Yul Brynner made sure Charlton Heston didn’t upstage him in The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments official trailer from Paramount

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Brynner was a notoriously proud and prickly man, obsessed with always coming out on top, whether in billing or screen presence. He infamously cried when his King and I Broadway co-star Gertrude Lawrence died – because it meant he would get top billing at last outside the theatre. He liked it to be known that he prepared breakfast in a silk kimono, other stars commented how he was “never far from a mirror” and his on-set demands and dramas were legendary. When he heard he was starring opposite the strapping and impressive Heston, the ‘Mongolian’ star went into a frenzy.

These days it is common for action stars to be magnificently muscle-bound, but in the Golden Age of Hollywood, most male leads were simply fit and trim – unless they were ex athletes like Tarzan’s Johnny Weissmuller. 

Heston, however, towered over everyone at almost 6’3 and was always in impressive physical shape. This was a problem for 5’7 Brynner, who would notoriously scuff up mounds of dirt to stand on in The magnificent Seven so that he appeared taller than Steve McQueen.

Before he came to Hollywood, Brynner actually had a background as a circus acrobat and trapeze artist in Paris – before a horrifying fall broke many of the bones in his body. He still kept himself in prime shape and was one of the first Hollywood stars to (officially) pose for nude photographs. 

Arriving in LA in 1940, during this first decade in Hollywood Brynner survived on bit parts and some nude modelling, while he had a long-term relationship with heartthrob actor Hurd Hatfield.

The King and I on Broadway catapulted him to stardom and 1956’s The Ten Commandments would cement his position as a major A-list film actor.

His pride and vanity would not permit him to be overshadowed by Heston, so Brynner began an intense workout regime, knowing he would spend much of the film showing a lot of flesh as the Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses, opposite Heston’s Moses.

His impressive physique also paid off later that year when he filmed The King & I opposite Deborah Kerr.

Brynner dedication to his career meant he spent much of the Ten Commandments film shoot on set in California but flying back to New York in the evenings to New York, where he was still appearing as the King of Siam on Broadway.

Playing two glittering monarchs no doubt appealed to his vanity, as well.

All his hard work and sacrifice paid off, with Heston later commenting he thought Brynner gave the best performance in the entire movie. Brynner’s son, Rock, said his father “was proud of his performance, and very proud of being in the film. He regarded it as the biggest film ever made, forever.”

Source: Read Full Article