The King and I (1956) – Walter Lang

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr light up the screen in the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Oklahoma! The Rogers and Hammerstein musical soars to life in a stunning adaptation that doesn’t sacrifice story for musical numbers.

Instead, the story is just as important, if not more so than the musical numbers, with a strong script by Ernest Lehman. The leads are wonderfully cast, and the music and songs are solid.

Kerr is Anna Leonowens, a widow who arrives in Siam to take a position in the King of Siam’s (Brynner) court as the governess of his children. There are some intrigues throughout the king’s court, even as the two begin to fall in love with one another, despite both being very headstrong.

The film is bright, colourful, and has an exotic flavouring to it, though it proves to be historically inaccurate on a number of counts. Even watching it now, it’s not a surprise that it took home five Academy Awards that year, including one for Brynner’s performance as the King.

Incredibly entertaining, the film has drama, humour, a couple of love stories, and some fantastic chemistry between Brynner and Kerr – they are a delight to watch together on the screen.

king-and-i-2

The costume, and production design make for eye-popping imagery, and each of the performances is a perfect fit for the film, as cultures clash, and love finds root.

There are countless enjoyable moments in the film, from the scene-stealing children to the King’s jealousy of an old friend of Anna’s.

Nicely choreographed, with songs that have become standards the world over, the film, and the story, endures. I love seeing the way the King’s character changes and grows over the course of the film, becoming more aware, accepting, and actually becoming the wiser man that he pretended at in the film’s beginning.

Filled with a bunch of amazing numbers, Shall We Dance remains a showstopper.

Of course, even as they fall in love, fate takes a hand, and things play out a little more sadly than one would expect from a big Hollywood musical, but works wonderfully for the musical.

This one I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. It’s a beautifully crafted film, with fine performances, and great actors for the two leads, as well as perfectly made cinematic moments.

The King and I remains a winner. The cast, the music, the production are all top-notch, and the film will continue to endure and entertain.

shall-we-dance

 

 

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