The 1956 film soundtrack album for director Walter Lang's adaptation of The King and I is distinguished from the Broadway cast album chiefly by the expanded orchestrations, played by the large studio orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman, and by the presence of Marni Nixon in the role of Anna Leonowens. On film, the part was played by Deborah Kerr (whose spoken parts are retained on the soundtrack), but Nixon, one of the best invisible voices in Hollywood (she also ghosted Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady) is the wonderful singer of songs like "I Whistle a Happy Tune" and "Getting to Know You," sung onstage by Gertrude Lawrence, who died before the film was made. Yul Brynner repeats his performance as the king, and Leona Gordon (dubbing Rita Moreno) gets to play Tuptim and sing "We Kiss in a Shadow." This is a Hollywood adaptation done right -- bigger and more dramatic than Broadway can be, with a show that benefits from the frills -- and makes you wonder why they didn't always do as well. The film, the third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to come to the big screen within eight months in 1955-1956, was a massive hit, and the soundtrack album topped the charts and remained in them for more than five years. It also remained in print continuously, with a CD upgrade in 1993, followed by a more extensive upgrade in 2001 that added nearly half an hour of previously unreleased material, much of it instrumental passages, though the nearly 13-minute "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" was put on disc for the first time and there was more of Brynner, who by this time had begun to dominate a work originally written as a star vehicle for Lawrence but still didn't have much music written for his part.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The King and I, musical|