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File:King and I resized 5714.jpg

 "Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy

When I am with you, getting to know what to say

Haven't you noticed suddenly I'm bright and breezy?

Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you

Day by day."

Originally conceived as a vehicle for actress Getrude Lawrence, Rodgers and Hammerstein's sixth musical tells the story of Anna Leonowens, an English schoolteacher who travels with her son to Siam to teach the children of the King. It covers their entire history. From the beginning, at least according to Anna's account, they had repeated clashes personally, professionally, and culturally. The last two are related, since she was hired to teach his children, wives, and concubines about Western culture and bring Siam up to date, which is difficult when the King believes she is wrong. All the while, in the greatest tradition of adversarial love stories, they fall in love with each other.

In 1956 the musical was adapted into a movie starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner. In 1999, it was yet again made into a movie, this time animated.

See also: Anna and the King.


The King and I contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie, widely considered to be the best of the R&H screen adaptations (or at least second only to The Sound of Music), taking a Best Picture nomination at the 1957 Oscars.
  • Animated Adaptation: The 1999 film (see below for its tropes).
  • Asian Girl With White Guy: A rare inversion.
  • Bald of Awesome: The King's original Broadway actor, Yul Brynner, had his head shaved at the makeup artist's recommendation. Brynner carried this trope on into the movie, and several of his successors have tried to accomplish this in revivals.
    • Additionally, Yul Brynner carried this trope into every other project he did for the rest of his life.
  • Banned in China: Not surprisingly, the film is rather disliked in Thailand.
    • No matter how the filmmakers rework the story, it always seems to get banned in Thailand. A key part of the problem is that there are very strict laws about lese-majeste (basically, insulting the monarch) in Thailand; it wasn't so long ago that the king was literally revered as a god, and he still has a very special status. King Mongkut is viewed by today's Thai people with the respect that Americans would have for, say, Abraham Lincoln. (The present holder of the throne, King Bhumibol, who's reigned for over 60 years, is greatly beloved in Thailand.) The fundamental problem here is that no matter how respectfully and positively modern filmmakers may portray the King, the basic story still implies that Thailand is a backward country in need of "civilizing" by Westerners.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The author swears it's true. It isn't.
  • Beta Couple: Lun Tha and Tuptim.
  • Blatant Lies: When Anna tells the King, doubting her wisdom, that she is much Older Than She Looks.
  • Catch the Conscience: Tuptim, at the end of "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," declares: "I too am glad for death of King. Of any King who pursues slave who is unhappy and tries to join her lover!" She almost gets carried away before a musical signal reminds her to deliver the bittersweet epilogue of the story. The King does not ignore this insult to his authority.
    • In the movie, the King commanded her to end her speech with a snap of his fingers.
  • Costume Porn: Ladies, at some point you lusted after that pink silk ballgown. Admit it.
  • Culture Clash: The King's manners against Anna's.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: The entire population of Thailand is perpetually barefoot except for the king, and his wives in the scene where they are introduced to the British imperialists.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: The King butchers English grammar.
  • Fiery Redhead: Anna.
  • Glad You Thought of It: Invoked It's a minor plot point that Anna has to do this because she cannot be seen as offering advice to the King. So she pretends to be guessing what he's going to do - and quite naturally he says that she's guessed right, and then proceeds to do just what she "guessed" that he would do.
  • Land of My Fathers and Their Sheep: In "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?", Anna says she's from Wales.
  • Mighty Whitey: When you get down to it, this is basically the premise.
  • Mood Whiplash: As Anna and the King waltz in a moment of shared happiness, a guard reports the capture of Tuptim, creating a heated debate between Anna and the King over whether or not Tuptim deserves a whipping.
  • Mooning: The King's wives accidentally do this to some visitors from England. One of the visitors accidentally scared the wives away with his monocle, causing them to lift up their skirts and run away. (Anna forgot to make them undergarments.)
  • Non-Singing Voice: In the 1956 film, Marni Nixon dubbed Deborah Kerr, who played Anna, Leona Gordon dubbed Rita Moreno, who played Tuptim (Moreno did her own singing for "Small House of Uncle Thomas"), and Rueben Fuentes dubbed Carlos Rivas, who played Lun Tha. The 1999 film also includes some non singing voices, noted below.
  • Painful Rhyme: Lampshaded in-universe when Anna sings "Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You?", mispronouncing "employee" to rhyme with "pay" and "libertine" to rhyme with "concubine"... and then correcting herself.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Oh My God. Anna's costumes weighed over forty pounds apiece. Deborah Kerr lost twelve pounds during filming as a result.
    • Crosses over with Gorgeous Period Dress - those huge skirts of the 1850s are straight out of the history books.
      • However, the over-the-elbow ("opera") gloves that Anna wears during the banquet scene are totally wrong for the period in question (the 1860's). Women in that era wore wrist-length gloves for both daytime and evening; long gloves, which had last been the mode in the Regency/Romantic period (up to the 1820's), did not come back into fashion until the 1870's.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Anna pleas that the king doesn't kill Tuptim.
  • Show Within a Show: The Small House of Uncle Thomas.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension
  • Urban Legend: Yul Brynner dancing with Deborah Kerr after having a lung surgically removed. Unfortunately, one of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tributes on the Sound of Music Blu-Ray speaks of this legend as something true.
  • Verbal Tic: After Anna explains the phrase "et cetera" to the King, he acquires a tendency to insert it into several of his demands, songs, conversations, et cetera. King Mongkut really did use this in his English writing, although there's no evidence either that Anna taught it to him or that he used it when speaking English.
    • "What-what-WHAT!"
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The musical was based the non-fiction novel Anna and the King of Siam which was filmed in 1946. These in turn were based on two books by the real Anna Leonowens, The English Governess at the Siamese Court and Romance of the Harem, although these have been criticised due to a lack of objectivity.
    • Not to mention outright lies. The story of Tuptim, which Anna admits was "based on palace gossip", never happened. Unfaithful concubines in the time of Mongkut were simply dismissed. Anna herself was not all that she appeared to be. She took great pains to conceal from the world that she was half Indian, changing her name repeatedly and repudiating family members who could out her. Also, all the film and theatrical versions of her story are based on Margaret Landon's novelized adaptation of Anna's books, Anna and the King of Siam, and not even on Anna's own work.
  • War Elephants: The King plans to send War-Elephants to help Abraham Lincoln.

WHAT

That was our reaction, too.


"The King and I" 1999 musical contains these tropes:

Notes

  1. with Hanho Heung Up
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