Yul Brynner – American actor from Russia
Yul Brynner was an American actor, best known for his role of the King of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I”. On the stage Yul had played the role for 4,625 times and for the film version he was awarded two Tony Awards and an Academy Award.
Brynner had starred in more than forty films. He was famous throughout the world, talented, rich and handsome.
Yul Brynner was born Yuliy Briner on July 11, 1920 in Vladivostok, Russia. When Yul was 4 years old his father fell in love with an actress Ekaterina Kornakova. After that, he left his family and went with Kornakova to Harbin (China). Later Maria Briner took the children – Yul and Vera, and moved to Harbin too.
In 1934, the Briners moved to Paris, where Vera married a Russian pianist and moved to New York. Once in the restaurant Yul saw the Russian Gypsies. Their performance so impressed the boy that he decided to learn to play the guitar, and on June 15, 1935 in a large Parisian cabaret took place Yul’s first concert. In Paris in the 1930s he made friends with the gypsy artist Alyosha Dmitrievich, with whom thirty years later Yul recorded musical album «The gypsy and I» (1967).
Then Yul became interested in the circus and performed in a French circus as a “flying clown” (trapeze acrobat) for three years, but after a back injury, he had to forget about this work.
Because of opium Yul met a famous poet, playwright and avant-garde artist Jean Cocteau, who introduced him to Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Marcel Marceau, Jean Marais. Then Yul decided to get rid of drug addiction. So he went to Switzerland, where he lived with his Aunt Vera and her daughter and was intensely treated. In 1938 Yul returned to Paris and got a job in the Russian theater.
In 1941, his mother was diagnosed with leukemia and they went to the United States for treatment. In America Yul hoped to enroll in acting classes by famous Mikhail Chekhov. And he managed to do this: he began working as a truck driver for Chekhov, as well as taking acting lessons. On December 2, 1941 Yul made his debut in a small role in the play “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare.
Yul had to work very hard to pay for his mother’s treatment. During this period, he met an actress Virginia Gilmore, who fell in love with him. In 1943, his mother died. Virginia went to Hollywood to star in a new movie. Once Yul could not stand the boredom and loneliness, called Gilmore and asked to marry him. Virginia agreed and they married on September 6, 1943. In December 1946, Virginia gave birth to a son – Rocky.
In 1945, Brynner was invited to the Broadway theater to play the lead role in the musical “Lute Song”.
In 1948, Virginia and Yul became the presenters of the first talk show in the history of the television “Mr. and Mrs.”
In 1949, Yul first appeared in the movie “The Port of New York” and then he played Rameses II in the Cecil B. DeMille blockbuster “The Ten Commandments” (1956), General Bounine in the film “Anastasia” (1956), Lee J. Cobb in a film version of The Brothers Karamazov (1958) and Chris Adams in “The Magnificent Seven” (1960).
The actor quickly became famous. Women adored him. Among his mistresses were the famous actresses of American and world cinema. As a result Yul and Virginia divorced.
In 1958 Yul replaced suddenly deceased actor in the movie “Solomon and the Queen of Sheba”, where his partner was Gina Lollobrigida.
Brynner married four times. His second wife was a Chilean model Doris Kleiner. They had one child, Victoria Brynner (born November 1962), whose godmother was Audrey Hepburn.
His third wife was Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume, a French socialite. They adopted two Vietnamese children: Mia and Melody.
At the age of 63, he married his fourth wife, Kathy Lee, a 24-year-old ballerina.
Brynner died of lung cancer on October 10, 1985 in New York City. He was a heavy smoker. Before his death he said: “Now that I’m gone, I tell you: Don’t smoke. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke. If I could take back that smoking, we wouldn’t be talking about any cancer. I’m convinced of that.”
Brynner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6162 Hollywood Blvd.