Anna and the King of Siam (1946)

126-128 mins | Drama | 1946

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HISTORY

The film opens with a written prologue explaining that in the early 1860s, a young Englishwoman accepted a post teaching English to the children of the King of Siam, leading to a "necessary but almost terrifying adventure into that strange and still half-barbaric country." Siam's King Mongkut, also known as Rama IV, ruled from 1851 to 1868. As depicted in the film, he studied Western culture and greatly expanded his nation's trade and diplomatic relations with the Western countries. On 15 Mar 1862, British governess Anna Leonowens arrived in Bangkok, with her son Louis, to teach English in King Mongkut's court. She left Siam on 5 Jul 1867, a little more than a year before the King's death. After returning to England, Leonowens moved to the United States and published two books about her experiences in Siam: The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) and The Romance of the Harem (1872). Louis did not die in a riding accident, as depicted in the film, but returned to Siam in 1882 and became a cavalry officer. Mongkut's son, Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who ruled from 1868 to 1910, continued to modernize his country by abolishing slavery, reorganizing the government and developing the infrastructure. In 1939, the country's name was changed to Thailand.
       Author Margaret Landon, who lived in Siam from 1927-1937, drew material from Leonowens' books and personal correspondence in writing Anna and the King of Siam . In her author's note, Landon wrote, "The method of presentation was determined by the form of the incidents as recorded by Anna Leonowens herself....If I were asked to give ... More Less

The film opens with a written prologue explaining that in the early 1860s, a young Englishwoman accepted a post teaching English to the children of the King of Siam, leading to a "necessary but almost terrifying adventure into that strange and still half-barbaric country." Siam's King Mongkut, also known as Rama IV, ruled from 1851 to 1868. As depicted in the film, he studied Western culture and greatly expanded his nation's trade and diplomatic relations with the Western countries. On 15 Mar 1862, British governess Anna Leonowens arrived in Bangkok, with her son Louis, to teach English in King Mongkut's court. She left Siam on 5 Jul 1867, a little more than a year before the King's death. After returning to England, Leonowens moved to the United States and published two books about her experiences in Siam: The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) and The Romance of the Harem (1872). Louis did not die in a riding accident, as depicted in the film, but returned to Siam in 1882 and became a cavalry officer. Mongkut's son, Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who ruled from 1868 to 1910, continued to modernize his country by abolishing slavery, reorganizing the government and developing the infrastructure. In 1939, the country's name was changed to Thailand.
       Author Margaret Landon, who lived in Siam from 1927-1937, drew material from Leonowens' books and personal correspondence in writing Anna and the King of Siam . In her author's note, Landon wrote, "The method of presentation was determined by the form of the incidents as recorded by Anna Leonowens herself....If I were asked to give the fabric content of the book I should say that it is 'seventy-five per cent fact, and twenty-five per cent fiction based on fact.'"
       An 8 Mar 1945 memo from studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck to producer Louis D. Lighton reveals the following information: Zanuck originally wanted William Powell for the role of the King. He attempted to borrow Dorothy McGuire from David O. Selznick, but their negotiations broke down when Selznick attempted to add a number of "petty" conditions to their contract. Zanuck mentioned that Jean Arthur and Myrna Loy were eager to play the role of Anna, and that Olivia de Havilland had asked Ernst Lubitsch to intercede with Zanuck on her behalf. In any event, Zanuck assured Lighton, casting the role of Anna would not be a problem: "If David comes off his high horse we will use McGuire; if not, we will have practically the pick of the industry for this role. I forgot to mention Irene Dunne, although in my opinion she is too old for it."
       Elia Kazan was originally considered to direct the film, but Zanuck wrote, "If we get into difficulties with Kazan, John M. Stahl is eager to do this picture, and it would not surprise me to have Ernst Lubitsch ask to direct it himself, providing his health permits." A 13 Sep 1945 HR news item reported that Charles Boyer had been cast in the role of the King but was forced to withdraw from the production due to other commitments, and that McGuire had indeed been cast as Anna. According to a 6 Nov 1945 news item in HR , Faye Marlowe, Gerald Perreau, Jean O'Donnell and Julie Carter were tested for roles in the film, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Studio publicity materials contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library add Jeanne Lafayette to the cast, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A 13 Jun 1945 HR news item reported that the film would be shot in Technicolor.
       In the film, Anna quotes U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as having said, "True progress must bear some relation to man's character. It must have its roots in his heart." This quotation does not appear in any of Lincoln's major speeches or writings, however, and its authenticity is doubtful. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Zanuck said in a 6 Sep 1945 memo to Lighton and director John Cromwell, "If we cannot find a great Lincoln quote we should write one. The best Wilson quote in the picture Wilson [see below] was written by Lamar Trotti and no one ever questioned it." According to Landon's book, King Mongkut and Lincoln actually did exchange letters, but this correspondence occurred before Anna came to Siam. The first finished version of the film ran two hours and forty-one minutes. Zanuck had the film re-edited, and three reels of footage were eliminated.
       An article in Time dated 24 Mar 1947 described the first screening of the film in Thailand, noting that the royal family allowed the film to be shown in its entirety, despite the fact that "leading Siamese critics and historians had taken pains to point out that it was more than 75% inaccurate (refined King Monkgut, for example, had certainly never burned a wife)." The film received Academy Awards for Best Art Direction (Black and White) and Best Cinematography (Black and White). It was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Supporting Actress (Gale Sondergaard), Best Screenplay and Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture). Anna and the King of Siam was the first film English actor Rex Harrison made in the United States and Cromwell's first directing assignment for Twentieth Century-Fox. Harrison and Irene Dunne repeated their roles on the Lux Radio Theatre on 20 Jan 1947. Anna and the King of Siam was again broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on 30 May 1949, with Dunne and James Mason. The Hallmark Playhouse radio program broadcast Anna and the King of Siam on 15 Sep 1949, featuring Deborah Kerr.
       In 1950, British actress Gertrude Lawrence obtained the rights to Landon's book and asked Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II to develop it as a musical. Modern sources assert that this was the only time Rodgers and Hammerstein ever created a show for the talents of a specific performer. The musical, The King and I , opened on Broadway on 29 Mar 1951. Rodgers and Hammerstein asked Harrison to repeat his role onstage, but he declined the offer, and Yul Brynner was cast as the King, a role with which he would be identified for the rest of his life. The King and I was released by Twentieth Century-Fox as a musical film in 1956, starring Brynner and Deborah Kerr. The story later resurfaced as a CBS television series, Anna and the King , which starred Brynner and Samantha Eggar and ran from 17 Sep--31 Dec 1972. In 1999, Fox 2000 Pictures released a non-musical version of the story entitled Anna and the King , starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat and directed by Andy Tennant. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Jun 1946.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jun 46
p. 3, 11.
Esquire
Sep 46
p. 48, 126.
Film Daily
3 Jun 46
p. 10.
Hollywood Citizen-News
15 Jun 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 45
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 45
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 45
p. 12, 15
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 45
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 46
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 46
, 16956
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 46
p. 1, 16
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 46
p. 9.
Liberty
20 Jul 1946.
---
Life
24 Jun 46
pp. 81-84.
Look
3 Sep 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Mar 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Jul 1946.
---
Motion Picture Daily
3 Jun 1946.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Mar 46
p. 2907.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Jun 46
p. 3029.
New York Herald Tribune
21 Jun 46
p. 18.
New York Times
21 Jun 46
p. 20.
New York Times
23 Jun 1946.
---
New York Times
30 Jun 1946.
---
New Yorker
6 Jul 1946.
---
The Exhibitor
12 Jun 46
pp. 1950-51.
Time
24 Jun 1946.
---
Time
24 Mar 1947.
---
Variety
5 Jun 46
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Miniatures
Transparency projection shots
Transparency projection shots
Transparency projection shots
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Head of tech staff
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv for food scenes
Research dir
Asst research dir
Singing coach for Irene Dunne
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon (New York, 1944).
SONGS
"Home Sweet Home," words by John Howard Payne, music traditional, arranged by by Sir Henry Rowley Bishop.
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 June 1946
Production Date:
17 November 1945--early February 1946
retakes mid March 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
20 June 1946
Copyright Number:
LP753
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
126-128
Length(in feet):
11,829
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11572
SYNOPSIS

In 1862, Anna Owens, a young English widow of an army officer who died in India, arrives in Bangkok with her son Louis after accepting a job teaching English to the children of the King of Siam. Despite Anna's protests that she was promised her own house, the Kralahome, the prime minister, insists that she not approach the King with her displeasure until after the New Year and its attending festivals. Anna and Louis settle into their living quarters in the palace, only to discover they are living next to the King's harem. After a number of months, Anna boldly presents herself to the King, who prides himself on introducing the country to the modern world through his self-described "scientific" outlook. Anna agrees to teach English, not only to the King's sixty-seven children, but also to his many wives. When he insists that she live in the palace permanently, however, she packs to leave. A servant then conducts her to a house the King has agreed to let her have, but when she finds that it is in the fish market and in horrible disrepair, Anna is angry and vows revenge. She returns to the palace and begins classes with the help of the King's first wife, Lady Thiang, who learned English from a missionary. Anna gets back at the King by teaching the wives and children songs and proverbs about houses and honor. When the French place Cambodia under their protection, the King realizes that partitioning is inevitable, and rather than fight, chooses to save as much of the country as possible. He grants Anna her house and, having won, ... +


In 1862, Anna Owens, a young English widow of an army officer who died in India, arrives in Bangkok with her son Louis after accepting a job teaching English to the children of the King of Siam. Despite Anna's protests that she was promised her own house, the Kralahome, the prime minister, insists that she not approach the King with her displeasure until after the New Year and its attending festivals. Anna and Louis settle into their living quarters in the palace, only to discover they are living next to the King's harem. After a number of months, Anna boldly presents herself to the King, who prides himself on introducing the country to the modern world through his self-described "scientific" outlook. Anna agrees to teach English, not only to the King's sixty-seven children, but also to his many wives. When he insists that she live in the palace permanently, however, she packs to leave. A servant then conducts her to a house the King has agreed to let her have, but when she finds that it is in the fish market and in horrible disrepair, Anna is angry and vows revenge. She returns to the palace and begins classes with the help of the King's first wife, Lady Thiang, who learned English from a missionary. Anna gets back at the King by teaching the wives and children songs and proverbs about houses and honor. When the French place Cambodia under their protection, the King realizes that partitioning is inevitable, and rather than fight, chooses to save as much of the country as possible. He grants Anna her house and, having won, Anna decides to leave Siam, but she is forcibly brought before the Kralahome, who convinces her to stay and help the King with his struggle to advance his country. One day after class, Lady Thiang tells Anna that Tuptim, a beautiful young woman who was recently given to the King as a birthday present from the governor, is the King's new favorite. She adds that she herself is not in favor with her husband, but her position is secure because she is the mother of the royal prince. In the middle of the night, the King summons Anna to discuss a passage from the Bible, and while returning home later, she passes Tuptim's weeping slave, who is in chains and cradling a baby. Anna confronts Tuptim the next day, pointing out that because the slave's husband has offered to buy her, by law she should be freed. Tuptim bitterly refuses, and Anna appeals to the King, explaining the importance of applying the law consistently. When Anna mentions Abraham Lincoln's mission to bring equality to everyone in the United States, the King immediately dictates a letter to the President, offering to send him elephants to help with the war effort. Shortly after receiving Lincoln's warm reply, the King asks Anna to instruct the prettiest women in the harem in European dress and manners in time for a visit from the British representative, Sir Edward Ramsey. With Anna's help, the King gives a formal dinner for Sir Edward and other European dignitaries, and Siam's image greatly improves. Later, Lady Thiang tells Anna that Tuptim has been captured after running away and hiding in a monastery, where her former betrothed is a priest. Anna watches Tuptim's interrogation and interferes when the guards start to beat her. She then goes to the King and pleads that Tuptim be given a fair trial, angrily denouncing him as a barbarian when he refuses. Tuptim and the priest are burned at the stake, and Anna resigns her post. After saying goodbye to the King's wives and children, Anna calls on Lady Thiang, who reproaches her for not having spent more time with the Prince, who needs guidance to become a better man than his father. That afternoon, Louis is thrown from his horse and killed, and the King designates a national day of mourning and gives Anna a royal title as a sign of respect. The Prince visits Anna to offer his cherished baby elephant as a gift, and, moved by the boy's loneliness and grief, Anna embraces him. The King asks her to stay, and Anna continues her work at the school, devoting extra attention to the Prince. Years pass, and one day the King falls ill. Anna rushes to his side, and before dying, he expresses gratitude for all she has done. The Prince is crowned king, and Anna watches with pride as he begins to institute reforms, as his father would have wished. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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