Thursday, October 24, 2013

Siamese, If You Don't Please

Dorothy Dandridge in Tarzan's Peril (RKO, 1951)
"Scuttlebutt from Movieland has it that 20th Century Fox wants Dorothy Dandridge for The King and I, and will blow up the Tuptim role to starring size." -- Dorothy Kilgallen's column, May 7, 1955

"Following her current engagement at Lake Tahoe, Dorothy Dandridge will head back to Hollywood for her stint in The King and I, which will keep her busy until the end of the year..." -- Izzy Rowe's column, August 20, 1955

Dorothy Dandridge at The Empire Room at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, April 11, 1955
"Because Dorothy Dandridge missed seeing The King and I on Broadway, Walter Lang (who will direct the screen version) had her fly to Toronto to catch a road performance of the musical..." -- Dorothy Kilgallen's column, September 1, 1955

Dorothy Dandridge in Tamango (CEI Incom, 1958)
"Dorothy Dandridge's exit from The King and I doesn't mean an exit from the Fox lot. She's now being considered for Under Two Flags and The Blue Angel." -- Aline Mosby's column, October 4, 1955

"In order to assure Dorothy Dandridge's availability for a lavish new musical starring vehicle scheduled to roll in January, 20th Century Fox studio has shifted her film slate and has released her from a co-starring role with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr in The King and I...Although the title has not yet been announced, unofficial word at the studio is that it will be either The Blue Angel or Under Two Flags." -- The Pittsburgh Courier, October 8, 1955

May Britt and Curd Jürgens in The Blue Angel (20th Century Fox, 1959)
Curd Jürgens and Dorothy Dandridge in Tamango (CEI Incom, 1958)

"Miss Half-Caste -- Rita Moreno -- is Miss High Caste these days. She's playing Tuptim in the film musical version of The King and I and beaming over the switch from wildcat to nobility: 'It's a relief not to be gnashing my teeth and flaring my nostrils for a change.' Rita landed the film after Dorothy Dandridge walked out of the role." -- Erskine Johnson's column, November 19, 1955
"I haven't been able to get a clear reason from Dorothy Dandridge on her sudden decision to drop out of The King and I, but it is my candid opinion that the lovely first lady of the screen may have passed up one of the best roles in her career...The role of Tuptim in King (which was to have been played by Dorothy) is one of the highlights in what may well be a milestone in movie making." -- Sonny Murrain's column, January 28, 1956

Rita Moreno in The King and I (20th Century Fox, 1956)
"Time is just filled with contrasts -- last year this time, Dorothy Dandridge was the big deal, a nominee for an Academy Award [for Carmen Jones]. This year the story is sad and about the mediocrity of her nightclub act...Dandridge shouldn't even be in nightclubs, but making pictures since coming so close to winning an Oscar." -- Izzy Rowe's column, March 31, 1956

Dorothy Dandridge onstage at The Riviera, Las Vegas, December 15, 1955
"Surprising that Dorothy Dandridge has not made a film since Carmen Jones, in which she was so successful..." -- Louella Parsons' column, April 2, 1956
"This is how Rita Moreno won the role of Tuptim in the movie The King and I. Dorothy Dandridge had been signed for the part. The studio began to screen test actors to play her lover, Lun Tha. Miss Dandridge's commitments made it impossible for her to do these tests..." -- Leonard Lyon's column, May 1, 1956

Rita Moreno and Carlos Rivas in The King and I (20th Century Fox, 1956)


  1. Maybe Dorothy read the script and discovered they had cut the guts out of the Tuptim role. The original Anna and the King of Siam was much darker overall than the shiny, happy King and I and Linda Darnell's Tuptim was a moody, imperious, immature and somewhat foolish creature who ended up burning at the stake. Rita's has less screen time, is much more passive and after being caught with her lover just vanishes from the film. Not that any of the stuff they handed Dorothy was much better.

    1. In her heavily ghostwritten memoirs, DD said that she regretted turning King down. Who knows, if it had gone forward with her as Tuptim, the role might have been more significant -- she was a much bigger star than Rita was at the time. And it would have been fairly groundbreaking to have a black actress portraying a non-black character. Incidentally, in a bit of role reversal, in 1962, DD did a season of "West Side Story" in Chicago, playing Anita, the role Rita had won the Oscar for!

  2. Replies
    1. Take your pick: small curd or large curd!


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