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Trivia / Anna and the King

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  • Banned in China: In Thailand because of the film's apparently blasphemous portrayal of royalty.
    • Criticizing the King in any way is grounds for a stiff jail term. Thailand's lese-majeste laws are some of the strictest in the world.
  • Box Office Bomb: Budget, $75 million. Box office, $39,263,420 (domestic), $113,996,937 (worldwide).
  • California Doubling: Set in Thailand, filmed in Malaysia.
  • Dueling Works: A downright bizarre version where the competing work was the exact same story: the same year also saw the release of the animated version of The King and I.
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  • Fake Brit: American Jodie Foster as Englishwoman Anna.
  • Fake Nationality: Chinese Chow Yun-fat as the Thai Mongkut.

For the 1946 film with Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne:

  • Anna and the King of Siam has a surprising amount of Truth in Television in terms of costuming and attitudes. These are based on photos from the period, and the producers worked with Margaret Landon, author of Anna and the King (who'd also been a schoolteacher in Thailand), basing many of the outfits on ones she personally owned. Many of the bit players are Thai. Lee J. Cobb as the Kralahome, Rex Harrison as the King, and Gale Sondergaardnote  as Lady Thiangnote  actually speak some Thai, and speak it well. The script brings out the fact that Mongkut spent 27 years as a Buddhist monk, and Harrison plays the King as a true scholar.
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  • The banquet scene theatricals (which are accurate) are accompanied by selections from a Smithsonian Folkways album, Music of the Orient. A Thai piece from the Ramayana is heard intercut with some jarringly anachronistic gong kebyar from Bali. Gong kebyar music didn't even exist when Rama IV ruled Thailand, and any Balinese music in a Siamese court is completely unreal. The reason for the intercuts appears to be that the Thai track has some singing. On the other hand, the score for the film is brilliant, Bernard Herrmann basing a lot of it on actual Thai mahori music.
  • In that period, Thai food was eaten with your fingers and a spoon, not chopsticks. Mongkut gave so many banquets with English and European visitors (especially on his birthday) that he was completely used to offering the kind of things they'd like, and would have an ample supply of European silverware around and know how to use it himself.
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  • Slavery in Thailand was more like indentured or bonded servitude, not like the race-based slavery of the U.S. Slaves were legally entitled to adequate food, shelter, clothing and education, along with the right to buy their own freedom or have someone else do it. In the sequence about L'Ore, Anna points out that according to the King's own law, a slave must be freed if the money is offered. Mongkut didn't create that law, it had been on the books for centuries. The real L'Ore was owned not by Tuptim but by a different royal wife, who was in violation of that law by not letting L'Ore go to her husband. Anna did present the case to Mongkut, who expressed gladness that she was taking an interest in "the condition (bodily) of our common people." While the film reflects Anna's very dressed-up Oriental noir version of what happened (but leaves out the official hearing in the women's court), the basics of L'Ore's story are true.
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