February 4, 2013

Movie Monday: Anna and the King of Siam

I really wanted to highlight another musical here this week. But I didn’t. I’m showing restraint on super-human levels. Be very proud.

Anna Owens (Irene Dunne) is a British widow who has been hired by the King of Siam (Rex Harrison) to tutor his dozens of children by multiple wives. The King wants his heirs to be modern and educated, except when it comes to bringing modern, Western culture into his home.

As Anna in immersed more and more into the culture of the palace, she and the King butt heads repeatedly, as East meets West. Slowly they begin to find a respect for each other, but as the modern outside world closes in on the little Siamese kingdom, their friendship will be put to the test.

If you’ve seen either of the two remakes of this movie, “The King and I'” or “Anna and the King,” then you already know the basic storyline. So why see this one if you’ve seen the others? Firstly, because this is the original and it’s always fun to see the original version of a story and compare it to the later versions. There are only a few times, in my opinion, where a remake of a movie is superior to the original. Considering the first remake was a very popular Broadway musical, I think that’s comparing apples and oranges. The more recent remake with Jodie Foster is a better comparison, and I think they are pretty close in quality.

Secondly – Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne (not to mention the talented supporting cast). Two of the very, very best of their day. If you can get past the British Harrison’s casting as a Siamese King, you can step back and appreciate his great dramatic skill. And Irene Dunne is just amazing. Charming, intelligent, dignified, with a fun sense of humor. This is the perfect role for her and not to be missed.

“Anna and the King of Siam” will be on TCM on Friday, February 8 at 4:45 pm CST.

Honorable Mentions:
The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) – Monday, February 4, 9:30 am CST
Friendly Persuasion (1956) – Tuesday, February 5, 4:30 am CST (Tuesday night)
The Night of the Iguana (1964) – Wednesday, February 6, 4:45 pm CST
Imitation of Life (1934) – Wednesday, February 6, 9:30 pm CST
The Sting (1973) – Thursday, February 7, 9:45 pm CST
The Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Friday, February 8, 10:00 pm CST
Daddy Long Legs (1955) – Saturday, February 9, 7:00 pm CST
Carmen Jones (1955) – Saturday, February 9, 9:15 pm CST
Hello, Dolly (1969) – Sunday, February 10, 7:00 pm CST

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