People we love: Yul Brynner

Yuliy Borisovich Bryner (Yul Brynner), July 11, 1920 – October 10, 1985

Born on this Day in 1920.

Yuliy Borisovich Bryner, Yul Brynner, July 11, 1920 – October 10, 1985

Russian stage and film actor Yul Brynner was best known for his portrayal of Mongkut, king of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. Brynner won an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film version in 1956. He played the role more than 4,500 times onstage. He won a Tony Award for the stage production in 1952 and became one of only 9 actors to win both an Oscar and a Tony for the same role. He received a Special Tony Award honoring his 4,525 performances in The King and I in 1985.

Way back in December of 1977, I had the chance to see him play that role in New York. I was in the nose bleed seats. But hey, it was Yul Brynner.

Brynner was born in Russia in what is present-day Primorsky Krai, Russia. His father abandoned the family and his mother took Yul and his sister to China. There they attended a school run by the YMCA. Later she took them to Paris, but Yul returned to China. I n 1940 he emigrated to the U.S. During World War II he worked as a French-speaking radio announcer and commentator for the U.S. Office of War Information, broadcasting into occupied France.

Brynner was also well known for playing Pharoah in The Ten Commandments opposite Charlton Heston. He appeared in Anastasia with Ingrid Bergman and in The Magnificent Seven.

Brynner was also an active photographer and author of two books.

He died from lung cancer in New York City on October 10, 1985.

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