Tag Archives: Yul Brynner

The King and I “The March of the Siamese Children” (1956)

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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I is one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The story is based in part on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a widow who served as a governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s. The 1951 musical was adapted into a film in 1956, both starring Yul Brynner as the titular King (he’s one of my favorite characters).

The King and I has many wonderful musical moments; one of my favorites is “The March of the Siamese Children” which takes place relatively early in the story. Anna (Deborah Kerr) is upset that she must stay in the royal palace next to the harem (instead of in a little house of her own as she’d been promised) and is on the verge of returning to England straight away. However, before she goes, the King insists that Anna meet his children first. If she still wants to leave after meeting them, he won’t stop her.

The march then begins with children being led in one by one by their nurses. Each child comes forward, bows to their father, greets Anna by touching their forehead to her hands and then backs away to sit with the royal wives (their respective mothers).

The music is a beautiful theme and variations that repeats over and over, altering slightly for certain children. The most notable change is when Crown Prince Chulalongkorn, the King’s heir marches in; the music here changes to a stirring brass fanfare as befits the heir to the throne. Unlike the other children, Chulalongkorn and the King bow to each other and Anna is told to curtsy to the Crown Prince.

There are some other humorous moments, some of my favorites being:

  • The twins: The two boys (not surprisingly) are dressed identically and the King seems quite pleased with them.
  • The forgetful princess: one of the younger daughters accidentally turns her back on her father and when he reminds her with a mock gasp of shock/horror, she quickly turns around with a look of surprise (the King isn’t all that angry with her, as she is still young)
  • The curious prince: one prince comes out looking very curiously at Anna the entire time and it quickly becomes clear why: he’s never seen someone with Anna’s huge skirts before. He’s curious to see exactly what’s under there…but the King quickly stops that idea.
  • “I want a hug!”: One daughter forgets where she is and runs to the King for a hug, only to be stopped with a stern look. When the dejected princess begins to back away, she is reassured by the King with a warm smile (which she returns).
  • The littlest princess: Possibly the most adorable moment comes at the very end when the youngest daughter comes out. She is so small that the King doesn’t see her until she tugs on his pant leg for attention. He then guides her through what she needs to do (it’s adorable!)

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Once all the children are assembled, Anna realizes she can’t possibly leave them to return to England (which is what the King thought would happen) and she agrees to stay after all, to the delight of the royal children.

“The March of the Siamese Children” is a delightful moment from a wonderful film and I hope you enjoy it.

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See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

The King and I “Shall We Dance?” (1956)

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TCM Summer Under the Stars 2016: Anne Baxter as Nefretiri in The Ten Commandments (1956)

This post is part of the 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Journeys in Classic Film

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Nefretiri when we first meet her

Anne Baxter starred in many films, but the role I will always know her for is her portrayal of Nefretiri in The Ten Commandments (1956). She actually auditioned for the role of Sephora, Moses’ wife, but it was felt she was more suited to the role of the Egyptian throne princess.

Nefretiri is already head over heels in love with Prince Moses when we first meet her. As Moses is returning in triumph from yet another military victory (this time over the Ethiopians), Nefretiri feels that nothing will stop Seti, the Pharoah, from naming Moses his heir (and thus allowing the two to marry, because Nefretiri can only marry a future Pharaoh). She believes this in spite of the fact that Seti HAS a son, Rameses, and he would definitely prefer to be Pharaoh over Moses. But Nefretiri makes it clear from the start that she loves Moses, and could never love Rameses.

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Nefretiri is so beautiful and so determined to have what she wants, that she doesn’t really know when to let go. In fact, a large part of her role (especially in part 2 of the film) centers around the fact that she cannot let go of her love for Moses, not when he was outed as being a Hebrew and condemned to exile, not even after he returns to Egypt as a prophet for the Hebrew God of Israel. Even the revelation that Moses is married and a father himself doesn’t stop her. Either Moses comes to her whenever she wants, or she will make sure the Hebrews never leave Egypt.

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All those years later, though Moses has changed, Nefretiri has not

Nefretiri’s selfish desires prove to be her undoing, as it is her final plot to harden Rameses’s heart against letting the Hebrews go that leads to the final plague on Egypt: the death of every firstborn. Despite her pleas to Moses to stop it from happening, her son dies in her arms.

 

I loved watching Nefretiri growing up because of the beautiful gowns she wore. As I got older, and learned how to appreciate performances in film, I grew to love Baxter’s portrayal of Nefretiri even more, because she is something of a tragic figure, in a way. All those years living in the palace, Nefretiri is used to getting whatever she wants, whenever she wants. And if someone says no, all she has to do is smile and use her beauty, and all opposition melts away.

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She can never get over the fact that she had to marry Rameses instead of Moses. She wasn’t content to be Queen of Egypt either. When the opportunity presented itself, she HAD to be Moses’ again, one way or the other, even though this had now become impossible. And because of her narrow minded desire, she lost her son (who she clearly loved), her husband really hates her (he nearly killed her except he had to admit he was unable to kill Moses) and all she has left are bitter memories.

Anne Baxter used all of her skills to bring Nefretiri to life on the silver screen and it is a performance I continue to enjoy to this day. I hope you enjoyed reading about her role in The Ten Commandments. Have a good day!

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"Overture" from The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein

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Many consider this 1960 film to be the greatest Western ever made. Adapted from The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven tells the story of 7 gunfighters who join forces to protect a poor Mexican village from a gang of bandits led by the murderous Calvera (Eli Wallach). Led by Chris (Yul Brynner), the other gunfighters consist of:

  • Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen)
  • Bernardo O’Reilley (Charles Bronson)
  • Lee (Robert Vaughn)
  • Harry Luck (Brad Dexter)
  • Britt (James Coburn)
  • Chico (Horst Buchholz

The task is one step above thankless, as the only pay is a $20 gold piece and whatever food they eat while they’re in the village. And while the group barely tolerates each other at first (as they’re all in it for various reasons, be it money, fame or simply an excuse to relieve boredom), they slowly come together to help the villagers learn to defend themselves from Calvera’s gang.

Elmer Bernstein’s overture to the film has been praised for defining not only this film, but the Western genre as a whole. I posted this theme in particular because a remake of this film is due out next year (with a posthumous score by the late James Horner) and it will be interesting to see how the music has changed from 1960 to 2016. Until the remake comes out, enjoy a classic piece of film music!

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From left to right: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and James Coburn.

As a quick update: while Horner’s score does include the classic overture at the very end, the film itself does not live up to the high standard set by this 1960 classic. If given the choice, always go with this one.

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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