In 1862, young English widow Anna Owens (Irene Dunne) accepts the job of teaching the royal children of Siam. On her arrival in Bangkok, culture clash is immediate. King Mongkut (Sir Rex Harrison) respects Anna for standing up to him, though this appalls his courtiers. In due course, she becomes the King's confidant and diplomatic advisor. Their relationship endures through many trials.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
When Sir Rex Harrison met Director John Cromwell, he found him pleasant enough, but rather aloof. "At least two months passed before the production began", recalled Harrison in his 1975 autobiography "Rex", "during which time, if we did come across each other, (Cromwell) withdrew, either physically or mentally; I was never able to sit down with him and discuss my fears and worries about playing an Oriental, and he never told me what he thought about the character." See more »
The banquet scene includes a performance of Siamese theatrical dance. However, the music which accompanies this performance is unmistakably Balinese gamelan, not Siamese. Furthermore, it's "gong kebyar" style, which hadn't been invented yet in the 1860s. See more »
I watched this film because I'm such a fan of Irene Dunne, particularly in her light-hearted romantic and screwball comedies. There are some amusing situations, but this is ultimately a drama and certainly not a lavish musical. It still, to me, is the best version of them all.
This film hits hard right out of the gate with Anna and her son caught in a situation that neither quite expect. Rex Harrison plays the King surprisingly well despite not looking as exotic as Yul Brenner or as truly authentic as Yun-Fat Chow. Dunne's determination and caring for her son spur her on and make her brave and strong in an understated fashion as the film progresses. The main characters repartee is a delight to witness. Their chemistry is just right, and they do not have the luxury of lavish musical numbers to draw them together. One just knows they have a great respect for each other from very fine acting.
I will say that I found this version the most emotionally charged of the three motion pictures, yet it is not a Peyton Place melodrama. Maybe that's why I love it so. It's so well-made in every aspect that it really packs that emotional punch for me. I didn't even recognize the usually very recognizable Lee J. Cobb and somehow missed his name in the credits the first time.
I think this is about as fine an epic drama about forbidden romance and opposing cultures as I've seen. I give most of that credit to the wonderful performances of the leads and the incredibly adept script. It entertains, tugs at your heartstrings, and doesn't disappoint. I highly recommend it as the best version of them all:)
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