Reel History: King Yul Brynner, Gunslinger

DATELINE: Larger than Epic

 Yul  from Westworld (1973)

Back in 1995, Reel History made a documentary on the life of Yul Brynner. Ten years after his death, he was bigger than ever, and more mysterious than ever.

Almost 25 years later, we took a look at his life as seen primarily through the eyes of his son Rock Brynner and his daughter Victoria.

Everyone agreed he was original, unique, idiosyncratic, and overwhelming. He could not be poured into a typical leading man role. From an eclectic international background, he transformed into any time period, historical personage, or futuristic creature.

Yul Brynner started at the top: no one else could play the King of Siam on stage with a bald pate and in colorful pajamas. He transferred that quality to Ramses the Great in The Ten Commandments, giving Cecil B. DeMille something special. Nothing he touched was standard: from mythic Faulknerian Jason Compton in The Sound and the Fury to a magnificent gunslinger in a movie of the same name.

He was Taras Bulba, Jean LaFitte, and King Solomon, no matter how much hair you put on him, or took off him.

Somewhere on the downslide for most actors, he came back as a robot in 1973’s Westworld, basically the same character as the leader of the 1960 Magnificent Seven, but now his blackness was frightful, beyond death.

The new series Westworld paid homage to Yul in one dramatic scene when one of the executives wandered through the robot catacombs—and there was the black silhouette, utterly recognizable of Yul Brynner.

In the end, he returned for years to play in the King and I for years, making it on Broadway and in a roadshow, almost to the day he died.

One little documentary hardly seems enough to cover his mammoth personality, style, and achievements.

In keeping with our small-screen, intensive reviews, we will examine each individual episode of the 10-part series of Season 2 of Jonathan Nolan’s Westworld, beginning at the end of April, 2018.

 

 

 

Advertisements