Yul Brynner: The Man Who Was King | The Hollywood Collection

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Yuliy Borisovich Briner, better known as Yul Brynner, was a Russian-American actor, singer, and director, best known for his portrayal of King Mongkut in the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical The King and I, for which he won two Tony Awards, and later an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film adaptation. 

He played the role 4,625 times on stage and became known for his shaved head, which he maintained as a personal trademark long after adopting it for The King and I. Considered one of the first Russian-American film stars,[1] he was honored with a ceremony to put his handprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 1956, and also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

He received the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ramesses II in the Cecil B. DeMille epic The Ten Commandments (1956) and General Bounine in the film Anastasia (also 1956). He was also well known as the gunman Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven (1960) and its first sequel Return of the Seven, along with roles as the android “The Gunslinger” in Westworld (1973), and its sequel, Futureworld (1976).[2] In addition to his film credits, he also worked as a model and photographer and was the author of several books.[3][4] Wikipedia

In 1950, before he achieved fame, he was the director of a children’s puppet show on CBS, Life with Snarky Parker (1950), which lasted barely eight months on the air before cancellation.

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr perform “Shall We Dance” from The King and I

When he found out he would be playing Pharaoh Rameses II opposite Charlton Heston‘s Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956) and that he would be shirtless for most of the film, he began a rigorous weightlifting program because he did not want to be physically overshadowed by Heston (which explains his buffer than normal physique during The King and I (1956), another film he was set to work on at the time).

Was acting in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ (his Broadway debut), when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. That night’s show was canceled and most of the crew enlisted soon after. The show lasted only 15 performances and Brynner was out of a job until 1943.

Yul Brynner confessed in an interview that when he spoke about movies with his French wife, they talked in English, but when it was about art, then they spoke in French.

I had a rule when I was doing “The King and I”, that I never allowed anybody backstage, except after the show, because all this work went into creating an illusion and would be destroyed by a visit backstage. . . And one day, during the intermission, the stage doorman came in and said, “I don’t know what to do, Mr. Brynner, there’s a man who says he’s Cecil B. DeMille and he has to see you immediately about a matter of life and death.” I said, “Well, show him in, if he doesn’t mind I’m almost stark naked, but I don’t mind. Ask him in.” So he came in, shook my hand and said, “Mr. Brynner, how’d you like to make a picture that your grandchildren will see in the theaters around the world?” I said, “I think I’d like that.” He said, “Then will you play Rameses in The Ten Commandments (1956) for me?” I said, “Certainly.” We shook hands, and that was the deal. It was as firm a deal as I’ve ever had in this business. I was the first actor engaged for the movie.

WE&P by EZorrilla.


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