Anna and the King (Special Edition)/Anna and the King of Siam (Widescreen) product details page

Anna and the King (Special Edition)/Anna and the King of Siam (Widescreen)

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Released in 1946, this is the first of four films based on material from the book by Margaret Landon about Anna Leonowens, a 19th-century schoolteacher who becomes a governess to the King of Siam's many children. Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison are the leads in this historical drama that is a faithful adaptation of real-life events, hindered somewhat by the casting of the obviously very Western Harrison as a Siamese monarch. It would be 53 years later before filmmakers approached the material again with an equally serious, sumptuous and historically meticulous attitude, in the Jodie Foster 1999 vehicle Anna and the King. In between, the more successful, more famous, and more frivolous musical version, The King and I (1956), became a theatrical evergreen. And an animated version of The King and I (1998) was made. Besides being the first, the original Anna and the King of Siam has the advantage of a historically accurate attitude without the imposition of later, anachronistic notions of political correctness. Michael Betzold, All Movie Guide

Nominated for Oscars for its costume design and art direction, this non-musical adaptation of the life of Anna Leonowens is a lavish, solid mix of romance and drama that never quite inflames itself to the level of passion for which it strives. Always accomplished in the role of a stoic, Jodie Foster does a typically proficient job with her role of a stiff-upper-lipped widow whose reserve melts only slightly. Although he'll probably suffer by comparison to the magnetic Yul Brynner, actor Chow Yun-Fat is fine as King Mongkut, playing the royal head of a country with square-shouldered sobriety. But in their scenes together, Foster, Yun-Fat, and director Andy Tennant strive for a kind of standoffish quality meant to imply the characters' mutual mix of antagonism and passion, but which comes off at times like a lack of onscreen chemistry. The story's muddled historical perspective is also something of a burden, but it's doubtful that fans of sweeping romantic melodramas will be much interested in the mishmash that the film makes of real-life events. Regarded as nothing more than a well-mounted movie version of a paperback romance novel, Anna and the King is mostly satisfying within such a realm. Karl Williams, All Movie Guide