The King and I (1956)

G   |    |  Biography, Drama, Musical


The King and I (1956) Poster

A widow accepts a job as a live-in governess to the King of Siam's children.


7.4/10
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  • Yul Brynner and Martin Benson in The King and I (1956)
  • Dennis Bonilla in The King and I (1956)
  • Yul Brynner in The King and I (1956)
  • Patrick Adiarte and Terry Saunders in The King and I (1956)
  • Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner in The King and I (1956)
  • Yul Brynner and Patrick Adiarte in The King and I (1956)

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29 October 2000 | mrussnow
10
| A magnificent, emotionally packed unusual love story
I originally saw THE KING AND I at the Roxy Theatre in New York when I was ten years old. My grandmother took me after a day trip to the Statue of Liberty, and I was expecting to see one of my favorites, Jan Clayton, the star of LASSIE, in the starring role.

When the movie unfolded I was enraptured by the beautiful redhead playing the lead and realized it wasn't Miss Clayton (whom I later learned had played in the road version of the show, and kids that age don't really know the difference). I went out into the theatre lobby and looked at the ornate program, which listed Mrs. Anna as Deborah Kerr.

What an impression this woman has had on my life over the years from the retelling of the classic tale of the British woman who comes to Siam to teach the king's children. It is superb, not only musically, but from a story standpoint holds up as the best of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. It is essentially a women's lib story, which makes it as relevant today as it was fifty years ago when it premiered on Broadway.

The fiery, but compassionate Mrs. Anna who is at first turned off by the king and then charmed by him, and who little by little changes him from a near-despot to a man who can grow.

The subplots are fanciful, but lovely and, in the ballet of Uncle Tom, as performed by Tuptim draw a direct analogy to the unpleasant lives endured by Siamese slaves, in particular women. It does so with majesty and intelligence, no less so than Arthur Miller did in "The Crucible," contrasting the Salem Witch Trials with the awful McCarthy political witchhunts on Capitol Hill.

It is an extraordinary achievement, and it is shocking that it did not even make the top 100 AFI films a year ago. It is continually fresh and alive, and every time there is a festival or re-release it does well. Indeed, a few years ago it was shown on a huge screen at The Hollywood Bowl, with orchestral accompaniment, and it was a smash again.

My only regret is that Deborah Kerr (six times nominated for an Oscar) was not gifted with an Academy Award along with her co-star Yul Brynner.

It is a film that should be seen for generations to come.

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