The King and I (1956) starring Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner, Rita Moreno, Martin Benson, Terry Saunders, Rex Thompson, Carlos Rivas, Patrick Adiarte directed by Walter Lang Movie Review

The King and I (1956)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956)

Kerr is Getting to Know Yul

Despite no longer being popular as they once were I still enjoy watching musicals as even if they have a weak storyline the song and dance scenes pretty much always entertain. And in a way that is how I feel about "The King and I" as although not a weak storyline I find it a bit dull but then I enjoy the musical elements and the performances from Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr are terrific. And it is the wonderful performances and various songs which "The King and I" is memorable for rather than the semi fictitious story which is based on Anna Leonowens own memoirs, although highly altered having been turned into a book and then a stage play before the movie was made.

Mrs. Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr - King Solomon's Mines) arrives in Bangkok with her son Louis (Rex Thompson) where she has been employed by King Mongkut of Siam (Yul Brynner - Westworld) to educate his children as he wants his country to be able to compete with western civilizations. But as soon as she arrives Anna is ready to leave over broken promises by the King who expects her to not only teach his children but also his wives and live with them instead of the house he had promised. Despite this less than promising start Anna agrees to stay as she falls in love with the King's many children and over time the antagonism between the two of them softens. But despite having feelings for the King she can't bring herself to be another wife.

Rita Moreno and Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956)

So my main issue with "The King and I" is I find the actual storyline quite dull despite it actually being a solid vehicle for all the musical scenes. Maybe it's me but it all seems so obvious that the initial antagonism between Anna and the King will eventually lead to deeper feelings for each other. And so it almost feels like a procession through a formula where they go from winding each other up through to playing mental games of one-upmanship before finally it all gets wiped away for their true feelings to start to show. Okay so it's not all obvious and the ending is a bit of a surprise but remove the musical element and the underlying storyline feels like it could have come out of any rom-com.

But the storyline is solid and whilst dull it precedes nicely serving up plenty of opportunity for those musical numbers. Now there are a lot of musical numbers which whilst nice are actually a little forgettable but then there are those which stay with you long after "The King and I" has finished. It's those musical numbers such as "I Whistle A Happy Tune", "Getting To Know You" and "Shall We Dance" which make "The King and I" so much fun. And whilst Deborah Kerr was dubbed for these musical numbers it works, it looks and sounds believable especially as Yul Brynner does his own singing.

Aside from the memorable musical numbers, for me it is the performances which make "The King and I" so entertaining. Deborah Kerr is wonderful as the prim Anna yet with a real feistiness about her which makes her battles so much fun. But it is Yul Brynner who steals the show, the humour he delivers from his posturing, the hands on the hips and his chest puffed out stance is just wonderful. And it gets even better as Brynner delivers the fun of the King getting one over of Anna, especially in the scene where he commands her to always be lower than him. It has a wonderful playfulness about it and that shows through out thanks to Kerr and Brynner being on top form.

And to be honest "The King and I" is visually impressive with some brilliant sets and equally wonderful costumes. It is certainly a treat for your eyes which comes alive with various well choreographed dance scenes.

What this all boils down to is that "The King and I" is a very good musical with some great musical numbers, brilliant sets and wonderful performances from Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner who deliver the playfulness of their characters to perfection. My only problem is that I find the storyline dull despite it being a solid enough vehicle for all the musical numbers. It just feels very familiar and ultimately predictable although it does have a couple of much needed surprises.