YELL: The Man Who Would Be King by Rock Brynner
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YELL: The Man Who Would Be King

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Deep-cutting bio of Yul Brynner by his son Rock, told lovingly throughout--until the son's brilliant post-mortem lays the king open for a tougher kind of love. Brynner was born of Swiss and Mongolian parents, early came under the spell of gypsy musicians in Paris who taught him guitar, songs, and a dehumanizing philosophy: ""that no human relationship is too strong to be broken, and that abandoning your family is often the manly thing to do."" Brynner's father and grandfather did exactly that with their first families, as does Brynner with wife Virginia Gilmore and Rock. The gypsies also taught him ""Be conspicuous, or you'll get lost in the crowd""--a thought not lost on the man who would play Ramses for De Mille and the many-childed King of Siam on stage for three generations and win an Oscar for that role on film. Both Yul and Virginia were unfaithful: she became a drunk (later reborn via A.A.), and he bedded hundreds, including Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Marlene Dietrich, while conducting himself as ""the quintessential foreigner of indefinite origins."" Rock follows his dad through the making of all of his films. Best roles (after the King): the phony Russian con artist of Anastasia and Dmitri in The Brothers Karamazov. Many father/son talks are included (Yul arranges Rock's devirginizing). Then all deepens as Yul comes down with lung cancer, gives his shattering antismoking TV shot, and son and father are united by approaching death. Yul tells Rock he will leave him his interest in the Hard Rock Cafe, then cuts all family members out of his will--still a gypsy. But Rock gets in the last word anyway--with an analysis of Yul's character that in its devastating honesty is a tribute to the father and now frees Rock to celebrate him. Strong.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster