I love film and there are few moments in screen history that have left indelible memories on my brain as a child: 1) Jaws rising out of the water forI love film and there are few moments in screen history that have left indelible memories on my brain as a child: 1) Jaws rising out of the water for the first time at Chief Brody, 2) Vader entering into the hall of Leia's ship, and 3) Rameses II on his throne talking down to Moses. Youl Borosovitch Bryner captivated me with his penetrating stare, bald skull and thick accent and his words, "So let it be written; so let it be done." Such a commanding screen presence.
It was years later in my late teens that I would see this actor in a new light, still a huge screen presence but playing a character with more sensitivity behind the furrowed brow of strength and power. It would become my favorite film musical of that Golden Age. As the King of Siam, Yul Brynner, showed me his versatility and depth as an actor but who was the man behind the makeup?
Apparently, few knew as Yul would constantly make up stories about his past and upbringing perhaps to hide the uglier side of his family like his father abandoning the family for another woman, which is what Yul's grandfather did as well. His Hollywood personality wasn't a well-kept secret as an arrogant, perfectionist capable of on set tantrums and unwillingness to work with others. But isn't that the case of all actors and hollywood types?
The interesting things about Yul are the ones that didn't always reach tabloids including things that he may have hidden. At 14 his family moved to Paris and he became fascinated by a family of Russian gypsies who performed at a restaurant Youl visited. He learned to play guitar and sing in Parisian night clubs and they became a second family to him. This led to meeting circus performers and touring with them as part of the trapeze act until a fall gave him 49 fractures on his left side. Later on in his career he developed a passion for photography and always had a camera on set. I go back to watch scenes from the Ten Commandments in Rameses throne room to see if i can spy Yul's camera that he hid beneath the throne during filming.
The book is written well enough to move you through the stages of Yul's life in television, broadway and film. It is unfortunate that sometimes Yul was his own worst enemy that prevented him from solidifying a real solid film career as he was plagued with many flops. Some stemming from the fact that for a time he couldn't work in the United States because of tax issues. He has a few unquestionable film successes like The Ten Commandments, The King and I, The Brothers Karamasov and The Magnificent Seven.
He isn't unlike any other flawed human but stands out more because of his acting, producing and directing. But it was truly the role as the King of Siam that probably defined him best as a man always trying to show strength while hiding the sensitivity that he feared made him weak. He loved this role and performed it an incredible 4,633 times. After completing the book i was reminded of the lyrics to one of the songs in the musical that fits Yul best:
"This is a man who thinks with his heart, His heart is not always wise. This is a man who stumbles and falls, But this is a man who tries.
This is a man you'll forgive and forgive, And help protect, as long as you live... He will not always say What you would have him say, But now and then he'll do Something Wonderful."...more
I was pleasantly surprised to find that much of what I loved about this novel, the first one of the Bond novels I've ever read, though I have all theI was pleasantly surprised to find that much of what I loved about this novel, the first one of the Bond novels I've ever read, though I have all the movies, was Fleming's narrative concerning the Roseate Spoonbills and Cormorants. It completely played to my love of birds and nature for Fleming was an avid birder and even took the name of an ornithologist studying and writing about the birds of the West Indies and gave it to his British spy. So it was amusing to me that the thorns in the side of Dr. No were the Audubon society in America and a pink and white bird about the size of a heron or egret. I have a painting on my living room wall of three Roseate Spoonbills huddled together.
I was very caught up in Fleming's story and growth of his characters, there weren't too many to expand upon, but I was glad to see that Honeychile Rider had more depth to her because in the book her nose has been broken for years. It adds to her story, especially how she got it, and gives Bond a bit of a predicament coming to terms with the fact that such an attractive girl has a deformity and questions his superficiality towards the opposite sex. Clearly the filmmakers weren't going to give such a blemish to Ursula Andress.
Bond's threshold for pain isn't always explored in the films and Fleming is no slouch for eeking out the details of some nasty hurdles for Bond whether it be attempts on his life or surviving a Jamaican jungle. He is brutalized by an "obstacle course" that Dr. No puts him through in the book to test his pain limits. I understand the limits of special effects and cuts from book to film translations but I would have liked to see the film version of Bond's obstacle course. If Disney was able to create a giant squid attack nine years before in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea couldn't MGM have done the same for Dr. No?