For Reel

The King and I (1956)
September 11, 2016, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Walter Lang
3.5 Stars
The King and IThis over-inflated Rogers and Hammerstein production undeniably has its charms, even if it often suffers from the same sluggishness of the typically overproduced spectacles of its ilk (a subplot involving the forbidden romance between Rita Moreno and Carlos Rivas is permission to take a quick nap). As the mother hen who promotes Western ideals in the kingdom of Siam, Deborah Karr is captivating—her steadfastness is not to be taken for self-seriousness, with her performance allowing glimpses of both levity and sensuality. As oddly captivating as Yul Brynner is, his performance would be dead in the water without Karr as the straight woman, who gives him the required sensitivity and sentimentality. The film’s most enduring quality is its sense of repressed sexuality—in the same way that many flock to Victorian novels for the steamy but understated romances, The King and I involves a romantic relationship that Hollywood was unwilling to put on movie screens too blatantly. As a result, Brynner’s bare chest, Karr’s revealing evening gown, and one well placed hand on a waist carries a remarkable sense of unbridled passion, adding an extra intensity to Karr and Brynner’s scenes together. If the songs aren’t particularly memorable, the performances and the enchanting surrealism of the Jerome Robbins choreographed Uncle Tom’s Cabin setpiece age the film better than one might think.

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