Filmsite Movie Review
The King and I (1956)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Anna Summoned to the King's Chambers at Night - Disagreements Between Them Surfaced:

Later in the middle of the night, Anna was summoned to King Mongkut's private chambers. She found him sprawled on the floor reading a large Bible. He had located a passage quoting Moses that the world was created in six days. He strongly disagreed with the concept, called Moses a "fool," affirmed his belief in the evolutionary process, and stated that he was confused by the differing accounts:

King: Here it stands written by him that the world was created in six days. Now you know and I know that it took many ages to create world....Now, how am I ever to learn truth if different English books state different things?
Anna: The Bible was not written by men of science, but by men of faith. It was their explanation of the miracle of creation, which is the same miracle whether it took six days or many centuries.

The King was dissatisfied with Anna's explanation. Then, he quickly switched subjects and commanded that Anna take his dictation of a letter to President Lincoln ("very scientific ruler").

But then while reclining on the floor as he began the dictation, he realized that Anna was towering over him - prohibited by ancient customs. He ordered her, as one of his subjects, to lower her head by sitting on the floor with him: "Why do you stand over my head? I cannot stand all the time. And in this country no one's head shall be higher than King's. From now on in presence, you shall so conduct like all other subjects." Wearing a wide hoop skirt, Anna refused his order: "I'm very sorry. I shall try my best not to let my head be higher than Your Majesty's, but I simply cannot grovel on the floor. I couldn't possibly work that way, or think." He quipped and summed up his relationship with the strong-willed and progressive-minded Anna - in one of the film's more memorable lines:

You are very difficult woman!

Although he understood, he emphasized that she should obey him in other public circumstances - followed by his familiar string of etceteras: "But observe care that head shall not be higher than mine. When I shall sit, you shall sit! When I shall kneel, you shall kneel. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!" She promised to follow his lead. The King then returned to the subject of the dictated letter, and his worries about the President's strategy of not using elephants to help win the Civil War. He offered support by sending pairs of male elephants:

King: ...It has occurred to us that if we shall be sending you several pairs of young male elephants to be turned loose in forests of America - A- mer-i-ca. We are of opinion that after a while they shall increase in number....
Anna: Your Majesty...I don't think you mean pairs of MALE elephants.
King: ...And inhabitants of America shall be able to catch and tame them, and use them as beasts of burden.
Anna: Only MALE elephants, Your Majesty?
King: You put in the details.

She was left with having to finish the letter herself, and correct his misconception that pairs of male elephants would multiply.

Anna's Plotting to Bring Forbidden Lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha Together:

As Anna left the King's chambers, in the outdoor garden, she was met by the Burmese Ambassador Lun Tha, who told her that he had twice seen his lover Tuptim in secret, but it was becoming more and more difficult. He asked that Anna help to arrange a rendezvous between them. At first, she fearfully refused the dangerous request: "Oh, no, I couldn't! It's much too dangerous. Not for me, but for Tuptim and you. You'll be killed if they find you here in the City of Women. You must leave!" He begged: "Death is not worse pain than empty life. Please, Mrs. Anna." Although she was hesitant, Anna noticed his disappointment and changed her mind, and was able to briefly bring the two together. In the garden, they sang the heartfelt song: "We Kiss In a Shadow" (Lyrics: "We kiss in a shadow We hide from the moon Our meetings are few And over too soon We speak in a whisper Afraid to be heard When people are near We speak not a word Alone in our secret Together we sigh For one smiling day To be free To kiss in the sunlight And say to the sky Behold and believe What you see...").

Afterwards, Lun Tha promised that he would one day return to free Tuptim and escape with her:

If you see a chaba flower in your path, broken like this, it will be the sign that I have come for you. Watch for it.

More Serious Antagonisms That Developed Between the King and Anna - Anna's Threat to Leave:

Meanwhile, the King became more and more troubled and apprehensive when his Prime Minister Kralahome brought rumors and reports of "Western treachery" and the spread of British imperialism that regarded the King as an "unfit" ruler of Siam:

Prime Minister: When Siam's richest province was stolen by France, I warned it was only beginning of Western treachery. If enemies of ours, with lies such as this, can convince British that you are unfit to be ruler of Siam, our seas will soon be thick with ships, greedy for conquest.
King: So it has finally come. We must act quickly. But how? Where? I must think. Clearly. Scientifically. I must think. (He heard the school children singing "Home Sweet Home") But how can I think while being driven out of mind!

He realized that his power as absolute ruler of the Siamese kingdom was becoming vunerable to conquest and takeover - and immediately sought a scapegoat in Anna - a representation of Western culture and ideas. He barged into her classroom after hearing Anna's students again singing: "Home Sweet Home." He was reminded of her accusations that he didn't keep his promise to provide her with a house, and ordered her to never present the singing lesson again. She stood up to his autocratic rule, refused to be called his "servant," and threatened to resign, leave and return to England:

King: This is one lesson you do not be paid for teaching! You will stop instructing wives and children in singing English song: "Home Sweet House," in order to remind me of breaking promises I never make, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...
Anna: ...And you did promise me a house. 'A brick residence adjoining the palace.' Those were your very words in the letter.
King: I do not remember such words!
Anna: I remember them.
King: I will do remembering! Who is King here? I remind you so you remember that. I do not remember any promises. I do not remember anything except that you are my servant!
Anna: Oh, no, Your Majesty.
King: What, what, what? I said, you are my servant!
Anna: No, Your Majesty, that is not true. I am most certainly not your servant! And what is more, if you do not give me the house you promised, I shall be forced to return to England immediately.

When the children feared that Anna would be leaving them, the King responded: "I let her do nothing that is not my pleasure. It IS my pleasure that you stay here! In palace! In palace!" He then asked: "Why do you wish to leave these children, all of whom are loving you so extra -ordinarily?" Anna answered that she didn't wish to upset the children, but criticized him as an unreasonable and tyrannical ruler:

Anna: I do not wish to leave them. I love them too, quite extraordinarily. But I cannot stay in a country where a promise has no meaning.
King: I will hear no more about this promise!
Anna: A land where there is talk of honor and a wish for Siam to take her place amongst the modern nations in the world, where there is talk of great changes, but where everything still remains according to the wishes of the king!
King: You will say no more! No more!
Anna: I will say no more, because there is no more to say!

Anna ran from the classroom - in tears, with her son Louis, with plans to take the next sailing back to England.

The Aftermath of Anna's Disagreement and Argument with the King: Reconciliation

Following Anna's violent disagreement with the King, Lady Thiang visited her in her bedroom to plead with her to provide guidance and advice to the distressed and anxious King Mongkut. She was told: "You must go to King at once." Anna was informed about the King's recent news of British rumors about his rule as a "barbarian" and his fears of having his kingdom overthrown and turned into a protectorate: ("Agents in Singapore have found copies of letters to British government which describe King as barbarian and suggest necessity of making Siam a protectorate"). Anna was upset by the accusations ("That is outrageous! The King is many things I dislike, but he is not a barbarian"), but was still prideful and reluctant to immediately give in to the close-minded King ("It's against all my principles...I simply cannot go to him especially without his having asked for me").

To convince Anna to offer support, Lady Thiang sang about the King's personality. He often stumbled and fell, but also could be 'wonderful,' as described in her song: "Something Wonderful" (Lyrics: "...He will not always say What you would have him say But now and then he'll say something wonderful The thoughtless things he'll do Will hurt and worry you Then all at once he'll do something wonderful"). Anna relented and visited the King.

In the King's presence, he accepted her apology even though she hadn't offered one. After she asked if he wanted to discuss any serious political matters with him, he chauvinistically answered: "Why should I discuss important matter with woman?", but then when prompted, he spoke of news from Singapore about how he was regarded as a "barbarian" - he called the demeaning term a "false lie." She skillfully was able to provide her reasoned guidance: "What have you decided to do about it? - and then suggested possible answers to her question, by using phrases, such as: "My guess would be...."

To seek reconciliation and peace with the foreign powers, she proposed that the King should personally receive the two "distinguished" British envoys arriving from Singapore for a "friendship tour" in one week: Ambassador Sir John Hay (Alan Mowbray) and Sir Edward Ramsay (Geoffrey Toone) (one of Anna's old admirers before she was married). He should not try to respond to their accusations of being barbaric, but rather, the foreign guests should be treated and honored with a high-class banquet (with European food and music).

If someone were sending a lie about me to England, I would do my best to send the truth to England. Is that what you have decided to do, Your Majesty?...Well, my guess would be that you would seek some kind of personal contact with the British....My guess is that you will not fight with your distinguished visitors....You will give a banquet in their honor. You will entertain them in a particularly grand manner. In this way, you will make them all witnesses in your favor. They will return to England and report to the Queen that you are most certainly not a barbarian...That's it, Your Majesty. Stand up to them. Put your best foot forward. Oh, no, it's an expression, Your Majesty. It means put on your best clothes, show them your most intelligent men and your most beautiful women.

When the two spoke about the various options for how the women should be dressed (in native garb or as Europeans), the King asserted: "We shall make them look like ladies of Europe: Shoes on feet, dresses on bodies....The British Ambassador knows we are Siamese. I wish him to know we are also Europeans." Anna also proposed that the guests be entertained with a theatrical performance of Tuptim's own play - her version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. When the King suggested place settings with "the finest gold chopsticks," Anna queried: "Your Majesty, chopsticks? Don't you think knives and forks would be more suitable?" He excitedly agreed: "My mistake. British not scientific enough for the use of chopsticks. You are to order finest gold knives and forks in kingdom. Also spoons." It was also suggested to have cigars for the guests, court musicians, and invitations to all the eminent Europeans residing in Bangkok.

During prayers to Buddha to bless the upcoming event ("Oh, Buddha, give us the aid of your strength and your wisdom. And help us to prove to the visiting English that we are extraordinary and remarkable people"), the grateful King promised to build Anna a house, in exchange for her help: "And Buddha, I promise you that I shall give this unworthy woman a house. We will build her a house of her own. A brick residence adjoining royal palace according to agreement, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera").

The Banquet for the British Envoys:

Just before the guests arrived, Anna inspected the females' newly-sewn hoop-skirt dresses and was aghast that they lacked undergarments: ("I forgot. They have practically no undergarments"). When she told the King: "All properly dressed English ladies always wear undergarments," he disagreed: "I have opinion that, in this regard, England is very backward nation." But then the King objected to Anna's bare shoulders.

The King was introduced by Kralahome to the two British envoys, Ambassador Sir John Hay and Sir Edward Ramsay. When the two foreign agents were brought to meet the King's "royal wives," one of the wives called out to the bearded Ambassador with a monocle: "He has the head of a goat! Evil eye!" As the wives scurried from the room, there was further embarrassment when they all raised their skirts (and revealed they lacked undergarments). However, Sir Edward Ramsay congratulated the King: "I dare say His Excellency and I have rarely received so good an impression in so short a time." The King boasted about his many wives and children, raising some eyebrows: "I have only 106. I am not married very long. Well, next month, expecting five more."

Sir Edward spoke privately to Anna about their "old times" acquaintance, and hoped that she would soon return to England and its more advanced society: ("I was hoping to find you wasted away with homesickness"). As they danced, he asked about how she might be missing romance after her husband's death: "Do you also remember I once asked you to marry me?...I never learned to take defeat like a gentleman...I didn't come to Bangkok just because I enjoy sleeping on a gunboat or watching Sir John comb his beard. Anna, Anna. You're much too young to bury your heart in a grave." She explained her altruistic motive for coming to Siam - to help to educate its people. She was there to be "among people who need me. People I can help." He wished to rekindle their relationship: "I see another 10 years of waiting in those eyes." The King interrupted their dancing, and jealously and irritably told them that dancing was for after-dinner ("Dancing, after dinner!").

During the banquet, the King's main objective was to present a good impression and appear to be an intellectual conversationalist. Toasts were presented at the banquet by the Ambassador: "His Gracious Majesty, the King of Siam: May the rest of the world always regard him with the same high esteem as does the government of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria."

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