An entertaining, touching tale of an English tutor who travels to Siam in 1862 with her young son. She is hired to educate the harem and 67 children of the rather savage king, who covets Western culture but insists upon maintaining Siam's customs and some particularly barbaric traditions.
The story is drawn from the real life of 33-year-old Mrs. Anna Leonowens, brilliantly played by Dunne, who is at first repelled by and later attracted to Harrison, the king (in his first American film), and his different Eastern ways. She also meets and befriends the king's first wife
(Sondergaard), long relegated to the back rooms of the imperial palace, and a lovely young addition to the harem (Darnell) who falls tragically in love with another. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, including Cobb in the role of the king's chief minister. Director Cromwell keeps the
well lighted and photographed story brisk and less sentimental than the musical remake, THE KING AND I. Dunne is the perfect British governess, and the theoretically miscast Harrison is simply majestic as the king who gropes toward both sensitivity and Western ideas, battling his authoritarian
instincts all the way. It's a wonder that this production, richly costumed and boasting lavish sets, was not done in color.
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