This is the year in which the HFPA started announcing the nominations in advance of the awards.
Of the contenders, four were comedies and only one a musical. And of course, The King and I deemed the best transfer of a Broadway musical to the screen when it opened, was the obvious choice. The film was also nominated for the Oscar for best picture and was universally lauded.
Even though Rodgers and Hammerstein had a close relationship with Fox and (studio head) Darryl F. Zanuck, it was a foregone conclusion that the studio would get the film rights. After all, the musical was based on the successful 1946 Fox movie Anna and the King of Siam. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein had written the musical State Fair for Zanuck in 1945, and the studio produced both Carousel and South Pacific and ultimately its biggest moneymaker, The Sound of Music. But what made the King and I so unique was that it was not planned as a road show production in the way Oklahoma! and South Pacific were. It was just one of many Fox releases that year. But then it exploded, becoming the most successful adaptation of a Broadway musical up to that time.
Only studio contract people were involved, with the exception of Yul Brynner, who had originated the part of the King on Broadway and who won the Academy Award for this role, which made him a huge star. (The Golden Globe, however, went to Mexican actor Cantinflas, obviously a foreign press favorite, for Around the World in 80 days.)
The King and I is virtually flawless. The part of Anna was written for Deborah Kerr, even though her voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon. Yul Brynner was born to be a movie star. But most impressive of all is the transfer of the original choreography. “The March of the Siamese Children” and “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” remain the highlights of the film. And for that, we can thank Zanuck for allowing Jerome Robbins to recreate his choreography for the screen.
Oh yes, Richard Rodgers’ score helps. Although Rodgers worked in film for over a half century the only movie award he ever won was for his song “It Might as Well Be Spring,” written for Zanuck’s State Fair.