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Yul Brynner was an actor of stage and screen most famous for portraying King Mongkut of Siam in The King and I.
Yul Brynner - The King and I (1:13)
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"When I am dead and buried, on my tombstone I would like to have it written, 'I have arrived.' Because when you feel that you have arrived, you are dead."
"I have been offered a lot for my work, but never everything."
Yul Brynner was born Yuliy Borisovich Bryner on July 11, 1920, in Vladivostok, Russia, to father Boris Bryner, a Swiss-Mongolian engineer, and mother Marousia Blagavidova. While Brynner is best known for his acting career, and, more specifically, for his baldpate, rich voice and compelling screen presence, he was also a musician in his early years. After his father abandoned the family, Brynner's mother took him and his sister to China, then to Paris, where he played guitar and sang gypsy songs in Parisian nightclubs.
After a brief career as a trapeze artist in France, Brynner moved to the United States in 1941 and began acting with a touring company. He made his Broadway debut in Lute Sang in 1946.
In 1949, Yul Brynner made his film debut in Port of New York, co-starring with Scott Brady and Richard Rober. Not long after, he landed his most famous role, playing King Mongkut of Siam in Oscar and Hammerstein's production of The King and I in 1951. Actress Mary Martin had recommended Brynner for the role in the Broadway musical, and the actor garnered wide critical and commercial acclaim for his performance.
After more than three years and 1,246 performances, Brynner reprised the role of King Mongkut for the screen version of The King and I in 1956, winning an Academy Award for best actor for his performance in the film. The dazzling, Academy Award-winning success that might have become a trap for a lesser star became the ongoing glory of Brynner's career, from the peak of his stardom to his untimely death. But it was by no means his only role or his only achievement.
Following the release of 1956's The King and I, Brynner returned to the stage for an additional 3,379 stage performances, the last of which occurred in 1985. Along the way, the actor also starred in such classic films as The Ten Commandments (1956), Anastasia (1956), The Brothers Karamazov (1958) and The Magnificent Seven (1960).
In honor of his prominent acting career, Brynner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6162 Hollywood Boulevard).
Outside of his performing career, Brynner worked as a photographer and authored two books, Bring Forth the Children: A Journey to the Forgotten People of Europe and the Middle East and The Yul Brynner Cookbook: Food Fit for the King and You.
Brynner's romantic life included four wives, actress Viriginia Gilmor, Chilean model Doris Kleiner, Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume and ballerina Kathy Lee, as well as numerous love affairs with such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford and Ingrid Bergman.
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