For years I have officially gone on the record stating that if the legendary Johnny Cash is universally known as the Man In Black then surely if we were tag a movie star with that same nickname it has to be Yul Brynner, with one major addition. The “coolest man in black.” One look at him as the head gunslinger Chris in The Magnificent Seven should leave you little choice but to agree.
If not Chris then how about his Gunslinger in Westworld.
Yul wore black off camera as well as on. He was once quoted in The Washington Post when asked about his attire often being black, “That way there is no possibility for vanity.”
My earliest memory of seeing Yul Brynner has to be The Ten Commandments. It was a family ritual growing up over the Easter weekend. For those that may recall, I’m referring to the days prior to the VHS machine when some movies would air once a year it seemed. The story of Moses being one of them. But, that was Heston’s film and while Yul was excellent as Rameses it’s really his role as the leader of The Magnificent Seven that I should think is my earliest memory of just how impressive he could be on screen. Think about it, he’s heading a cast that included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz, Brad Dexter and Eli Wallach.
No his name doesn’t appear on the artwork for his 1949 film debut but there’s no doubting that image that does make the advertising material.
1956 offered Yul a trifecta and screen immortality. Rameses, playing opposite Bergman and an Oscar as the King of Siam.
“When I sit, you sit. When I kneel, you kneel. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!”
“So it shall be written. So it shall be done.”
“Would you recognize the smile of a girl you knew ten years ago?”
Taking center stage in the big budget adaptation of the Dostoevsky novel.
On occasion the bald headed superstar would don a wig as he did in The Sound and the Fury opposite Joanne Woodward.
Stepping in to the role of Solomon opposite Gina following the sudden death mid production of Tyrone Power who had originally signed on to play the title role.
“I have been offered a lot for my work, but never everything.”
Heading another strong cast in this action adventure.
“You know it’s a funny thing…a man crazy to live takes a chance and dies; a man who doesn’t care takes the same chance and gets away with it.”
Taking the title role opposite another pair of action icons. – yeah this one’s in my personal collection as is to be expected.
Released as a Sabata film in North America, Indio Black, was Yul’s introduction to the world of the spaghetti western. “Ballantine’s share goes to my favourite charity… ME!”
The iconic one sheet….. “Sloppy with your drink? Get this boy a bib! “
Yul would retire from the screen following a 1976 Euro Crime thriller titled Death Rage. For the balance of his life he’d travel the world playing The King on stage. One year prior to his screen swan song he appeared in a post apocalyptic tale long before it became a genre unto itself. It teamed him with Max Von Sydow and pitted him against perennial bad guy, William Smith, and is well worth a look if you can track it down.
Perhaps I forgot to post your favorite Yul film, there were plenty of memorable one’s to choose from. At least we’ll always have the movies to remember him by.
Yul Brynner 1920-1985.