So, after all my investigation about Anna Leonowens, which is my favorite movie about her life in Siam? Let's see:
Anna and the King of Siam (John Cromwell, 1946)
Who's in it: Irene Dunne + Rex Harrison + Linda Darnell
The good: Irene Dunne's performance is great, she really looked like I imagine Anna; she was witty, secure and confident, but she also was capable of showing vulnerability and despair at some points (for example when the authorities give her a horrible house). I must say this: Irene cried so well on screen, you can see her eyes full of tears, out of anger or deep sorrow.
The good about Rex Harrison is that he captured the “peculiar” manners described by Anna, the way he talks, the way he walks from one side to other (but sometimes he's kind of affected).
The treatment of the relation between Anna ad the King is, I think, the most realistic of the three movies. They argue sometimes, they talk interested in what the other is saying and they respect each other. The closer they get is when she's writing a letter besides him on the floor. They look comfortable but not in love :)
Another thing is that the movie included almost every situation described by Anna in her diaries, and the most of them were very accurate to her writings (for example, she doesn't meet the King the first day she arrives to Siam). It's dramatic, but has some comic relief parts. The settings were good, and they added some interesting details (like Tuptim's monkey). The music was composed by Bernard Herman, and it helps to bring a sense of tension in some scenes.
The bad: the cast didn't include actors with Asiatic features, and that's a big con. I mean, no matter what Rex Harrison or Linda Darnell did in the movie, they just didn't look Asiatic. [spoiler]Another thing is that they invented situations, for example the death of Louis. I mean, why? Just to add drama to the movie?[/spoiler] Also Anna was kind of rude with Tuptim the first time she met her, and that wasn't necessary or true (besides it made look Anna somewhat bitter)
Should I see it? Yes, it's good overall.
The King and I (Walter Lang, 1956)
Who's in it: Deborah Kerr + Yul Brynner
The good: being a musical, I know we can't ask to this one to be tremendously dramatic or accurate. Deborah Kerr is entertaining and charming, her Anna is independent and kind; Yul Brynner looks like the King; the cast included actors with Asiatic features; the songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein are beautiful, especially "Getting to know you" and "Shall we dance"; everything is colorful and happy and the kiddies are adorable. The musical number based on "Uncle's Tom Cabin" at the banquet is awesome.
The bad: even when it's a musical, Yul Brynner's King isn't a very good caricature, he was like a child learning everything from Anna (even how to use a napkin), and didn't seem prepared or studious, he was more interested in showing his abs —like the wolf guy in "New Moon"— and repeating "etcetera, etcetera, etcetera" than anything else; some things are truly unbelievable (f. ex. Tuptim creating a musical number based on "Uncle's Tom Cabin" in three days); the way they hint that prince Chulalonkorn changed the laws of his country because of Anna's teachings is ridiculous (his speech at the end, my gosh, was bad); and the last part is awfully developed (in one scene the King is dancing vigorously and in the next he's dying...because "his heart is sad" since Anna's leaving). Oh, and the Louis from this one was really annoying.
Should I see it? Well, yes, because of the music.
Anna and the King (1999, Andy Tennant)
Who's in it: Jodie Foster + Yun-Fat Chow
The good: I like Jodie Foster's performance, her Anna was still very sad for hes husband death, her dramatic scenes are very powerful, but she also can make you smile with some of her lines; Yun-Fat Chow is the best of the three Kings, he looks wise and eager to learn, and embodies very good the positive and dark sides described by Ms. Leonowens in her diaries: he can be kind but also menacing. The settings are the best of the three, showing the splendor of the palace and the noisy and crowded streets of Siam. The cast was very well chosen, especially the kids. It showed the dramatic parts in a very realistic way (Tuptim's trial and execution, for example).
The bad: Anna was the center of the world in this movie, everything depends on her; she even helps to strategically win a battle and saves the King's life; in this movie Anna and the King explicitly profess a mutual love, so they took the easy way to capture the audience's attention; they added a whole story about a traitor Prince that wants to take the power, so they could show more action scenes.
Should I see it?: Overall I liked it.
As you can see, every movie has some positives and negatives sides. In my opinion there isn't still an ultimate movie about Anna Leonowens. If we could mix Dunne or Foster's performance, with the realistic settings of the last one and its King, and the most of the script of the first, that should be the best of all :)