Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, January 4, 2008


ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946). Director: John Cromwell.

This features wonderful performances by Irene Dunne as Anna; Rex Harrison as the King (once you get used to him); Gale Sondergaard as the first wife; Lee J. Cobb as the King's second-in-command; and Linda Darnell as the first concubine, Lady Tuptim, who is a bit of a bitch. She has her own slave, whom she (at first) refuses to set free. Tuptim and her (apparently “sin”-free) “lover” are burned at the stake in a more graphic treatment than in “The King and I.” One wonders: How can Anna teach the wives English if she can't speak Siamese? The very moving conclusion shows the son of the dead king telling the slaves to stand upright instead of kneeling. In this original version, the king dies many years after the main storyline ends and is much older than in the musical. An odd note is that Anna's young son is killed riding a horse, which apparently did not occur in the book nor in real life! Dunne's reaction to this tragedy is perhaps not quite strong enough. Bernard Herrmann's score has some lovely touches.

Verdict: Certainly worth a look. ***.

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