A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
Don’t ask me why I was thinking of Yul Brynner in the middle of the night. It must have been music from the King and I echoing through the empty corridors of my mind. That happens a lot; not music, but my corridors echoing.
Most of the time Yul was the bad guy in his movies and got bumped off at the end. But damn he was a really good villain. Remember Pharoah from the Ten Commandments? He made The Grinch look like a saint. And most of the time he had his shirt off, I think the producers did that to impress the ladies. That’s why I am rarely seen without a shirt on. It would be too much for you girls. Not only that, it would put way too much stress on your husbands or friends with benefits to keep in shape.
But I believe we were discussing the King and I.
You must remember the musical, the hauntingly bald Yul was the King of Siam and hired the hauntingly beautiful red-headed Deborah Kerr to teach his children of which he seems to have had dozens. In fact bedtime every night must have been a major production with all the little kiddies marching by the King singing on their way to the palace nursery/dormitory, I assume with their mothers in tow – except for one, possibly more, who had the honour of bedding down with Yul for fun and frolic.
Being a King was good gig back then. Now all Chuck has is Camilla in a flannel nightgown.
The movie was adapted from the book, Anna and the King of Siam and also a 1946 Rex Harrison movie featuring Rex with his shirt on and Irene Dunne and Linda Darnell with their shirts on. Had they taken them off it would have been a much more popular movie when it played the Saturday afternoon matinee at the old Oxford theatre when I was a kid.
Anna Leonowens (Deborrah) a prim and proper British widow-person, and her son, Louis, arrive in Bangkok by steamer, that’s a boat, not something you cook rice in.
If I had been the producer, Daryl Zanuck, I would have told his mother to leave the kid at home. Unfair perhaps, but you remember Louis was a typical six or seven year-old English lad wearing short pants and knee socks. He looked like Christopher Robin who I thought he was a bit of a snootsy (i.e. a man who steps out of the shower to have a wee-wee), and his friend, Eeyore, wasn’t too manly either. I saw a picture of Christopher Robin wearing rubber boots and carrying an umbrella. What kind of kid carries a flipping umbrella – yep, you are right, a snootsy.
I know, I know that isn’t politically correct to say that about him in this day and age but after all Louis was supposed to be representing the British Empire, the most powerful nation on earth at the time. He should have jumped right in and wailed the tar out of those Siamese kids, shown them who was boss. Of course the King would have cut his head off, but sometimes a lad has to do what a lad has to do for Queen and country. (This happened when Vicky was the Queen – research people, research!)
Instead, how be we have Anna grab the King by the ears and drag him off to the royal trampoline and… No?
Now here we come to a problem we brilliant, but surprisingly modest, writers often have, what seems like a fantastic plan in the middle of the night turns out to be a horse’s bum of an idea when the sun rises. What might have been a sterling idea when you are half asleep turns out to be amazingly stupid in the morning. All I wanted to do was get to the part where Yul is dancing with Anna with no shirt on. I should explain, it was Yul who had no shirt on not Anna, although it would have made for a better movie.
I would have recorded it and played it every time Mary went shopping.
Do you remember the wonderful scene, Shall We Dance, when Anna and Yul twirled around the palace ballroom like a couple of kids? Yul was 45-years-old when he made the movie, can you imagine that? When I was 45 I had a coronary bypass and looked like a bag of dirt and yet there was Brynner prancing around like Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Nutcracker. I would have been lying in a corner gasping and wheezing while the firefighters pumped oxygen into me until the funeral home’s slumber wagon got there.
Let this be a lesson to you, chaps, if you are over 45 and shortly after the insurance man has left, your wife wants the two of you to go dancing DON’T GO, you are not Yul Brynner. One more thing, keep your shirt on.