Yul Brynner starred on Broadway as Odysseus in “Home Sweet Homer,” a musical that opened and closed on the same night. He had better luck in his 1941 Broadway debut at the age of 21, a recent immigrant, in “Twelfth Night” which lasted 15 performances, and in a 1943 comedy by Patricia Coleman called “The Moon Vine” that lasted 20. His biggest success on Broadway was playing Mary Martin’s husband in “Lute Song” a love story with music in 1946, which ran for four months. Biggest success, that is, until his next role, for which Mary Martin recommended him to her friends Rodgers and Hammerstein. It’s the only one of his five Broadway roles for which Yul Brynner is remembered, which is not surprising, because “The King and I” made him a star. He originated the role of King Mongkut in “The King and I,” which opened in 1951 and ran for 1,246 performance that first go-round
He then starred in the 1956 movie, and, although he became a movie star (The Ten Commandments, Anastasia, The Magnificent Seven) Brynner kept on returning to play the role of the King on Broadway and around the world – reportedly a total of 4,625 times on stage.
He last appeared in The King and I on Broadway in 1985, a few months before he died at age 65.
That last production was directed by Mitch Leigh, who is better known as a composer — of Man of Lamancha, and also of the one-day flop in 1976, “Home Sweet Homer.”
Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr perform “Shall We Dance” from the 1956 film version of “The King and I.”