors
  Abraham Lincoln
  Prime ministers
  Uncle Tom's Cabin (Play)
  Whips and whippings

Note: The film's title card reads "Darryl F. Zanuck presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I ." The story of The King and I was based on incidents in the lives of the real Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut of Siam. For additional information about the real people and historical background, please see the entry for Anna and the King of Siam in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 . A 1987 LAT news item noted that The King and I was banned in Thailand because Prince Diskul, King Mongkut's grandson, was offended by Yul Brynner's portrayal of his grandfather, stating that "we don't think our king is like that, jumping around and so forth."
       According to a Mar 1954 DV news item, producer Charles Brackett was to collaborate with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II on the King and I screenplay. The extent of their contribution to the released film has not been determined, however, and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library contains no scripts authored by them. Memos from Darryl F. Zanuck contained in a modern source reveal that Zanuck strongly argued that the film should not run longer than 135-140 minutes. To accomplish this, Zanuck suggested cutting the ballet The Small House of Uncle Thomas and eliminating some of the musical numbers from the stage play. In a memo contained in the Produced Scripts Collection, Hammerstein countered that the ballet could be shortened, but pleaded that it not be cut out. As a result, the ballet was cut from its original stage running time of fifteen minutes.
       Other numbers cut from the Broadway musical were "My Lord and Master," "The Royal Bangkok Academy," "Western People Funny" and "A Woman Is a Female." Although strains of "I Have Dreamed" are heard in the score just before "We Kiss in a Shadow," the song was not in the film. According to the DV review, the major dramatic difference between the stage and film versions was the deepening of the relationship between "Anna" and "the King."
       According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also contained in the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Dorothy Dandridge was initially cast as "Tuptim." Studio publicity adds that Marisa Pavan tested for that role. Although HR news items add June Tsukina, Hari, Elena Beatti, Don Takeuchi, Billy Lee, George Lee, Anita Dano and Florita Romero to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. An Aug 1955 HR news item announced that June Graham was to act as assistant choreographer, but the extent of her contribution to the released film has not been determined. Jerome Robbins choreographed both the Broadway and film versions of The King and I . Brynner, Terry Saunders, Patrick Adiarte and Thomas and Dennis Bonilla reprised their Broadway roles for the film. The Bonilla twins were the real-life children of Lydia Wolf, who played one of the royal wives. A Nov 1956 HR news item noted that dancer Gemze de Lappe sued Fox because the company denied her screen credit. The outcome of that suit is unknown; however, de Lappe is not credited onscreen.
       Studio publicity contained in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library yields the following information about the production: The studio had to rent extra generators from M-G-M and Columbia to produce enough light to illuminate the palace courtyard set. Kerr's costumes weighed between 32 and 42 pounds. The dress she wore during the "Shall We Dance" number featured a metal hoop with a 25-foot circumference.
       The film won the following Academy Awards: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Sound Recording, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Actor (Brynner). The King and I propelled Brynner to stardom. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Kerr), Best Direction and Best Cinematography. Although the film was shot in 55mm, like Carousel (see above), it was projected in 35mm. In 1961, the studio converted the 55mm negative to 70mm, dubbed the process "Grandeur 70," and screened the film in Los Angeles on 9 May 1961, according to a HCN news item. After the film received a lukewarm reception in Los Angeles and San Francisco, however, the studio abandoned the idea of reissuing it, according to a Jul 1961 HR news item.
       Leonowens' story was first filmed in 1946 by Twentieth Century-Fox as Anna and the King of Siam , starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison and directed by John Cromwell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ) The story later resurfaced as a CBS television series, Anna and the King , which starred Brynner and Samantha Eggar and ran from 17 Sep--31 Dec 1972. In addition to playing the role of the king in the television show, Brynner reprised the role in Broadway revivals and road company performances until his death in 1985. In 1999, Morgan Creek Productions produced an animated film based on the musical titled The King and I , featuring the voices of Miranda Richardson and Martin Vidnovik, and in 1999, Fox 2000 Pictures released a non-musical version of the story titled Anna and the King , starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat and directed by Andy Tennant. In 2005, The King and I was ranked 11th on AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   30 Jun 56   p. 14.
Box Office   7 Jul 1956.   
Daily Variety   17 Mar 1954.   
Daily Variety   29 Jun 56   p. 3.
Film Daily   29 Jun 56   p. 5.
Hollywood Citizen-News   9 Jan 1956.   
Hollywood Citizen-News   24 Apr 1961.   
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 55   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 55   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Oct 55   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 55   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Nov 55   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 55   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Dec 55   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jan 56   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jun 56   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Nov 1956   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jul 1961.   
Los Angeles Times   4 Feb 1987.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Jul 56   p. 963.
New York Times   29 Jun 56   p. 15.
Variety   4 Jul 56   p. 6.

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