One of the greatest actors of yesteryears was Russian Hollywood stage and film actor Yul Brynner. Known for his bald head and a distinctive voice, Yul had a number of hit roles to his credit. He also had a number of hot relationships and was married for four times in his lifetime. His contribution to the film industry is magnificent and valuable! As we go through his life journey from birth to death, you will realize how great a personality Yul was and is been missed by the industry due to his death at the age of 65 years in 1985.
Yul’s growing years and birth
Yul was born as Yuliy Borisovich Briner in Vladivostok, Far Eastern Republic (present-day Vladivostok, Russia) on 11 July 1920. His parents were Boris Yuliyevich Briner and Marousia Dimitrievna. Boris worked as a mining engineer. He had a younger sister. His father was involved in an extra-marital affair which led his mother to take the kids to Harbin, Manchuria. He attended a school run by YMCA.
Fearing China-Japan war, his mother took them to Paris in 1932. His interest in music rose here and he commenced playing guitar in nightclubs. It is incredible that little Yul also learned trapeze and worked as an acrobat in a French circus for 3 years. He suffered a back injury and started looking at acting as a new career. In 1940, he and his mother migrated to NY, the US.
Yul’s acting career and achievements
Yul first worked as a radio announcer during World War II and also learned acting under a Russian coach. He toured the country with his coach Michael Chekhov’s troupe and made a small debut role on stage in Twelfth Night. He ventured into TV and modeling. As he gained more experience, he tried his hands at direction on Studio One. He also appeared on the TV talk show titled Mr and Mrs.
In 1946, he got his first role on the silver screen in Port of New York. His success as a TV director came and hence he limited his acting. But he was persuaded by Mary Martin to audition for the role of King in King and I and successfully bagged the role. He had a male type of baldness and for this role, he had to shave his head bald.
This role of King Mongkut of Siam which he performed won him critical acclaim and popularity. The transformation for this role was so great that he sported a bald head thenceforth in his life. He has played this role 4625 times in his life which shows the immense popularity that he got due to it. He also received awards and honors for these portrayals.
More role offers flowed in and he gained a superstar status. His roles were mostly the regal types and he accomplished them successfully. He also learned photography and authored two books. He had also recorded few songs. His famous quote is:
“We’re born alone, live alone, die alone. Everything in-between is a gift.”
Yul’s personal life
Yul’s personal life is also quite interesting. He first married actress Virginia Gilmore at age 24 in 1944. The couple has a son named Rock but got separated in 1960. He has a daughter born in 1959 with Frankie Tilden; which implies when he was still married to Virginia. The same year as his divorce, he married Doris Kleiner. They have a daughter called Victoria. But Doris and Yul separated in 1967.
In 1971, he tied the knot with Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume but the two divorced in 1981. During this marital phase, the couple adopted two children; Mia and Melody. In 1983 was his fourth marriage to Kathyyam Lee.
Two years after his marriage to Kathyyam, Yul expired due to lung cancer. He was a chronic and heavy smoker having smoked from age 12. He had quit smoking in 1971 and 12 years later was diagnosed with lung cancer which was inoperable. He died on 10 October 1985 in NY.