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Yul Brynner: the King of Hollywood

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Yul Brynner: the King of Hollywood


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  <p> <font size="4">Sergey Vinogradov</font></p>

  <p><i>The Hollywood has seen a lot of celebrities with Russian names – Kirk Douglas, a Hollywood legend and star of Spartacus, was born as Issur Danielovitch, and Oscar-winning Helen Mirren is delighted to be called Elena Vasilievna. The one might think that Yul Brynner, a star of The King and I, spent his whole life trying to forget that he had been born in Vladivostok as Yuliy Borisovich Briner, though, according to the eyewitnesses, he spoke fluent Russian until his dying day.</i></p>

  <p align="CENTER"><img src="" border="0" width="950" height="406"  /></p>

  <p align="CENTER"><font size="2">An image from <i>The Magnificent Seven</i></font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">Despite his roles of Dmitri Karamazov and Taras Bulba, the Russian audience fell in love with his fearless cowboy in <i>The Magnificent Seven</i>. July 11<sup>th</sup> marks the centenary of Yul Brynner’s birth. People of Vladivostok feel proud about their fellow countryman they open memorial plaques, organize exhibitions, and stage performances about him. But, as the Russkiy Mir found out, residents of Primorsky Krai hold another Yuliy Briner (the actors grandfather) in greater honor for his significant contribution into development of the region. The famous grandson was born four months after his grandfathers death.</font></p>

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  <p align="CENTER"><font color="#252525"><b>From Vladivostok to New York</b></font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">Yul Brynners biography could be turned into a script for a motion picture of multiple genres adventure and thriller would blend with drama and tragedy. The actor put a great deal of effort to confuse his biographers to the greatest possible extent. In interviews, he used to alter his origin and stories about childhood and ancestors. Most often he introduced himself as a descendant of Genghis Khan and as a gypsy, and he “recalled” his life in the Gipsy encampment in detail.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">However, biography alteration is a regular practice for Hollywood. Yul Brynner altered his own name as well, though only slightly he became Yul instead of Yuliy and added a second n to his surname. Nevertheless, according to his biographers, the actor did it without intention to disassociate himself from the Russian side of the numerous and extremely talented family of the Briners, but to avoid his surname being pronounced as [<i>brainer</i>] in the USA. So, it seems he wished to preserve his ancestral surname.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">In Vladivostok, they found a way to avoid confusion. In 2005 a memorial plaque was placed on the house where the actor had been born. It has two inscriptions - (Briner) in Cyrillic characters and Brynner in Latin ones. Seven years later, a monument to the actor was installed in the nearby square.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">The topography of Primorsky Krai has a lot of references to the Briners - two capes are named after Yuliy Briner Sr. A bust of the actors grandfather was installed in the city of Dalnegorsk, which was sponsored by peoples funds. A garden square was built near the installation place, and the city residents call it the Briner Square.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525"><i>For us residents of Primorsky Krai, Yul Brynner is important, but on a second-priority basis</i>, said Yelena Sergeeva, a historian and local history expert from Ussuriysk, who has been collecting information about the Briners family for many years. <i>Yuliy Ivanovich Briner was the one who initiated a lot of things in our region. He was one of the founders of Amur Region study society; he founded the city of Dalnegorsk; he organized excavations and helped discover the Yankovskaya archaeological culture. Yuliy Ivanovich deserved well of the Primorsky Krai. But his grandson was just born here. However, we are proud of him too</i>. </font></p>

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  <p align="CENTER"><font color="#252525"><b>The King of the Method</b></font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">The Briners came to Far East through the above mentioned Yuliys grandfather, who moved to Russia from Switzerland at the age of 16. Biographers did not find any gypsy blood in Yul Brynner, and the Swiss line had finished with his grandfather - the actors grandmother was of Slavic and Buryat descent, and his mother was Russian.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">In his native Vladivostok, Yul Brynner lived until the age of six. Then his family moved to Harbin. After a while, the movie star-to-be went to Paris and got his foot at the stage for the first time. At the age of 15, Yul had his first big performance he sang gypsy songs in a cabaret.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">Then there was a brilliant debut in a circus, an introduction to Stanislavskys system and the works of Mikhail Chekhov, followed by emigration to the USA, where Yul became a student of the great actor and drama teacher. The path to the big screen, as usual, was the thorny one. During the day, Yul delivered stage sets. In the evening, he performed in the Shakespearian club, and worked as a club bouncer at night.</font></p>

  <p align="CENTER"><img src="" border="0" width="1025" height="576"  /></p>

  <p align="CENTER"><font size="2">A shot from theThe King and I feature</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">It was the early 1950s when the actor finally managed to prove that Yul Brynners talent was not only in his fists. That time <i>The King and I</i>, a musical featuring Brynner as the King of Siam, was staged on Broadway. It made him famous; and the movie of the same title brought him the Academy Award. Over the years, Yul Brynner experienced a lot of overwhelming ups, as well as devastating downs. He either released five films a year, or blamed the cinematography and the audience for his failures and immersed himself into the theater.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">Yul Brynner died in 1985 in New York at the age of 65 from lung cancer, and was buried in France. The actor had never visited Vladivostok again. But Rock, his eldest son, has been to Russia many times. He keeps in touch with museums and researchers of his fathers work. Trips to Russia helped Rock to learn about his origins and outstanding ancestors, which he wrote a book about.</font></p>

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  <p align="CENTER"><font color="#252525"><b>The family book</b></font></p>

  <p>Website<a href="" target="_blank" ></a>, established by Elena Sergeeva in 2011, is probably the most thorough and comprehensive resource about the<i style="color: rgb(37, 37, 37);">Brynners</i>in Russian. The site contains information and photographs about twelve members of the Briner family - from Yuls grandfather to his children and their spouses, as well as grandchildren.</p>

  <p><font color="#252525"><i>I made the site when I got engaged in local studies in a professional way, </i>said Elena Sergeeva<i>. I am a historian and have lived in the Primorsky Krai for my whole life. The Brynners is one of the most famous families in the Far East. I started my research with Yul Brynner, which is natural. And when I found out that he was a relative of our Brynners, there came a professional interest. I collected quite good materials about this family, and decided to use them as basis for a website.</i></font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">Visitors of Elena Sergeevas site include enthusiastic local history experts and people interested in history of the Primorsky Krai, as well as descendants of the families mentioned in the materials. One of the most active pages is the guest book, where people ask and answer questions, share discoveries and insights. Some of the site materials may be included into the photo book dedicated to the</font><i style="color: rgb(37, 37, 37);">Brynners family</i><font color="#252525">.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525"><i>Yul Brynner made a lot of efforts to avoid any contact with his homeland, </i>she says<i>. He never mentioned to be born in Vladivostok; he made up various fables about himself. That was the reason of the conflict he had with his older sister Vera, who was an opera singer. She was fed up with her brother calling her half-sister in public, so she gave an interview and showed his baby photos. It caused the longstanding disruption in their relations. They made it up when Vera was at last moments of her life."</i></font></p>

  <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" border="0" width="700" height="467"  /></p>

  <p style="text-align: center;"><font size="2">The monument to Yul Brynner in Vladovostok. Photo credit:</font></p>

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  <p align="CENTER"><font color="#252525"><b>Yul Brynner is coming back on stage</b></font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">Yul Brynner is coming back on stage this fall. The Vladivostok Youth Theater was preparing a stage performance about the actors life. The premiere was scheduled for May, but due to the pandemic it was postponed. Victoria Kostyukevich, the author and a modern scriptwriter from Vladivostok, told the Russkiy Mir that the performance was intended to tell people about their famous fellow countryman. <i>Many of Vladivostok residents hardly know anything about Yul Brynner</i>, she says. <i>His name might be somehow familiar to them, but nothing more. So, I did my best to tell as many facts from Yul Brynners biography as possible</i>.</font></p>

  <p><font color="#252525">The stage performance features various periods of the actors life. Characters who met Yul Brynner in person will talk about him. It is still unclear whether the main character will come on the stage or will be present as a voice from behind the curtains - the stage director has kept up the suspense.</font></p>

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