About Yuliy Borisovich Bryner
Yuliy Borisovich Bryner, Yul Brynner Юлий Борисович Бринер, (July 11, 1920 – October 10, 1985) was a Russian stage and film actor. He was best known for his portrayal of Mongkut, king of Siam, in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film version; he also played the role more than 4,500 times onstage. He is also remembered as-:
- Rameses II in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille blockbuster The Ten Commandments,
- General Bounine in Anastasia and
- Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven.
Brynner was noted for his distinctive voice and for his shaven head, which he maintained as a personal trademark long after adopting it for his initial role in The King and I. He was also a photographer and the author of two books.
- In 1952 he received the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of The King in The King and I (musical).
- 1956 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the King of Siam in The King and I
- 1957 "Top 10 Stars of the Year" list
- 1958 "Top 10 Stars of the Year" list
- 1985 Special Tony Award honoring his 4,525 performances in The King and I.
Yul Brynner was born Yuliy Borisovich Bryner in 1920. He exaggerated his background and early life for the press, claiming that he was born Taidje Khan of part-Mongol parentage, on the Russian island of Sakhalin. In reality, he was born at home in a four-storey residence at 15 Aleutskaya Street, Vladivostok, in the Far Eastern Republic (present-day Primorsky Krai, Russia). He also occasionally referred to himself as Julius Briner, Jules Bryner, or Youl Bryner. A biography written by his son, Rock Brynner, in 1989 clarified these issues.
His father, Boris Yuliyevich Bryner, was a mining engineer whose father, Jules Bryner, was Swiss, and whose mother, Natalya Iosifovna Kurkutova, was a native of Irkutsk and was partly of Buryat ancestry. His mother, Marousia Dimitrievna (née Blagovidova), came from the intelligentsia and studied to be an actress and singer; she was the granddaughter of a doctor who had converted from Judaism to the Russian Orthodox Church.
He also had a strong personal connection to the Romani people, thanks to his close association with the Dmitrievitch family, with whom he performed in Paris night clubs in the 1930s. In 1977, he was named Honorary President of the International Romani Union, an office that he kept until his death.
After Boris Bryner abandoned his family, his mother took Yul and his sister, Vera Bryner, to Harbin, Manchuria (present day China), where they attended a school run by the YMCA. In 1934 she took them to Paris. By 1940, Brynner had returned to China and he emigrated from Dairen aboard the S.S. President Cleveland, arriving in the U.S. October 25, 1940. During World War II, Brynner worked as a French-speaking radio announcer and commentator for the U.S. Office of War Information, broadcasting propaganda to occupied France.
Yul Brynner began acting and modeling in his twenties and early in his career he was photographed nude by George Platt Lynes. After his radio work during World War II Brynner moved into the nascent television industry, directing and acting in live productions in New York. In 1949 Brynner made his film debut in Port of New York, his only film with his natural head of hair.
His best-known role remains that of King Mongkut of Siam in the Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The King and I which he played 4,525 times on stage over the span of his career. He appeared in the original production and later touring productions as well as a 1977 Broadway revival, London Production in 1979 and another Broadway revival in 1985. He also appeared in the film version for which he won an Academy Award as Best Actor and in a short-lived TV version (Anna and the King) on CBS in 1972. Brynner is one of only nine people who have won both a Tony Award and an Academy Award for the same role. His connection to the story and the role of King Mongkut is so deep he was mentioned in the song "One Night in Bangkok" from the 1984 musical Chess whose second act is set in Bangkok.
In 1951 Brynner shaved his head for his role in The King and I. Following the huge success of the Broadway production and subsequent film, Brynner continued to shave his head for the rest of his life though he would sometimes wear a wig for certain roles. Brynner's shaved head was very unusual at the time and his striking appearance helped to give him an iconic appeal. Some fans shaved off their hair to emulate him, and a shaved head was often referred to as the "Yul Brynner look".
Brynner made an immediate impact upon launching his mainstream film career in 1956 and quickly gained superstar status after appearing not only in The King and I that year but also in starring roles in The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston which remains one of the top five highest grossing films in history when adjusted for inflation and Anastasia with Ingrid Bergman. Brynner, at 5'10", was reportedly concerned about being overshadowed by Heston's height and physical presence in The Ten Commandments and prepared his impressive physique seen in the film with an intensive weight-lifting program.
He later starred in films such as the epic Solomon and Sheba (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), Taras Bulba (1962) and Kings of the Sun (1963). He co-starred with Marlon Brando in Morituri (1965), Katharine Hepburn in The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969) and William Shatner in a film version of The Brothers Karamazov (1958). He played the titular role of The Ultimate Warrior (1975) and starred with Barbara Bouchet in Death Rage (1976). Among his final feature film appearances were in Michael Crichton's Westworld (1973) and its sequel Futureworld (1976). Brynner also appeared in drag (as a torch singer) in an unbilled role in the Peter Sellers comedy The Magic Christian (1969).
Photographer, author, and musician
In addition to his work as a performer, Brynner was an active photographer and wrote two books. His daughter Victoria put together Yul Brynner: Photographer (ISBN 0-8109-3144-3) a collection of his photographs of family, friends, and fellow actors, as well as those he took while serving as a UN special consultant on refugees. Brynner wrote Bring Forth the Children: A Journey to the Forgotten People of Europe and the Middle East (1960) with photographs by himself and Magnum photographer Inge Morath and also The Yul Brynner Cookbook: Food Fit for the King and You (1983 ISBN 0-8128-2882-8).
A student of music from childhood, Brynner was an accomplished guitarist and singer. In his early period in Europe he often played and sang gypsy songs in Parisian nightclubs with Aliosha Dimitrievitch. He sang some of those same songs in the film The Brothers Karamazov. In 1967 he and Dimitrievitch released a record album The Gypsy and I: Yul Brynner Sings Gypsy Songs (Vanguard VSD 79265).
Brynner was married four times, the first three ending in divorce. He fathered three children and adopted two. He and his first wife, actress Virginia Gilmore (1944–1960), had one child, Rock Yul Brynner, born on December 23, 1946. His father nicknamed him "Rock" when he was six in honor of boxer Rocky Graziano. Rock is a historian, novelist, and university history lecturer at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut. In 2006, Rock wrote a book about his father and his family history titled Empire and Odyssey: The Brynners in Far East Russia and Beyond. Rock regularly returns to Vladivostok, the city of his father's birth, for the "Pacific Meridian" Film Festival.
His daughter Lark Brynner (born 1959) was born out of wedlock and raised by her mother, Frankie Tilden, who was 20 years old when her daughter was born. Brynner supported her financially. His second wife, from 1960 to 1967, Doris Kleiner, was a Chilean model whom he married on the set during shooting of The Magnificent Seven in 1960. They had one child, Victoria Brynner (born November 1962), whose godmother was Audrey Hepburn.
His third wife, Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume (1971–1981), was a French socialite, the widow of Philippe de Croisset (the victim of a car accident; he was the son of French playwright Francis de Croisset and a publishing executive). Brynner and Jacqueline adopted two Vietnamese children: Mia (1974), and Melody (1975). The first house that he ever owned was the Manoir de Cricqueboeuf, a sixteenth-century manor house that he and Jacqueline purchased.
At the age of 63, he married his fourth wife, Kathy Lee, a 24-year-old ballerina from a small town in Malaysia whom he had met in a production of The King and I in which she had a small dancing role. They remained married for the last 2 years (1983–1985) of Brynner's life.
According to Marlene Dietrich's daughter Maria Riva (as she wrote in her memoir Marlene Dietrich, 1994), he had a passionate affair with the famous actress during the first production of The King and I.
Brynner, a Russian-born citizen, renounced his naturalized US citizenship in June 1965 at the US Embassy in Berne, Switzerland for tax reasons. He had lost his tax exemption as an American resident abroad by working too long in the U.S. and would have been bankrupted by his tax and penalty debt.
Brynner died of lung cancer on October 10, 1985 in New York City, the same day as his Battle of Neretva co-star Orson Welles.
Knowing he was dying of cancer, Brynner starred in a run of farewell performances of his most famous role, The King and I, on Broadway from January 7 to June 30, 1985, with Mary Beth Peil as Anna Leonowens. His last performance marked the 4,633rd time he had played the role of the King.
Throughout his life Brynner was often seen with a cigarette in his hand. In January 1985, nine months before his death, he gave an interview on Good Morning America, expressing his desire to make an anti-smoking commercial. A clip from that interview was made into a public service announcement by the American Cancer Society and released after his death. It includes the warning "Now that I'm gone, I tell you don't smoke. Whatever you do, just don't smoke. If I could take back that smoking, we wouldn't be talking about any cancer. I'm convinced of that." This advertisement is now featured in the Body Worlds exhibition.
His remains are interred in France on the grounds of the Saint-Michel-de-Bois-Aubry Russian Orthodox monastery near Luzé between Tours and Poitiers.
Yul Brynner Park
On September 28th, 2012, an eight-foot-tall statue was inaugurated at Yul Brynner Park, in front of the home where he was born at Aleutskaya St. No. 15 in Vladivostok, Russia. Created by local sculptor Alexei Bokiy, the monument was carved in granite from China. The grounds for the park were donated by the city of Vladivostok, which also paid additional costs. Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkariov, U.S. Consul General Sylvia Curran, and Rock Brynner participated in the ceremony, along with hundreds of city residents. Brynner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6162 Hollywood Blvd.
The cottage at his childhood country home, at Sidimi near Vladivostok, is now a family museum.
In 1952 he received the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of The King in The King and I (musical).
He won the 1956 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the King of Siam in The King and I and made the "Top 10 Stars of the Year" list in both 1957 and 1958.
In 1985 he received a Special Tony Award honoring his 4,525 performances in The King and I.
- ▪ Port of New York (1949)
- ▪ The King and I (1956)
- ▪ The Ten Commandments (1956)
- ▪ Anastasia (1956)
- ▪ The Brothers Karamazov (1958)
- ▪ The Buccaneer (1958)
- ▪ The Journey (1959)
- ▪ The Sound and the Fury (1959)
- ▪ Solomon and Sheba (1959)
- ▪ Once More, with Feeling! (1960)
- ▪ Testament of Orpheus (1960)
- ▪ Surprise Package (1960)
- ▪ The Magnificent Seven (1960)
- ▪ Goodbye Again (1961)
- ▪ Escape from Zahrain (1962)
- ▪ Taras Bulba (1962)
- ▪ Kings of the Sun (1963)
- ▪ Flight from Ashiya (1964)
- ▪ Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964)
- ▪ Morituri (1965)
- ▪ Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
- ▪ The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966)
- ▪ Return of the Seven (1966)
- ▪ Triple Cross (1966)
- ▪ The Double Man (1967)
- ▪ The Long Duel (1967)
- ▪ Villa Rides (1968)
- ▪ The Picasso Summer (1969)
- ▪ The File of the Golden Goose (1969)
- ▪ Battle of Neretva (1969)
- ▪ The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
- ▪ The Magic Christian (1969)
- ▪ Adiós, Sabata (1971)
- ▪ The Light at the Edge of the World (1971)
- ▪ Romance of a Horsethief (1971)
- ▪ Catlow (1971)
- ▪ Fuzz (1972)
- ▪ Night Flight from Moscow (1973)
- ▪ Westworld (1973)
- ▪ The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
- ▪ Death Rage (1976)
- ▪ Futureworld (1976)
- ▪ On Location with Westworld (1973)
- ▪ Lost to the Revolution (1980) (narrator)
* ▪ Twelfth Night (December 2–13, 1941) (Broadway)
- ▪ The Moon Vine (February 11–27, 1943) (Broadway)
- ▪ Lute Song (February 6 – June 8, 1946) (Broadway)
- ▪ The King and I (March 29, 1951 – December 17, 1955) (Broadway and national tour)
- ▪ Home Sweet Homer (January 4, 1976) (Broadway)
- ▪ The King and I (Revival) (May 2, 1977 – December 30, 1978) (Broadway and national tour)
- ▪ The King and I (Revival) (January 7 – June 30, 1985) (Broadway)
Yul Brynner's Timeline
July 11, 1920
October 10, 1985
New York, NY, USA