Screened as part of Autumn Events 2016
“Shall we dance? On a bright cloud of music shall we fly?” This perennial favourite of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, even now a hot ticket on Broadway, found its definitive production (and cast) in 1956, lavishly scaled for the vast Twentieth Century Fox sound stages. In its gilded fantasy of palace life in 19th-century Siam, an English governess (Deborah Kerr), imported to tutor the King’s many children, famously stands up to the autocratic monarch (Yul Brynner). Any resemblance to the plot of the subsequent The Sound of Music is soon forgotten as the mercurial Brynner commands the screen, his animal grace rendered all the more enticing by his quizzical take on Western novelties. The polygamous monarch and the proto-feminist school teacher clash, and sparks of forbidden attraction fly. Their chaste consummation on the dance floor is super-charged, an iconic late highpoint in old-school Hollywood romance.
The score abounds with songs that have become standards: ‘Hello, Young Lovers’, ‘Something Wonderful’, ‘We Kiss in a Shadow’. Yul Brynner's performance won him an Oscar but did nothing to endear the film’s breezy disregard for historical accuracy to the Thai monarchy. The film remains banned in Thailand.
“All the ingredients that made Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I a memorable stage experience have been faithfully transferred to the screen. The result is a pictorially exquisite, musically exciting, and dramatically satisfying motion picture.” — Variety