Theatre, Film, and Television Biographies
Johnny Brandon to Ric Burns
Yul Brynner Biography (1920-1985)
Born Taidje Kahn, July 11, 1920, in Sakhalin, an island north of Japan; diedof cancer in New York, NY, on October 10, 1985; married Virginia Gilmore, September 6, 1944 (divorced); married Doris Kleiner (divorced); married Jacqueline de Croisset (divorced); married Kathy Lee, 1983; children: (first marriage) Rock.
Yul Brynner told several conflicting stories about his birth and early years;at various times, he gave his birthdate as 1915, 1917, 1920, and 1922. According to his obituaries in The New York Times and Variety, he was the son of aMongolian-Swiss mining engineer and a Rumanian gypsy woman, grew up in Peking and Paris, and worked as a circus acrobat and clown during his teens.
Unknown at the time, Brynner was cast as the King of Siam in The King and I only after several better-known actors turned the role down. Originally, Gertrude Lawrence, who appeared opposite him as Anna, received star billing, whileBrynner's name was listed in smaller type below the title. He remained withthe show throughout its original three-year New York run and subsequently played the King in two successful Broadway revivals, several extensive road tours, the 1956 film, and a short-lived television series. Reviewing Brynner's 1985 "farewell engagement" in the musical, Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote, "Man and role have long since merged into a fixed image that is as much apart of our collective consciousness as the Statue of Liberty."Brynner's bald head, which he originally shaved for The King and I, became his trademark.
A year before his death from lung cancer, Brynner, who at one time had smokedfive packs of cigarettes a day, stated in a radio interview, "I'm talking toyou now that I'm gone, and I'm telling you right now...that you must stop smoking." By prearrangement, the interview was broadcast after he died.
- Birth Details
- July 11, 1920
- Sakhalin, Russia
- Death Details
- October 10, 1985
- New York, New York, United States
Credits; PRINCIPAL STAGE APPEARANCES
- NEW YORK DEBUT--Twelfth Night (as Youl Bryner), Little Theater, 1941.
- Lute Song, Broadway, 1945-46.
- Dark Eyes, Broadway, 1947-48.
- King of Siam, The King and I, Broadway, 1951-54, 1977-85 (for a total of4,625 performances).
- Odysseus, Home Sweet Homer, Broadway, 1975.
Credits; PRINCIPAL FILM APPEARANCES
- FILM DEBUT--Port of New York, 1949.
- The Ten Commandments, Paramount, 1956.
- King of Siam, The King and I, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1956.
- Anastasia, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1956.
- The Brothers Karamazov, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1958.
- The Buccaneer, Paramount, 1958.
- Solomon and Sheba, United Artists, 1959.
- The Sound and the Fury, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1959.
- The Journey, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959.
- The Magnificent Seven, United Artists, 1960.
- Once More with Feeling, Columbia, 1960.
- Taras Bulba, United Artists, 1962.
- Escape from Zahrain, Paramount, 1962.
- Kings of the Sun, United Artists, 1963.
- Flight from Ashiya, United Artists, 1964.
- Invitation to a Gunfighter, United Artists, 1964.
- Morituri, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1965.
- Cast a Giant Shadow, United Artists, 1966.
- Return of the Seven, United Artists, 1966.
- The Double Man, Warner Brothers, 1967.
- The Long Duel, Paramount, 1967.
- Villa Rides, Paramount, 1968.
- The Madwoman of Chaillot, Warner Brothers, 1969.
- The File of the Golden Goose, United Artists, 1969.
- Romance of a Horsethief, Allied Artists, 1971.
- Adios Sabota, 1971.
- Light at the Edge of the World, National General, 1971.
- The Battle of Neretra, American International, 1971.
- Catlow, United Artists, 1971.
- Fuzz, United Artists, 1972.
- Westworld, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1973.
- The Serpent, 1973.
- The Ultimate Warrior, 1975.
- Death Rage, 1976.
- Future World, American International, 1976.
Credits; PRINCIPAL TELEVISION APPEARANCES; SERIES
- TELEVISION DEBUT--As an actor, producer, and director on the first NBC talk show, 1948.
- King of Siam, Anna and the King, CBS, 1972.
- "Friend of the Family," Fireside Theatre, NBC, 1949.
- "Flowers from a Stranger," Studio One, CBS, 1949.
- Omnibus, CBS, 1953.
Credits; PRINCIPAL TELEVISION WORK
- Director, "Footprints in the Jungle," Somerset Maugham Theatre, CBS, 1950.
- producer and director, Life with Snarky Parker, CBS, 1950.
- director, Danger, CBS, 1950-54.
Credits; PRINCIPAL RADIO APPEARANCES
- Announcer (in French), Office of War Information, 1942-46.
- Bring Forth the Children.