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The King And I DVD


In 1955 this lavish production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway hit The King and I, starring Yul Brynner as the King of Siam and Deborah Kerr as the governess sent to look after his children, was the most expensive film ever mounted by 20th Century Fox. The 40 sets in ripe decors by Walter M Scott and Paul S Fox included a ballroom of black marble with jade and silk tapestries and a banqueting scene with a table that gives the impression of stretching to infinity. The costumes by Irene Sharaff, notably the hoop ballroom gown for Deborah Kerr and those for the ballet "The Small House of Uncle Thomas", dazzle the eye in their delineation of Western manners and Oriental splendour. Brynner remains impressive as the King but his pidgin dialogue, inherited from Hammerstein's book, with the dropping of the definite article takes some adjustment. Alfred Newman put his unique stamp on the music: the Overture offers an example of his luminous divided string sound, the climactic ballroom scene a full bodied orchestral reprise of "Shall We Dance?" as the camera pulls away to a high angle producing an exultant visual finish to this celebrated polka. On the DVD: To view The King and I in its original format (thanks to this DVD release) is a revelation. Over the years the production values of the film have been compromised through inadequate presentation on television and video. Now the eye can appreciate once more the novelty of the wide-screen process CinemaScope 55 which offers in-depth vision, breathtaking employment of Eastman colour and an enhanced sound system that ensures a well-upholstered backdrop for the sumptuous musical arrangements under conductor Alfred Newman. DVD supplements here include the original theatrical trailer, a Movietone news of the Oscar ceremony of 56-57 and three songs lifted from the movie itself. Marni Nixon overdubbed Deborah Kerr's vocals on screen--those moments where one voice takes over from another are more clearly delineated on the DVD with the result that there is some discrepancy between Kerr's spirited playing and Nixon's over careful (rather) twee enunciation of the lyrics. --Adrian Edwards

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When nineteenth century English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr) is employed by the King of Siam (Yul Brynner) to educate his many children, she takes her son, Louis (Rex Thompson), along with her. Anna, a strong-willed woman, soon clashes with the king, who is used to having his every wish adhered to without question. However, Anna's refusal to bow to his will wins his respect and, eventually, his love. Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers include 'Hello Young Lovers' and 'Getting To Know You'.

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