Yes, one of my favourite actors was born on this day a hundred years ago. Named Yuli Borisovich Bryner, ‘Yul’ Brynner was born in Vladivostok on July 11, 1920 and ended up moving first to Harbin (in China) and then to Paris, along with his mother and his sister Vera after their father abandoned them. Yul’s musical and dramatic abilities came to the fore in Paris, where he became a guitarist and later a trapeze and theatre artiste. In 1941, having travelled to America, he debuted on stage in Twelfth Night. That was the start of Yul Brynner’s career in the US, debuting onscreen eight years later in Port of New York (1949).
Yul Brynner’s decidedly exotic features meant that he, like contemporary Omar Sharif, ended up playing several different nationalities in films. Russian, of course; German; Mexican; Japanese…
… and Thai.
In what proved to be his only Oscar-winning role in a career spanning almost three decades, Yul Brynner played a historical figure: the Thai ruler King Mongkut.
A very belated tribute to an actor I’ve actually seen only in a couple of films, but whom I like a lot: James Shigeta. The Hawaiian-born Shigeta passed away on July 28 this year, and it came to me as a shock a couple of days ago when I discovered that he was gone—and that no newspaper and none of the sites I occasionally visit—mentioned it. The news, however, made me remember the first film in which I saw James Shigeta: Flower Drum Song, one of his earliest films. Very different from his debut film (the superb The Crimson Kimono, one of my favourite noirs), but enjoyable in its own way—and an interesting commentary, both deliberate and unwitting, on immigrants in the US.
A couple of days back, a friend of mine, well aware of my obsession with old films, forwarded me a few URLs for sites where one can watch classic cinema for free. I had just begun watching Oklahoma!, and by the time I finished, I had a URL to add to my friend’s list. Yep, Sam: you missed this one: youtube, and I don’t mean a film in n number of parts. I mean the songs. Oklahoma!, for those who’d like to see it, is freely available on youtube—watch the songs in sequence, and you’re pretty much done.