65 (passed away Oct. 10th, 1985)
Jul. 11th, 1920
Vladivostok, Primorsky province, Russia
Yul Brynner's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Exotic leading man of American films, famed as much for his completely bald head as for his performances, Yul Brynner masked much of his life in mystery and outright lies designed to tease the gullible. It was not until the publication Empire and Odysseu by his son Yul "Rock" Brynner in 2006 that many of the details of Brynner's early life became clear. He sometimes claimed to be a half-Swiss, half-Japanese named Taidje Khan, born on the island of Sakhalin; in reality he was the son of Boris Bryner, a Swiss-Russian engineer and inventor, and Marousia Blagovidova, the daughter of a Russian doctor. He was born in their home town of Vladivostok on 11 July 1920, and named Yuli after his grandfather Jules Bryner. When Yuli's father abandoned the family, his mother took him and his sister Vera to Harbin, Manchuria, where they attended a YMCA school. In 1934 Yuli's mother took her children to Paris. Her son was sent to the exclusive Lycée Moncelle, but his attendance was spotty. He dropped out and became a musician, playing guitar in the nightclubs among the Russian gypsies who gave him his first real sense of family. He met luminaries such as Jean Cocteau and became an apprentice at the Theatre des Mathurins. He worked as a trapeze artist with the famed Cirque d'Hiver company. He traveled to the U.S. in 1941 to study with acting teacher Michael Chekhov and toured the country with Chekhov's theatrical troupe. That same year he debuted in New York as Fabian in "Twelfth Night" (billed as Youl Bryner). After working in a very early TV series, "Mr. Jones and His Neighbors" (1944), he played on Broadway in "Lute Song", with Mary Martin (I), winning awards and mild acclaim. He and his wife, actress Virginia Gilmore, starred in the first TV talk show, "Mr. and Mrs." (1948). Brynner then joined CBS as a television director. He made his film debut in Port of New York (1949). Two years later Mary Martin recommended him for the part he would forever be known for: the King in Richard Rodgers (I)' and Oscar Hammerstein II's musical "The King and I". Brynner became an immediate sensation in the role, repeating it for film (The King and I (1956)) and winning the Oscar for Best Actor. For the next two decades he maintained a starring film career despite the exotic nature of his persona, performing in a wide range of roles from Egyptian pharaohs to Western gunfighters, almost all with the same shaved head and indefinable accent. In the 1970s he returned to the role that had made him a star, and spent most of the rest of his life touring the world in "The King and I". When he developed lung cancer in the mid-1980s, he left a powerful public service announcement denouncing smoking as the cause, for broadcast after his death. The cancer and its complications, after a long illness, ended his life. Brynner was cremated and his ashes buried in a remote part of France, on the grounds of the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry, a short distance outside the village of Luzé. He remains one of the most fascinating, unusual and beloved stars of his time.
- Was very good friends with 'Deborah Kerr' (qv).
- Apprentice of 'Michael Chekhov' (qv).
- A recording of him explaining how being bald helped him is included in a song by 'Stephen Malkmus' (qv) (of Pavement) entitled "Jo Jo's Jacket." The first verses are about Brynner and include a reference to _Westworld (1973)_ (qv) and _The King and I (1956)_ (qv).
- Son Yul 'Rock' Brynner II (b. 23 December 1946).
- He was an accomplished photographer. He took many photos on the sets of the various projects he worked on over the years.
- He badly wanted to play the title role in _Spartacus (1960)_ (qv) and the role of Rasputin in _Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)_ (qv).
- In 1950, before he achieved fame, he was the director of a children's puppet show on CBS, _"Life with Snarky Parker" (1950)_ (qv), which lasted barely eight months on the air before cancellation.
- While touring in the play "Odyssey" in the mid-1970s, he attained a reputation for being a holy terror toward hotel staff members. Among other things, all hotel suites where he would stay had to be painted a certain shade of tan and all kitchens in those hotel suites had to be stocked in advance with "one dozen brown eggs, under no circumstances white ones!" (it should be noted, in fairness, that Brynner personally paid the expense of these requests). The play itself, later retitled "Home, Sweet Homer," had a successful pre-Broadway tour of over a year, but lasted exactly one performance when it opened on Broadway in 1976.
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