Sunday, June 21, 2009
Yul Brynner and My Creative Past
The other night I watched, for the umpteeth time, the amazingly wonderful movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "The King and I." I have loved Yul Brynner's portrayal of the King of Siam for as long as I can remember.
This was the first time I had seen the film since I began my career writing romantic and erotic fiction. Watching all the scenes again, I was amazed at the influence this story and the King's character had upon my own storytelling. For example, I realize now that my novella Gift of Flesh (which you can read free online here) drew upon my subsconcious memories of the movie: the Burmese slave Tuptim falls in love with the man who delivers her to Siamese court, Lun Tha, just as my Miakaela fell for Naissun. Meanwhile, the Siamese king's struggle to reconcile the demands upon a strong monarch with his own personal mercy was doubtless some of my inspiration for Marcus, the hero of my story "The Scarlet Shackle" (also a free read here).
In truth, I could see in Yul Brynner's portrayal of the King the very essence of so many of my romantic heroes. I can see glimpses of him in the afore-mentioned Naissun and Marcus, Finn from Bloodchained, Prince Lucan from "The Dark Prince," Mr. Wellesley from "The Verity of the Vampyre," Adesteis from "The Chieftain's Man," and too many more to mention ("etcetera, etcetera, etcetera," as the King would say).
Yul won both a Tony and an Oscar for the role, so I am not alone in my admiration. As the King he managed to touch upon some very contradictory desires women feel for men. We want them to be strong, yet compassionate. We want them dominant but tenderhearted. We want them capapable of being funny and charming, but just as able to be stern, aggressive, and possibly even cruel.
It is virtually impossible for a real man to pull off all these traits and behaviors. To create a character who exhibits them all cohesively requires some brilliance, which of course Rodgers and Hammerstein had in spades. But just as much credit goes to the late Mr. Brynner, whose physical beauty, sexual attractiveness, acting prowess, and comedic talent all came together to create one of the most memorable characters in the history of both theater and film. I will always be in love with the King of Siam, and I have no doubt that love will continue to be reflected in many more of my characters as long as I continue to create romantic heroes.