Born in Vladivostock, Russia on July 11, 1920, Yuli Borisovich Bryner or Yul Brynner was an exotic leading man in American film, stage and behind the camera as a director. He kept his life a mystery but it is now known that he was raised in Harin, Manchuria and in 1934 in Paris.
Yul dropped out of school and began playing guitar in nightclubs among the Russian gypsies who he felt were "family." He met Jean Cocteau. Yul apprenticed at the Theatre des Mathurins. He also performed as a trapeze entertainer with the Cirque d'Hiver. Yul debuted in Twelfth Night in 1941. He starred in New York in Mr. Jones and His Neighbors in 1944 and played on Broadway in Lute Song. He won awards and mild acclaim. Yul and Virginia Gilmore starred in the first TV talk Show Mr. and Mrs. York in 1949.
He played the King in Rodgers' and Hammerstein's musical The King and I. He was a sensation in the role and repeated it for the film in1956. He won an Oscar for Best Actor. He performed in film and theater as an Egyptian pharaohs to a Western gunfighter.
After films Brynner spent the rest of his life touring with The King and I. He contracted lung cancer in in the mid1980s and left a powerful message denouncing smoking. After a long illness, cancer and its complications ended Brynner's life.
Brynner was married to Virginia Gilmore from1944 to 1960 when they divorced. They had one child. He married Doris Keiner in 1960 and they divorced in 1967 and had one child. He then married Jacqueline de Croisset in 1971 and they divorced in1981 with two children. In 1983 Brynner married Kathy Lee and they lived together until his death on October 10, 1985. Brynner's trademark is his completely shaved head, unflinching gaze and deep and authoritative voice.
As well as an actor Brynner was an accomplished photographer. He began a rigorous weight lifting program for his part in The Ten Commandments in1956. He was the star in The Magnificent Seven in 1960 and its sequel Return of the Seven in 1966. He played with Eli Wallach in Danger Grows Wild in1966 and Romance of a Horse Thief in 1971.