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LawrenceA

Yul Brynner: Hail to the King

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Yul Brynner (1920-1985) was the consummate screen ruler. Whether as the Pharoah of Egypt, an exiled Russian aristocrat, the leader of peoples in pre-Columbian America, the Baltic, ancient Israel, or the King of Siam, Brynner exuded authority and brutal sophistication. His bald pate was recognized the world over, and while he wasn't a very tall man, his muscular build and haughty bearing made him seem like the biggest guy in the room. He was given to bouts of megalomania, and he was one of film's premier male divas, always demanding the most luxurious accommodations and trying to steal every scene he was in (and often succeeding). He was one of the last stars to maintain an air of mystery about himself. The above-mentioned birth date is only 75% likely to be correct; he often changed it, depending on his mood, just as he often changed his ethnic background and country of origin. It's believed he was born in Vladivostok, Russia (birth name: Yuliy Briner), and had some Mongol ancestry. He would end up playing a wide variety of ethnic and racial types and many nationalities.

 

He emigrated to the U.S. in 1940, and studied with the noted acting teacher Michael Chekhov. He made his Broadway debut in 1941, but found little success. He kept at it, working on and behind the stage, and even in the early days in television. He made his film debut with 1949's Port of New York, appearing older than his reported 29 years, and sporting his own, heavily-receding hair. It would be 7 years before his next films. 1956 would be an incredible year for Brynner, making an impression on the screen like few before or since. The King and I, Anastasia, The Ten Commandments, one right after the other. A major new star was born.

 

He would continue in films for the next 20 years, until a dearth of substantive roles and a huge monetary offer to return to the stage and his early triumph in The King and I led him to abandon the screen for good. After years of relentless performances, Brynner was struck with lung cancer in 1983. He made a ground-breaking television commercial urging viewers to quit smoking that started airing just after his death in 1985. It was a powerful last statement from one of the screen's greatest individualists. 

 

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Yul didn't make as many films as a lot of the other big stars. I've managed so far to see 31 of his 40 films. 

 

My favorites are:

 

​The Magnificent Seven

The Ten Commandments

The King and I

Taras Bulba

The Buccaneer

Anastasia

Kings of the Sun

Morituri

Invitation to a Gunfighter

The Ultimate Warrior (an early entry in the now-ubiquitous post-apocalyptic genre)

 

and special mention for Westworld. His performance as the relentless killer robot gunslinger can be seen as an early version of the kind of slasher villains that ruled the 80's, like Michael Meyers from the Halloween films, or Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th, and of course, most notably The Terminator.

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Yul didn't make as many films as a lot of the other big stars. I've managed so far to see 31 of his 40 films. 

 

My favorites are:

 

​The Magnificent Seven

The Ten Commandments

The King and I

Taras Bulba

The Buccaneer

Anastasia

Kings of the Sun

Morituri

Invitation to a Gunfighter

The Ultimate Warrior (an early entry in the now-ubiquitous post-apocalyptic genre)

 

and special mention for Westworld. His performance as the relentless killer robot gunslinger can be seen as an early version of the kind of slasher villains that ruled the 80's, like Michael Meyers from the Halloween films, or Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th, and of course, most notably The Terminator.

 

I enjoy the Yul films you mention.   A film I just discovered about a year ago is Surprise Package with Mitzi Gaynor and Noel Coward.

 

Yul is very animated in this comedy \ action spoof film.    He is a riot and Gaynor never looked sexier on film.     Not a ground breaking film by any means but a fun one and very entertaining.

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I enjoy the Yul films you mention.   A film I just discovered about a year ago is Surprise Package with Mitzi Gaynor and Noel Coward.

 

Yul is very animated in this comedy \ action spoof film.    He is a riot and Gaynor never looked sexier on film.     Not a ground breaking film by any means but a fun one and very entertaining.

 

I managed to tape that one off of one of those new commercial-laden channels, GetTV. I haven't watched it yet. Glad to hear some good about it, though.

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I am a big fan of Yul Brynner. 

 

The only film of his I`ve tried to watch but could not finish was The Sound and the Fury which aired as part of the recent spotlight on Southern writers because it was too depressing and weird for me.  I really tried to finish it for Yul.

 

I have by no means seen all of his movies yet, but that is the only one I have tried to watch but could not finish.

 

The Ten Commandments is the most recently seen Brynner movie for the first time for me.  The reason it has taken so long is that it is a long movie of a subject which I only watch at Christmas or Easter and there are other movies I watch first.

 

(I notice that Ben-Hur is airing on Sunday.   I have seen the original, but not the remake - same reason.)

 

Here are SOME of my favourite Yul Bryner movies:

 

 

 

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

THE KING AND I

ANASTASIA

WESTWORLD

THE BROTHERS KARAMOSOV

THE JOURNEY

CAST A GIANT SHADOW

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Here are the titles I haven't seen or have already taped:

 

Escape from Zahrain (1962) (available on Amazon Prime)

Flight from Ashiya (1964)

Poppies Are Also Flowers (1966)

The Double Man (1967) (scheduled to air on TCM in the near future)

The Long Duel (1967)

The Battle of Neretva (1969)

Romance of a Horsethief (1971)

The Serpent (1973)

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Here are the titles I haven't seen or have already taped:

 

Escape from Zahrain (1962) (available on Amazon Prime)

Flight from Ashiya (1964)

Poppies Are Also Flowers (1966)

The Double Man (1967) (scheduled to air on TCM in the near future)

The Long Duel (1967)

The Battle of Neretva (1969)

Romance of a Horsethief (1971)

The Serpent (1973)

 

 

When is The Double Man scheduled to air on TCM - I hope we get it.

 

I have seen Flight From Ashiya.  It is an oddity.  It is like three mini movies in one that don`t quite fit together, although separately they are enjoyable.

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When is The Double Man scheduled to air on TCM - I hope we get it.

 

 

May 18...still a ways off.

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"So let it be written ..."

 

In a Marlene Dietrich biography it mentions her affair with Yul during the height of his King and I success.   She was no longer a spring chicken then so this may be testimony to her drawing power.

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Great writeup on Yul Brynner, Lawrence.

 

You're certainly right about 1956 being an outstanding year for him

 

1) King and I brought him an Oscar

2) Anatasia has him co-starring with the year's best actress Oscar winner

3) Ten Commandments has him in a major role in the biggest box office film of the year and one of the biggest of all time

 

Charlton Heston said that he thought Brynner gave the best performance in the DeMille film. He was right.

 

Brynner was one of those actors with a dominating screen presence. It's difficult to take your eyes off him. There was a panther like grace to his movements and he brought a certain dignified majesty to his roles.

 

He more than holds his own with that all star cast in Magnificent Seven (in fact he and Eli Wallach are my two favourites in that western), and when co-starred with Brando in Morturi I think that Brynner is the most commanding performer on the screen, even though Marlon's quite good in that film, as well.

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My favorite Yul Brynner role is as Jason Compson in 'The Sound and the Fury' (1958). I also really liked him in 'Invitation to a Gunfighter' (1964).

 

The only movie of his I didn't like was 'Kings of the Sun' (1963). Man, was he oily.

 

There's one movie that really delighted me with his dry-wit comic style - 'Surprise Package' (1960). I saw it just once, long ago. Why does this one never seem to get aired?

 

And I loved his cameo appearance in 'The Magic Christian'! Wonderfully opposite to his usual masculinity!

 

Anyway, he was (almost) always (kings of the sun, ugh) a very appreciated movie star by me.

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Great comments and pictures, Lawrence.  I really like Yul Brynner, too.  I love him best as the King of Siam in The King and I.  He OWNS that role. 

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Love the photos, Lawrence.

 

Just a reminder to everyone that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS will be shown in theaters in many cities across the country on March 20 and March 23.

 

THE KING AND I will be shown at this year's TCM Film Festival.

 

For those who don't know THE JOURNEY, I highly recommend it. TCM shows it from time to time. A varied group of people tries to leave Hungary in 1956 during the Soviet takeover. Deborah Kerr wants to help her lover (Jason Robards) escape, for he has participated in the struggle against the Soviet. Yul Brynner plays the Russian officer who controls their fate, and he's very smitten with Deborah. One of Anatole Litvak's best films.

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For those who don't know THE JOURNEY, I highly recommend it. TCM shows it from time to time. A varied group of people tries to leave Hungary in 1956 during the Soviet takeover. Deborah Kerr wants to help her lover (Jason Robards) escape, for he has participated in the struggle against the Soviet. Yul Brynner plays the Russian officer who controls their fate, and he's very smitten with Deborah. One of Anatole Litvak's best films.

 

That gets shown on TCM occasionally. It was Robards' feature debut. I liked it.

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"So let it be written ..."

 

In a Marlene Dietrich biography it mentions her affair with Yul during the height of his King and I success.   She was no longer a spring chicken then so this may be testimony to her drawing power.

 

There is a letter from Marlene Dietrich to Noel Coward in which she talks about being upset with Yul -- he won't call her, he won't see her as often as she would like. She's really upset in the letter (Letters of Noel Coward, edited by Barry Day, pp. 318-326).  

 

Noel's response to Marlene:

 

"It is difficult for me to wag my finger at you, from so very far away, particularly as my heart aches for you, but really, darling, you must pack up this nonsensical situation once and for all. It is really beneath your dignity, not your dignity as a famous artist and a glamorous star, but your dignity as a human, only too human being. Curly is attractive, beguiling, tender and fascinating, but he is not the only man in the world who merits those delightful adjectives....do please try to work out for yourself a little personal philosophy and DO NOT repeat DO NOT be so bloody vulnerable. To hell with God damned L'Amour. It always causes far more trouble than it's worth."

 

Dorothy Sarnoff, who was the original Lady Thiang in The King and I, has said that Yul had an affair with Gertrude Lawrence, then "dropped her like a hot potato." Others from that original company also had flings with him.

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There is a letter from Marlene Dietrich to Noel Coward in which she talks about being upset with Yul -- he won't call her, he won't see her as often as she would like. She's really upset in the letter (Letters of Noel Coward, edited by Barry Day, pp. 318-326).  

 

Noel's response to Marlene:

 

"It is difficult for me to wag my finger at you, from so very far away, particularly as my heart aches for you, but really, darling, you must pack up this nonsensical situation once and for all. It is really beneath your dignity, not your dignity as a famous artist and a glamorous star, but your dignity as a human, only too human being. Curly is attractive, beguiling, tender and fascinating, but he is not the only man in the world who merits those delightful adjectives....do please try to work out for yourself a little personal philosophy and DO NOT repeat DO NOT be so bloody vulnerable. To hell with God damned L'Amour. It always causes far more trouble than it's worth."

 

Dorothy Sarnoff, who was the original Lady Thiang in The King and I, has said that Yul had an affair with Gertrude Lawrence, then "dropped her like a hot potato." Others from that original company also had flings with him.

 

And but of course he was married at the time.

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And but of course he was married at the time.

 

Yuriko, a dancer in the original King and I, told me that one of the other dancers had twins by him.

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For those who don't know THE JOURNEY, I highly recommend it. TCM shows it from time to time. A varied group of people tries to leave Hungary in 1956 during the Soviet takeover. Deborah Kerr wants to help her lover (Jason Robards) escape, for he has participated in the struggle against the Soviet. Yul Brynner plays the Russian officer who controls their fate, and he's very smitten with Deborah. One of Anatole Litvak's best films.

 

Yul is truly bracing in this. He eats glass.

 

I've seen men eat glass in real life. Thick shot-glasses even. It's frightening - and for me, sickening to see.

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Yul is truly bracing in this. He eats glass.

 

I've seen men eat glass in real life. Thick shot-glasses even. It's frightening - and for me, sickening to see.

I believes in this film he accidentally  breaks his hand.

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I just watched The Ten Commandments

 

54fee4f81b549924b488e18d97e82705.jpg

 

 

I really need to see/want to see The King and I. I can't believe in 23 years of life, I haven't yet. lol

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I just watched The Ten Commandments

 

54fee4f81b549924b488e18d97e82705.jpg

 

 

I really need to see/want to see The King and I. I can't believe in 23 years of life, I haven't yet. lol

 

 

The King and I is a great musical.  But you have to be prepared for the sad ending.

 

23 years.  Oh, dear.  You are not much more than half my age.

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Having seen THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on the big screen today--with only a couple of dozen in attendance, most of whom saw the movie when it first came out--I am in the mood to praise Yul Brynner. The digital restoration by Allen Smith is superb, and the film looks great, with the kind of beautiful but unmannered cinematography which has apparently passed away in the digital age.

 

The script is clear and easy to follow, with many well-developed characters. Whatever reservations one may have about Charlton Heston's acting, he has the presence necessary for Moses, and his antagonist, Yul Brynner as Rameses, could scarcely be better. Let's see: a handsome and sexy man with a distinctive and unusual look, plenty of screen presence, a resonant voice, and solid acting ability. In other films he's a credible hero. Here he's just as believable as a villain who thinks he's strong, but is actually weak and lacking in self-knowledge. 

 

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a better movie than I had realized, and Yul Brynner is one of the reasons that it is.

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