Thursday, October 2, 2008

The King & I (1956)

The first generation of this version of the Siamese King and a English widow who was invited to teach the King's children English boasted the brilliant casting of Yul Brenner as the King and Deborah Kerr as Mrs Anna Leonowens, making it one of the most memorable musical which ever made it to the big screen.

This movie was one of the early collaboration of the 2 talented Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, in which they composed and presented a set of wonderfully catchy and evergreen soundtracks which is still in everyone's mind till this very day.

This version was definitely a much more lively version and you could never get bored of watching Yul Brenner's excellent portrayal of the autocratic Siamese ruler.
King Mongkut was the character or the symbolic figurehead on which this story was based on.
In fact, the whole movie was an adaptation from the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon.

I could never forget the wonderful scores of "Getting to Know You", "Shall We Dance?" and "Whistle a Happy Tune" where the tune of this songs instantly plants the image of the fair lady in a bouncing frock and a bald and indignant man who wears only a pair of pants and with his hands on his hips.

The Story started with Deborah Kerr, playing Mrs Anna Leonowens arriving on a ship with her son, Louis in Bangkok.
She was here to teach the royal household of King Mongkut.
She was greeted by the Prime Minister, Kralohom, whose first impression astounded both mother and son as he appeared half-naked (apparently it was the norm in Siam).
Her second shock came when she learnt that she was supposed to stay in the palace although she had been promised a house of her own.
She demands to see the King and his majesty did see her, and was very pleased with her arrival.
Before she could say anything else, the King happily led her to be introduced to his 106 wives and 15 children (much to Anna's surprise) and he mentioned that he has sixty two more wives who were not presented at the moment.
Anna agreed to staying in the palace and to teach all of them.

Anna was constantly bickering with the King over matters; as she found the King to be a highly-opinionated person and male-dominant minded.
It was hilarious when she discussed with him about Moses, and also his order for her to write a letter to the President of America to send some MALE elephants for the Civil War.
However, the King was also seen as a person who emphasized on education when he intervened in Mrs Anna's class, reprimanding his children who did not believe Anna's lesson on the subject of snow and scoffed at her description of the small size of Siam.
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The King barged in and told them off for not believing in their teacher.

Anna also found out about Lady Tuptim who was the King's latest addition to his list of wives. Tuptim also confided in her about her love interest, Lun Tha whom she had been seeing since childhood.
Anna, initially hesitant, decided to help them when she reminisce of her husband, Tom.

The King received news from hearsay that he was called a barbarian in England and decided to throw an English or European style feast to invite all the government officials from the European region. He commanded Anna to help in the preparations, planning, make dresses and also orchestrate an European style music among his orchestra. It seemed rather overwhelming but Anna was reminded by the King of how Moses mentioned that the whole world was created in 6 days.

The time came and Anna had made beautiful dresses for the King's wives but to her horror, she forgot about their undergarments and reminded them to stand with their backs to the wall upon meeting the Ambassador. However, she did not expect the Ambassador's spyglass which he hung to have a good look terrified the women who imagined that he had the head of a goat.
The Ambassador had a great shock in return when the women held their dresses up high, exposing themselves (without the undergarments) to him.

Anna was shocked but she was also surprised to meet an old acquaintance cum old flame in the very distinguished gentlemen, Sir Edward Ramsey who was the highly regarded right-hand man of the Ambassador.
Their reminiscence of the old times was interrupted by the jealous King who led Anna to the table for their dinner.
The King displayed his general persona of an intellectual and knowledgeable man to impress his guests followed by a narration of Uncle Tom's Cabin by his Lady Tuptim.
Tuptim had plotted her escape with her lover, Lun Tha that night immediately after the play and they ran away.

The King and Anna enjoyed discussing about the success of their banquet that night after the event and even enjoyed a little polka dance to the song "Shall We Dance?"
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It was then their romantic moments were interrupted by Kralohom who reported that Tuptim and Lun Tha was found and the King wanted to whip her; to Anna's protest.
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In her fit of anger, she called the King a true barbarian and that left the King throwing the whip on the floor and leaving the room.
Lun Tha was later found dead in the river.

Anna, in her disappointment and after incurring the wrath of the King, knew she could no longer stay in the palace and she gathered her son, Louis and started packing.
She was then informed that the King was seriously ill and she went, to have a look at him. He was indeed very sick and he handed her a ring and pronounced that his successor to the throne will be his eldest son, crown Prince Chulalongkorn.
While the Prince announced his intentions when he rules the country, the old King dies silently, observed and grieved by Anna by his side and his ever faithful Prime Minister.

It was highly animated movie and you will be laughing by your sides at the King's attempts in speaking English and being seen as intellectual.
Who could ever forget his famous connotation of Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera?

I have compiled the following quotes from the movie, and can you believe this movie is older than The Sound of Music?:)

Memorable Quotes:
King: Etcetera etcetera etcetera

King: Your head must be lower than mine!

King: When I sit, you sit. When I kneel, you kneel. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!

Ambassador: How many children do you have?
King: Oh, I have only 106. I have not been married for very long.
King: And I am expecting 5 more.

King: You will order the finest gold chopsticks.
Anna: Your Majesty, chopsticks? Don't you think knives and forks would be more suitable?
King: I make mistake, the British not scientific enough to know how to use chopsticks.

King, in asking Anna to write to the President of America
King: ...Pairs of male elephants to be released into the forests of America. There it is hoped that they will grow in number and the people can tame them and use them as beasts of burden.
Anna: But your majesty, I don't think you mean pairs of MALE elephants.

King: Moses said God created the world in 6 days
When Anna argued about having so much work to do to prepare for the banquet in one week,
King: Remember Moses said God created the world in 6 days!

Before banquet preparations
King[praying to Buddha]: Help also Mrs. Anna to keep awake for scientific sewing of dresses, even though she be only a woman and a Christian and therefore unworthy of your interest!
Mrs Anna was offended of course and she got ready to rise
Anna: Your Majesty!
King: A promise is a promise! Head must not be higher than mine! A promise!

King: This is not right.
Anna: Why, of course, your majesty, you're doing perfectly wonderful
King: You do not hold your hands like that
Anna: No, we don't
King slips hand to hold Anna's waist

The Verdict?
Watch it, it's a classic and you'll never regret it. This is one of the best musicals produced and Yul Brenner was marvellous!~
Remember that this was even the forefather of The Sound of Music and what should I say except that the Rodgers and Hammerstein production is absolutely amazing?:)

Shall We Dance....(Tam tam tam)

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