Anna and the King of Siam (1946)

Anna Owens (Irene Dunn) accepts a teaching post at the court of King Mongkut (Rex Harrison). Will she be able to manage the culture clash and be useful to the King?

This is probably the worst case of what has become known as whitewashing, but long before it was known as such. I have always been aware of this movie but never actually watched it from end to end.

I don’t think this film is quite sold as a melodrama but yet it has its moments of slight comedy. Rex Harrison is good as always, but it took me a while to take him seriously playing the King of Siam. However, an hour into the film I certainly got used to it and he was rather spectacular. His King Mongkut is shown to have an enquiring mind and eagerly discusses many things with Anna, such as debating such matters as the Bible and American politics.

Irene Dunne is better than I expected in her role as the governess Anna Owens. Her acting complements Harrison’s, and Lady Thiang (Gale Sondergaard) was powerful especially when she spoke to Anna about supposedly failing not only the King but the Crown Prince, Chulalonghorn (Tito Renaldo). Both women are close to the King in their own way and they have their own burdens to bear.

Ultimately, this film was better than expected. It was more than a whitewashing exercise in British superiority and proved to be a very solid film.

MY RATING: ***.5 / *****

 

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