Anna and the King of Siam Film Details
Overview: In 1862, a young Englishwoman becomes royal tutor in Siam and befriends the King.
Review: This movie is based on a book by Margaret Landon in 1944. “Anna and the King of Siam” was a best-selling novel based on a true story. The story is much more interesting and intriguing than the movie can portray. And the true story within the story is more fascinating yet. So, how much of the movie is fact, and how much fiction? First, the film and then the background. The main characters are real, and played well. I don’t hold with those who argue that a person of one race can’t play a role of another race. That’s part of what theater and acting are about. Sure, it’s nice and best if one can find the talent and qualified actors to play various ethnic roles. But it’s not necessary. And, I don’t nitpick actors who don’t look a part, or who’s accents aren’t perfect – unless they are quite terrible to the point of distraction. Rex Harrison does an excellent job as Mongkut, the king Siam. Lee J. Cobb is very good as Kralahome, his prime minister. He is probably the least believable as Siamese, and that’s because his distinct voice, build and persona are so well known. But his acting, and broken English (as one might expect of a Siamese), are very good. Gale Sondergaard is so good in her role as Lady Thiang that she looks and sounds Siamese. Linda Darnell is almost as convincing as Tuptim. Now the background. Margaret Landon was an American missionary who served with her husband in Siam from 1927-1937. She taught here three children along with Siamese in a mission school in Trang. She studied and read all about the country. She learned about Anna Leonowens who had been a governess to the Siamese royal family in the 19th century. After Landon’s family returned to the U.S. in 1937, she wrote the book about Anna. It was a best-seller in 1944, and 20th Century Fox made this movie in 1946. A decade later, her book also would become the source for the Fox musical, “The King and I.” But how much of the book is true? And how much is the film true to the book, and the real life story? I didn’t read the book so I can’t comment on it. Another book about Anna came out in 2008 that gave a somewhat different background. “Bombay Anna” was written by Susan Morgan. It claims to tell “the real story and the remarkable adventures of the ‘King and I’ governess.” A New York Times review of that book on Oct. 20, 2008, called Anna Leonowens a con woman. “On disembarking in Singapore as a young widow in 1859, this gifted con woman subtracted three years from her age, relocated her birthplace from Bombay to Wales, forgot her mother’s Indian parentage, promoted her father from private to major and changed her husband from a clerk to an army officer.” Leonowens was educated and knew languages – Hindi, Marathi, Persian and Sanskrit, and she could mimic a genteel English accent. She was Anglo-Indian and born Nov 6, 1831, in India. In 1849, she married an Irish clerk, Thomas Leon Owens. The two surnames later were merged. The couple spent several years in Australia where a daughter and son were born. First was Avis in 1854, and then Louis in 1856. In 1859, Thomas died of a stroke in Malaysia where he managed a hotel. Then Anna moved with here children to Singapore, where she revised her background to fit in among the expatriate British colony there. King Mongkut of Siam was born in 1804. He became a Buddhist monk and read and studied much. He helped establish a monastery that became the intellectual center of Siam. Mongkut became king in 1851 and reigned until his death in 1868. In 1861, he asked his agent in Singapore to find an English governess for his children. Leonowens got the job and arrived in Bangkok in 1862. She sent daughter Avis to England to school and taught Thomas along with the royal household. She later sent Thomas to England to finish his schooling, and after five years she left Siam for the United Sates. She later moved to Montreal, Canada, to be near her daughter, and she died there in 1915 at age 84. So, how much of the movie is true to history? Well, Anna didn’t stay into old age when the king died. He was older than she and he died in 1868. In the U.S. she wrote her memoirs and was successful as a teacher and traveling on the lecture circuit. Her son, Louis, did not die from an accident in Siam. Mongkut did write to a U.S. president and offer elephants. But it wasn’t Abraham Lincoln, it was James Buchanan (1857-1861), and it was before Anna arrived in Bangkok. Mongkut was a progressive leader who ensured liberal education for his sons. After his death, they began many of his reforms. There is much more about Siam, Mongkut, Anna and others that room doesn’t allow to tell here. In one scene, Mongkut has summoned Anna in the middle of the night. He questions the Bible story of creation. Anna says “Your majesty, the Bible was not written by men of science. It was written by men of faith. It was their explanation of the miracle of creation, which is just as great a miracle whether it took six days or many centuries. I think science does not contradict the Bible. It has only made us more aware of how great the miracle was.”
Country: United States
Duration: 128 min
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Also known as: Anna e o Rei do Sião,Eventyr i Siam,Anna and the King of Siam,Anna und der König von Siam,Anna e il re del Siam,Anna és a sziámi király,Анна и король Сиама,Ana e o Rei do Sião,Izdırap Cenneti,Anna i el rei de Siam,Anna og kongen af Siam,Ana y el rey de Siam,Ана и кралят на Сиам,Anna et le roi de Siam,Anna i król Syjamu,I Anna kai o vasilefs tou Siam,アンナとシャム王,Anna ja Siamin kuningas,Anna och kungen av Siam