14 January 2011

Shall We?

One of the stories I love best- or shall I say one of the musicals I love best is The King & I.
It fulfills all my fantasies. 

I am intrepid. 

I sing. 

I dance. 

I speak beautifully. 

 I conquer.

I win the hearts and minds of a country.

  I bring a King to his knees.

I wear hoop skirts.

Yohji Yamamoto hoop dress

I have watched time and again- enough is never enough with this movie, As you shall see. I have been equally intrigued by the story of Gertrude Lawrence's performance in the Broadway musical and her love affair with co-star, Yul Brenner. Lawrence collapsed after a performance and within a month had died of liver cancer. Lawrence was buried in the champagne-colored gown worn for the "Shall We Dance?" number in the second act of The King and I. She had made Yul Brenner a star and he would always credit her with his celebrity.

Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne starred in the 1946 movie Anna and the King of Siam-sans music- with much critical acclaim. Though Anna does not sing in this version her intrepid nature and great style captured the imagination of this little Anna-wanna-be.

Stories of the real Anna Leonowens are intriguing too- and still somewhat a mystery. She wrote about her experiences in three collections.The English Governess at the Siamese Court: Being Recollections of Six Years in the Royal Palace at Bangkok,The Romance of Siamese Harem Life and Life and Travel in India: Being Recollections of a Journey Before the Days of Railroads. The 1946 drama and the subsequent Broadway musical and movies were based on the 1946 book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon. Her book expands on Anna Leonowens' own embellished accounts of her experiences.

You cannot shut the world out forever. Believe me, I've tried. 
-from the Anna Leonowens diaries 

How much do I love the movie? I have wondered about a sequel- Life after the King? Something betwixt fact and fiction-Shall We Say? 

She was a stranger when she came to live in Siam-Now returning to England- she would be a stranger there too. Anna Leonowens and her son Louis had lived in Bangkok, where she was contracted to teach English to the children of the royal household. She threatens to leave when the house she had been promised is not available, but fell in love with the children-and their father. After the King's death, she embarks on a return voyage to England. Her return to England, bringing with her- an exotic household, servants and furnishings- would create a sensation. Anna had changed. She no longer embraced the traditional dress of the Victorians and was determined not to return to corsets and billowing skirts. Her life would be different this time. Her school would be different. One thing she was sure of, her heart would remain in Siam forever.

there are 9 posts about Anna- unfortunately blogger has no way of publishing them any way but from last to first- be sure to read them all.

Books about Anna Leonowens, Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, Anna Leonowens: A Life Beyond 'the King and I' by Leslie Smith Dow, Katya & the Prince of Siam by Eileen Hunter

shown throughout this post are photographs of the movie Anna and the King of Siam, Broadway Musical starring Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brenner and the subsequent movie The King & I.



  1. Okay, I will admit it, I've never seen the movie or musical although I know it is a favorite of my mother - much of this owing to her infatuation with Mr. Brenner. I am adding to my Netflix queue immediately.


  2. Hmm...what a busy boy Yul Brynner was back in day.
    According to her daughter's biography, Marlene Dietrich was having
    a torrid romance with Yul during the run of King and I.
    Had no idea that poor Gertie was on his menu at the same time.
    At any rate, King and I is one of R&H's very best musicals, one of the
    few I can stomach~and the dance with Kerr and Brynner is positively
    breathtaking. Hoop skirts were made for such moments!

  3. Love this movie classic, but am more familiar with the Deborah Kerr/Yul Brenner version - now I must put the earlier one on my list. How sad about Gertrude Lawrence - I never knew. And love your sequel - I see some potential there for a creative endeavor of some sort!

  4. We bought the Gertie Lawrence recording of the stage version of the King and I to add to the recording we have of the filmed version with Deborah Kerr. I think I prefer the GL version. Even though she is not as good a singer as Deborah Kerr (or was it Marnie Nixon dubbing?), she sings with more character, and is more interesting. True to the point that a star of a musical on stage needn't always have the absolutely best voice, but rather imbue the charcter with feeling and personality. Think of Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. Oh, and one does adore the music and dancing and sets and costumes in TK&I, one really does.

  5. A dress like Anna's was always the first item on my Christmas list when I was a little girl...the bigger the hoop the better! I needed it to dance in of course (at the ball). Needless to say, I didn't get one...but I still dream, that one day I will.

    Love your Anna posts!
    xo J~



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