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The film's title card reads "Darryl F. Zanuck presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I." The story of The King and I was based on incidents in the lives of the real Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut of Siam. For additional information about the real people and historical background, please see the entry for Anna and the King of Siam in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. A 1987 Los Angeles Times news item noted that The King and I was banned in Thailand because Prince Diskul, King Mongkut's grandson, was offended by Yul Brynner's portrayal of his grandfather, stating that "we don't think our king is like that, jumping around and so forth."
According to a March 1954 Daily Variety news item, producer Charles Brackett was to collaborate with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II on the King and I screenplay. The extent of their contribution to the released film has not been determined, however, and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library contains no scripts authored by them. Memos from Darryl F. Zanuck contained in a modern source reveal that Zanuck strongly argued that the film should not run longer than 135-140 minutes. To accomplish this, Zanuck suggested cutting the ballet The Small House of Uncle Thomas and eliminating some of the musical numbers from the stage play. In a memo contained in the Produced Scripts Collection, Hammerstein countered that the ballet could be shortened, but pleaded that it not be cut out. As a result, the ballet was cut from its original stage running time of fifteen minutes.
Other numbers cut from the Broadway musical were "My Lord and Master," "The Royal Bangkok Academy," "Western People Funny" and "A Woman Is a Female." Although strains of "I Have Dreamed" are heard in the score just before "We Kiss in a Shadow," the song was not in the film. According to the Daily Variety review, the major dramatic difference between the stage and film versions was the deepening of the relationship between "Anna" and "the King."
According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, also contained in the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Dorothy Dandridge was initially cast as "Tuptim." Studio publicity adds that Marisa Pavan tested for that role. Although Hollywood Reporter news items add June Tsukina, Hari, Elena Beatti, Don Takeuchi, Billy Lee, George Lee, Anita Dano and Florita Romero to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. An August 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that June Graham was to act as assistant choreographer, but the extent of her contribution to the released film has not been determined. Jerome Robbins choreographed both the Broadway and film versions of The King and I. Brynner, Terry Saunders, Patrick Adiarte and Thomas and Dennis Bonilla reprised their Broadway roles for the film. The Bonilla twins were the real-life children of Lydia Wolf, who played one of the royal wives. A November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that dancer Gemze de Lappe sued Fox because the company denied her screen credit. The outcome of that suit is unknown; however, de Lappe is not credited onscreen.
Studio publicity contained in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library yields the following information about the production: The studio had to rent extra generators from M-G-M and Columbia to produce enough light to illuminate the palace courtyard set. Kerr's costumes weighed between 32 and 42 pounds. The dress she wore during the "Shall We Dance" number featured a metal hoop with a 25-foot circumference.
The film won the following Academy Awards: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Sound Recording, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Actor (Brynner). The King and I propelled Brynner to stardom. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Kerr), Best Direction and Best Cinematography. Although the film was shot in 55mm, like Carousel, it was projected in 35mm. In 1961, the studio converted the 55mm negative to 70mm, dubbed the process "Grandeur 70," and screened the film in Los Angeles on May 9, 1961, according to a Hollywood Citizen-News news item. After the film received a lukewarm reception in Los Angeles and San Francisco, however, the studio abandoned the idea of reissuing it, according to a July 1961 Hollywood Reporter news item.
Leonowens' story was first filmed in 1946 by Twentieth Century-Fox as Anna and the King of Siam, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison and directed by John Cromwell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50) The story later resurfaced as a CBS television series, Anna and the King, which starred Brynner and Samantha Eggar and ran from 17 September-December 31, 1972. In addition to playing the role of the king in the television show, Brynner reprised the role in Broadway revivals and road company performances until his death in 1985. In 1999, Morgan Creek Productions produced an animated film based on the musical titled The King and I, featuring the voices of Miranda Richardson and Martin Vidnovik, and in 1999, Fox 2000 Pictures released a non-musical version of the story titled Anna and the King, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat and directed by Andy Tennant.