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Our Treasure of the Week In Pictures: The King and I starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner holds a special place in my memory. I have loved this musical since it was first shown on television in 1968. It was on late at night (10:30) and had to get permission from my parents to stay up that late ( I was 6). I remember that I watched it in our den on a black and white television and was enthralled by the whole film. It’s funny that I remember this but not the first time I saw it in color.
If you aren’t familiar with this film, The King and I is a 1956 American musical film made by 20th Century Fox, directed by Walter Lang and produced by Charles Brackett and Darryl F. Zanuck. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical The King and I, based in turn on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon. That novel in turn was based on memoirs written by Anna Leonowens, who became school teacher to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Leonowens’ stories were autobiographical, although various elements of them have been called into question.
The musical was written for Gertrude Lawrence, and her appearance in the film was contractually guaranteed. However, she was diagnosed with cancer while playing the role on Broadway and died during the run. Dinah Shore, a singer as well as an actress, was considered for the role of Anna in the movie. Maureen O’Hara, who had a pleasant soprano voice, was originally cast, but Richard Rodgers did not agree to the casting. It was Yul Brynner who pressed for Deborah Kerr to play the role. Marni Nixon provided Kerr’s singing for the film. Nixon and Kerr worked side-by-side in the recording studio for songs which combined speaking and singing. Nixon would also dub Kerr’s singing the following year, for the film An Affair to Remember.
The King and I was banned in Thailand, and remains banned, due to its representation of King Mongkut of Siam; as is the case with most other adaptations of Anna and the King.
The film was a critical and commercial success, and was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning five, including Best Actor for Brynner.
Mrs. Anna Leonowens and her son Louis arrive in Bangkok, where she has contracted to teach English to the children of the royal household. She threatens to leave when the house she had been promised is not available, but falls in love with the children.