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Inimitable gait and piercing eyes: how an actor of Russian origin conquered Hollywood

Yul Brynner (Yul Brynner, at birth Julius Borisovich Briner) is an American film and theater actor. Yul was born under the name Yuli Borisovich Briner (later the second “n” was added to the surname) on July 11, 1920 in Vladivostok (later Brynner himself spread the legend that he was born in a gypsy camp on Sakhalin), according to Wikipedia.

Photo: Shutterstock

Attentive, piercing eyes, oriental sculpting of the face, a thin cigar hanging elegantly from the corner of the mouth, a dark tight-fitting shirt, a beautiful hat, a holster on the thigh. And the gait, the inimitable gait, in which there is so much from the graceful panther, and from an alien alien, writes "Voice of America".

Yes, that was Chris, the leader of the “good” cowboys who took on the guard of the Mexican village from the “bad” cowboys in the popular Hollywood Western "Magnificent Seven". It was this picture that introduced the Soviet audience to the American actor Yul Brynner, making him an idol for many years.

"Scoundrels with a heart of gold"

He began his film career in the late 1940s, playing the cruel drug ringleader in the second-rate detective The Port of New York. Very quickly, the leading Hollywood studios discerned his unusual charisma, and they began to offer him the most prestigious roles. He played 47 roles in the cinema, including the famous Taras Bulba, Anastasia, The Brothers Karamazov, The Ten Commandments, Noise and Rage.

Brynner's shaved skull, strikingly distinguished from other macho heroes of American theater and cinema, "debuted" in 1951 in the Broadway production of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I" and was extremely in demand both on stage and on the screen. The external appearance of his characters emphasized their “otherness”, complexity, originality of fate, and sometimes even moral ambivalence. As one of his biographers noted, "he always played the villains with a heart of gold."

In Anastasia, this is a powerful and visionary former General Burov, the owner of a Parisian restaurant and one of the pillars of the white emigration, dressed in a strict black Cossack uniform with ghazyry.

In Taras Bulba, the actor let go of the reins with obvious pleasure, putting all his violent temperament into creating a colorful image of the main character of the film adaptation of Gogol's story.

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In the grandiose fresco "The Ten Commandments", the heir to the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses, played by him, is an insidious and vengeful villain who weaves intrigues against the noble and just Moses.

Taming the king

Brynner was eagerly filmed by such major directors as Walter Lang, Cecil DeMille, King Widor, Jean Cocteau, John Sturges, Franklin Scheffner, Martin Ritt and others.

In the political drama The Journey directed by Anatol Litvak, also a Hollywood player with Russian roots, his Soviet major Surov is an ambiguous figure. He is arrogant and cool in dealing with people from the West who are in his power, but at the same time capable of great feeling and self-sacrifice. His passion “from the camp of the enemy” is played by Deborah Kerr, with whom he played a brilliant duet a few years earlier in 1956 in the film adaptation of the musical comedy “The King and Me”, which brought him world fame and the acting “Oscar”. And in all, he went on stage in this performance 4625 times.

The king of Siam, as embodied in the film version by Brynner, is an almost grotesque figure of a capricious oriental despot, comic in his deep delusions and in childish naivety, but also touching in his bashful intention to "re-educate" under the influence of a clever and brave British intellectual lady hired by him for the education of his many children and wives. The historical anecdote underlying the musical gracefully masks the most serious theme of the clash of civilizations.

But, note, Brynner was not afraid to break the stereotype, and, for example, in the British comedy of absurdity "The Magic Christian" was completely unrecognizable in the image of the drag queen who sings in a bar and tries to charm a modest visitor (played by Roman Polansky).

Family tree branches

In 2003, the journalist was fortunate enough to talk in detail with Brinner's only son, Rock Brinner, a professor of history, writer, and author of many books and plays, including a biography of his father. The son of Yule Brinner and actress Virginia Gilmore lived in the USA and Switzerland. Like his great-grandfather Jules Brynner, he has Swiss citizenship along with American citizenship. I've tried many things in my life.

Rock Brinner was a guest of the Russian Film Week in New York in 2003 and even sang a few gypsy songs from his father’s repertoire at the opening ceremony.

He visited Vladivostok as a guest of honor at the Pacific Meridian International Film Festival. According to Rock Brynner, Russian premieres of the films The King and I, The Brothers Karamazov and Anastasia were organized in Vladivostok. He managed to agree with the State Department that during the trip he would give several lectures on the US Constitution at Far Eastern State University, which decided the issue of paying expenses.

“An incredible experience,” said Rock Brynner. - I have been waiting for this trip all my life. Until his death in 1985, my father could not visit Vladivostok. "

“My father’s grandfather, Swiss Jules Brynner, was in fact the founder of Vladivostok,” Rock said. - Jules was a kind of Rockefeller of the Far East at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He came to Japan from Europe, married a Japanese woman, she bore him children. But he left his family, moved to Vladivostok, built a city and married a Buryat woman Natalya, who bore him six children. One of them is my grandfather Boris, who was an engineer and inventor. His wife Marusya Blagovidova was the daughter of a Russian doctor. When Yul was 8 years old, his family had to leave Vladivostok and move to Harbin. He grew up in China until he was 15, then when Japan invaded, his family moved to Paris. In Paris, he was raised by the family of the gypsy musician Alyosha Dimitrievich. They often performed as a duet in Parisian cabarets, performing Russian and Gypsy songs. "

"I was his best friend"

From 1971 until his death, Yul Brynner lived in Normandy, although in fact he spent most of his time in the United States, touring with the theatrical production "The King and I".

“I have four half-sisters, much younger than me,” said Rock Brynner. - My father considered me an extension of his soul. I was his best friend. I went through his marriages, divorces, other trials, and later he went through my marriages and divorces. His closest friend was Frank Sinatra. I grew up in the thick of the Rat Pack (The Rat Pack is a pop group that includes Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.). I was their favorite rat. Yul starred in about three films a year, in different countries. And we lived mainly in hotels. For the fourth and last time, Yul married a young Malaysian dancer Katie, who took all the inheritance for herself, pushing us children aside. "

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Thanks to the research of Rock Brynner and Far Eastern local history enthusiasts, today we know a lot about Yule Brynner and his family tree. But stories about him continue to circulate on the Internet.

“The fact is, - explained Rock, - that Yul himself was a great lover of lying for a catchphrase. Therefore, you can sometimes read about being born on Sakhalin, about a Japanese or Mongolian mother, about a doctoral dissertation, which he allegedly defended at the Sorbonne, about knowledge of a dozen languages ​​and the like. "

“His real passion was water skiing,” Rock said. - This determined the choice of housing, even during the tour. They said to him: we are going to perform in Denver, and he immediately asked: is there a lake where you can go water skiing? "

Yul Brynner smoked his whole life and paid for this habit of his lung cancer, which he fought for two years. When he died, he was cremated, and the ashes were scattered in France, near the house where he lived.

Shortly before his death, he agreed with the American Cancer Society that he would record a video message that should be broadcast immediately after his death. And so it happened. Yul Brynner appeared on the TV screens and said: "Now that I am no longer alive, please stop smoking."

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