“So let it be written. So let it be done.”
With those words, Yul Brynner became a legend. As a child I had never saw the King and I, but I had seen the Ten Commandments every year and I became enthralled with the story of Moses and Ramses. Yul Brynner was Ramses II to me. He was also one of the first male stars that I became attracted to. Even though his character was evil and scheming, I thought he was what a real man should look like. While everyone else was making over Charlton Heston as Moses, my favorite was Yul Brynner.
He made an immediate impact upon launching his film career in 1956, after acting on stage and modeling in his early 20’s, even once posing nude for the famous photographer George Platt Lynes.
He appeared not only in the Ten Commandments that year but also the film version of the King and I after playing the role on Broadway. He walked away with the Oscar that year for Best Actor. Brynner, only 5’10”, was reportedly concerned about being overshadowed by Charlton Heston’s physical presence in the film The Ten Commandments, and prepared with an intensive weight-lifting program. But more than any other role he would later play he would be best remembered for the King of Siam.
Brynner died on October 10, 1985 at the age of 70 in New York City. The cause of death was lung cancer brought on by smoking. Throughout his life, Brynner was always seen with a cigarette in his hand. In January 1985, nine months before his death, he gave an interview on Good Morning America, expressing his desire to make an anti-smoking commercial. A clip from that interview was made into just such a public service announcement by the American Cancer Society, and released after his death; it includes the warning “Now that I’m gone, I tell you, don’t smoke.”