Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yul Brynner

Bisexual Russian-born actor Yul Brynner (1920-1985) began his career playing guitar and singing gypsy songs among Russian immigrants in Parisian nightclubs. His fluency in Russian and French enabled him to build up a following with the Czarist expatriates in Paris. After a brief stint as a trapeze artist with the famed Cirque D'Hiver company in France, he started acting with a touring company in the early 1940s. He was soon on his way to becoming the first ever bald stage and movie idol.

In 1941 Yul Brynner traveled to the U.S., where he began an affair with American actor Hurd Hatfield (1918-1998), best known for playing the title role in the 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray. Both men were enrolled at the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and many of their classmates have since confirmed the affair. Michael Chekhov (1891-1955, nephew of Anton), mentored performers such as Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Patricia Neal, Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leslie Caron, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Jack Palance, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn and many others.

A year later, twenty-two year old Brynner (before he shaved his head) posed in full-frontal nude positions (photo at right) for noted gay photographer George Platt Lynes. Those who would like to view those uncropped photographs should avail themselves of Google search (you know you want to). You'll have a better understanding of what all the excitement was about.

Two decades later, at age 43, Brynner appeared wearing only slightly more in the campy film Kings of the Sun (1963, below), his youthful body betraying not a single passing year.

After several years of regional acting, Brynner was hired by the Office of War Information as announcer for their French radio service. He made his Broadway debut with Mary Martin in Lute Song in 1946, but he began playing his most famous role, the King of Siam, in The King and I in the Broadway production of the Oscar and Hammerstein musical in 1951 (photo at top of post). Mary Martin had recommended him for this role. At his first meeting with Irene Sharaff, The King and I’s costume designer, Brynner asked what he was to do about his mere “fringe” of hair. When told he was to shave it, he was horror-struck and refused, convinced he would look terrible. He finally gave in during tryouts and put dark makeup on his shaved head. The effect was so well-received that it became Brynner's trademark.

After more than three years and 1,246 performances, he starred in the screen version in 1956, winning an Oscar for Best Actor. He then returned to the stage for an additional 3,379 stage performances that stretched all the way to 1985. Brynner, 35 years old and married, was virtually unknown when he was cast in The King and I, and 52- year-old Gertrude Lawrence’s name appeared above his. Yul and Gertrude were having an affair at the time. Rodgers and Hammerstein often told the story that when Lawrence died during the run of the show, Brynner finally got top billing, and he burst into tears at the news (of his getting top billing – not the news of Lawrence’s death).

Cecil B. DeMille, impressed by Brynner's performance in The King and I, cast the actor as the Pharoah Rameses in the multi-million dollar blockbuster The Ten Commandments (1956, dressing room photo above). Along the way, Brynner also starred in such classic films as Anastasia (1956), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), and The Magnificent Seven (1960).

Brynner was also a talented published photographer and author of two books, Bring Forth the Children: A Journey to the Forgotten People of Europe and the Middle East and The Yul Brynner Cookbook: Food Fit for the King and You. I’m not making this up.

Brynner's romantic life included throngs of women, as well as men. He had four wives – actress Viriginia Gilmor, Chilean model Doris Kleiner, Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume, ballerina Kathy Lee – in addition to numerous affairs with such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, and Ingrid Bergman.

Brynner was possessed of a massive, nearly uncontrollable ego. In the mid-1960s, while filming Morituri aboard a freighter with co-star Marlon Brando, Brynner demanded in his contract that a landing pad be built on the ship so he could get a private helicopter to take him ashore after each day's shoot. He got his way, as usual.

According to Frank Langella’s recent memoir, no actor ever talked about himself so much as Brynner, whom Langella described as “never far from a full-length mirror.” Brynner explained how he’d had a special lift – big enough to fit a car – installed in the Broadway theater where he was starring in The King And I. His chauffeur could thus drive straight in and spare the star from having to “deal with the public.”

Brynner's last major film role was in the sci-fi thriller Westworld (1973) as a murderously malfunctioning robot, dressed in Western garb reminiscent of Brynner's wardrobe in The Magnificent Seven. What could have been campy or ludicrous became a chilling characterization in Brynner's hands; his steady, steely-eyed automaton glare as he approached his human victims was one of the more enjoyably frightening film-going experiences of the 1970s.

Yul Brynner died of lung cancer on October 10, 1985, in New York City at age sixty-five – on the same day as Orson Welles. When he developed lung cancer in the mid-1980s, he left a powerful public service announcement denouncing smoking as the cause, for broadcast after his death. The Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation was established in his memory.


  1. For me, his 'hotness' was totally paled by his pomposity and general obnoxiousness. Perfectly matched with Joan Crawford and that must have been concocted in the bowels of Hell. Thanks for the great post.. how about more on Hurd Hatfield? Mezmerizing performance in Dorian Gray.

  2. It is a desecration. Your post deserves its proper and correct answer, up so you do not be foolish and believe everything you read, especially when it is about Yul, I hate lies about him: Unbelievable, the liar guy who wrote this mixed reality with fiction. These gay relationships of Yul that he had mentioned are absolute lies, Yul was 100% man, 100% heterosexual. About the artistic nude: Yul posed nude at age 22 to earn money to eat, it was out of necessity and not for being gay. About Yul not wanted to deal with the public is another blatant lie, he loved his audience. It's easy to talk about who is not here to disprove these inventions, but I know this is shameless lie. Evil people love to invent fanciful stories about artists, especially about those who have died. Yes, some are true, other terrible lies, but who knows them well is able to distinguish which are right and which are wrong. There were many gay actors in Hollywood but Yul was not part of this team.

    1. From your blogger:
      This post really seemed to touch a nerve. Please tell us all by what authority you know these statements about Brynner are lies? Were you a friend, business associate or industry insider? I receive many replies from upset fans when revelations about their favorite stars do not jibe with their personal adoration. Nowhere in this post do I say that Yul Brynner was gay. He was bisexual. Too many people knew first hand about his homosexual relationships to dismiss them as rumor. As for his not being alive to defend himself, people did not talk about his homosexual activity until after his death out of respect for his career. In his day, to have been outed as a bisexual would have destroyed his career.
      To suggest that Brynner would have been less than "100%" man for engaging in some homosexual activity is to show ignorance of great magnitude.
      Nearly everyone who knew Brynner relates that he had a love/hate relationship with his fans.
      I always make it a habit to leave rumor and/or innuendo out of my posts (unless reporting it as such). I only relate things that were written or said by those who had first hand knowledge. Did you? There is no law against living in denial, and you can go about your life believing what you like, but I challenge you to reveal by what authority you are 100% certain that Yul Brynner never engaged in homosexual activity.

    2. I'll send an email to Rock Brynner, Yul's son, he is my virtual friend and I go question him about it, he certainly will deny otherwise he had written in his biographies about his father, he told many truths and not omited this if this was true. I'll go send the link of your post. Outright lie, this is my opinion and point final. About I knowing Yul, unfortunately I have not had a oportunity, I was born after he died but I'm a huge fan, I have all his biographies, everything about him and I had never heard about it before. Respect my opinion or not publish more such things. I have no prejudice against gays, lesbians and bisexuals but as I said I guarantee that Yul was not part of this team, loved women and only women.
      About the "relationship of love and hate" that Yul had with fans, you did not know Yul, you only read what some people have written about him but I, a fan since long time, I read diverses statements of his co-workers and even stories of fans about the wonderful man he was, so I will not believe otherwise.

      Stay well.

    3. article is full of crap and does not offer proof...the man was married to 4 different women and known to love women.damn shame he isnt alive to defend himself...maybe one of his ex-wifes if still alive or children will come out and put this false rumor where it belongs...the trash.

    4. From your blogger. Exactly 2 sentences of this post mention same sex relations. All the rest is about Brynner's ego, career and women. I mention the four wives and multiple affairs with women. Did you actually read this post? Fellow students at the Chekov Studio remember that Brynner and Hatfield were engages in a romantic and sexual affair, so that is hardly "speculation." Much mention was made of Brynner's youthful bisexual activity during his lifetime. He chose not to defend himself against them.

  3. PS: This is not a fight, I'm just confronting your post because I did not see true in it, I do not think that Yul had homosexual relations. And if that were true, is part of his private life. If Yul was bisexual my feelings for him would not change, as I wrote I'm not prejudiced but I spend a long time reading about his history so I can say with conviction that not everything people write is true. Give information where these do not have 100% certainty is not correct. Talk about the private life of any person and give it: confirmed! -only by reading what they write is something very delicate.
    Is a tip.

    God bless.

    1. You are a repulsive homophobe and deserve to be known as such. I saw your comments about how he was "100% man". I am a gay man and I am also 100% man. How dare you? You are rotten to the core!

  4. From your blogger:

    Your "guarantee" is not backed up by any facts other than your personal denial.

    Have you read the many biographies, memoirs and interviews about Mr. Brynner and his relations with his colleagues? I have, and here are several references:

    Yul Brynner: A Biography (Michelangelo Capua) page 88
    This chapter describes a sexual affair between Yul Brynner and Argentinean novelist Manuel Puig, who commented on actor Brynner’s generous endowment. Photographic evidence of this is obvious in the pictures of Yul taken in 1942 by noted gay photographer George Platt Lynes. I did not even mention the affair with Manuel Puig, because he is so little known.

    The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman
    In this memoir, legendary critic and editor Mr. Lerman recounts Yul’s affair with Hurd Hatfield.
    That Yul Brynner had a sexual affair with Hurd Hatfield is irrefutable. This is confirmed by many of their classmates (people who knew them both) at the Chekhov theatre. Mr. Lerman also confirms what many others said about Cary Grant – that he was an outrageous flirt with men. This is shocking to and denied by legions of Cary Grant fans – but this denial does not mean it was not true. Cary Grant himself said that four of his five wives stated that he was gay.

    Madeline Weeks, fashion editor of GQ magazine, mentions Yul Brynner’s bisexuality in interviews regarding the 2011 book she published: Yul Brynner: A Photographic Journey. As you are surely aware, Mr. Brynner was an accomplished photographer.

    The purpose of my Gay Influence blog is to feature gay and bisexual men as role models to today’s young gay/bisexual men. I started the blog in response to the spate of suicides among gay youth, who were discarded by their families or bullied by their classmates. Similar efforts are the No H8 and “It gets better” campaigns. If reading the success stories of hundreds of gay/bisexual men can help prevent just one young man from taking his own life, I will have done a great service. I cannot afford to be reckless with information contained in my blog entries.

    ESPECIALLY Yul Brynner's son would deny any homosexual activity by his father. The same is true of the adopted children of famed Hollywood actor Randolph Scott. However, dozens and dozens of people in Hollywood were at parties attended and/or hosted by Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, who were lovers for 14 years. Yet Scott’s children still vehemently deny it.

    Your response does not offer any concrete proof that Yul Brynner did not engage in any homosexual activity. Just because you have not read about it or are not aware of it does not mean that it's not true.

    We will continue to disagree.

    1. Estimado Terry: quiero hacerte una aclaración muy específica sobre tu mención al escritor argentino Manuel Puig. Este talentoso novelista fue un hombre absolutamente fabulador. El se inventaba muchas anécdotas, porque soñaba con los artistas cinematográficos que fueron una de las inspiraciones de su obra. Citaba inexistentes encuentros con Greta Garbo o con Rita Hayworth, que el mismo después se encargaba de desmentir. Adoraba a Yul Brynner y seguramente fantaseaba con él, de ahí que te aseguro que en este caso puntual no hay nada de realidad. Saludos.


      Details are in my blog post about Manuel Puig (link above).

  5. We must always follow the research and facts, even when they don't yield the answers we want to believe. There is more than adequate documentation that Brynner was a sexually free spirit in his youth. I applaud this blog for reporting the facts, and documenting the true face of sex and gender diversity.

    Frankly, the comment re "100% man" is contemptible. The very concept that heterosexuals are more manly or more "real" as men tells me that the person who said it is completely uneducated in such matters, and is only reacting from a place of fear, and not facts.

    Dr. Gloria Brame

  6. Wow, I grew up watching Yul Brynner, and it seemed to be common knowledge in those days that he played for both teams, either that or it was just wishful thinking on my gay Fathers part, lol (yes my Dad was gay, long story). Seriously tho, it was one of those things everyone talked about but nobody dared print. (Oh, and my Dad was gay, but he was the manly-ess manly man I've ever known, so that comment about 100% man kinda pissed me off too.)

  7. What Tosh! Andressa. You make yourself sound ignorant by the statements you make. It is obvious you had a Crush on Yul Brynner whom you have placed on an artistic pedestal. While that is nice. You can not just come on someones blog and tell them They are wrong when you don't have single bit of evidence to back your Statements, and while you have obviously Cyber Stalked Yul Brynner's Son. WHAT ON EARTH MAKES YOU THINK THAT HIS SON HAS ANY KNOWLEDGE OF HIS FATHERS SEX LIFE? I certainly don't discuss my sex life with my parents or other family members. I doubt Yul Brynner did either. There are too many people with first hand knowledge of Mr Brynner that have stated his proclivities. Just because you can not imagine the Yul Brynner you have created in your mind as being Bisexual does not mean he was not. In the end only Yul Brynner and the people he slept with know what went on. It is not up to you to discredit any of those people. The Point that I get from Terry's Blog is that Yul Brynner was a well known Movie Star whom used his sexuality to his benefit as most Movie Stars do. He was able to do this in a time when it was career threatening to be classified as a Bisexual. That in itself shows that Yul Bryner had the ability to separate his private life from his professional. His sexuality was only part of who he was just as it is with every other person in the world (In my Opinion.) NOW don't bother us with your emotional outbursts anymore. This blog which I have followed for a while deals in facts. Terry always sites his sources. You have come on here and tried to pass YOUR opinion off just based on books you have read that was someone elses opinion. And while you say you have nothing against Gay, Bisexual, or Transgendered people your comment "Yul was 100% man, 100% heterosexual." That tells me that you feel men that are Homosexual are not 100% men which is an insult to all Gay Men. Keep up the good work Terry. I admire what you are trying to do....

  8. My father was good friends with Yul Brenner and kept in touch with him throughout his life.. From what my Father told me, Yul was not homosexual or Bi-sexual as some thought. Some of his relationships seemed inappropriate from the outside, but were actually totally innocent. Yul confided many things with my Father. Yul considered himself fully Heterosexual. My father seems to think that Yul's personality brought on this appearance and people had just made accusations and assumptions based on no real facts. According to my Father, Yul was very close with his male friends and this maybe came across as overly affectionate or feminine. Yul was just a different person and acted his own way. He was a character and his own person. Whether he was bi-sexual, gay or straight is all speculation. But as far as my father knew, Yul never showed any signs of gay tendencies or interest in men sexually. What Yul did in the privacy of his home is anyone's guess, but lets not just assume things based off what some people thought they saw. We will never know his preference because he never confirmed it personally. All we can do is speculate, and that is all this is... Speculation.

    1. From your blogger...
      Just because Brynner (check your spelling of his last name; if your father was close to Yul, surely you would know how to spell Brynner) did not reveal to your father that he had sexual relations with both men and women does not mean that he didn't. My post is not speculative. Those who attended the Chekov Studio with him affirmed that he and Hurd Hatfield were in a romantic and physical relationship. And men who engage in same sex relations do not necessarily display gay mannerisms. Because Brynner never "confirmed personally" his bisexuality does not mean he did not engage in sexual relations with both sexes. Only two sentences of this post refer to same sex relations. All the rest of it is about his ego, career and women.

  9. All I know is that he was exquisitely gorgeous. That's all I know.

  10. From your blogger: I tire of hate mail from fans of Mr. Brynner blasting me for calling him homosexual. He was not homosexual; he was bisexual. The very first word of this post is "bisexual." Please bear that in mind when posting comments. While there is no law against denial, you might want to use Google to check out other reports of homosexual activity engaged in by Mr. Brynner. Just sayin'.

  11. What a fascinating post! I've been going through a bit of a Brynner phase myself, so it's always wonderful to read things that dig just a little deeper than what you'd find on Wikipedia. I'm never going to understand the hostility these crazed fans have to the idea that Yul was bi. I'd argue he probably more of a 2 than a 3 on the Kinsey scale, if it would give them any solace, but at the end of the day, even that's inconsequential. Yul would be as much the irresistibly handsome, impossibly megalomaniacal, "100% man" that he's remembered as no matter what. If it came out that all of his many relationships with women were all to cover up the fact that he had an insatiable, exclusive lust for the touch of another man, and that all he wanted was to be a drag queen, like his role in The Magic Christian, Yul would still count as "100% man".

  12. Ah I find this fight amusing.

    What really makes a male a "man" has nothing to do with their sexuality. Because sexuality isn't what makes a person. I being stright doesn't make me a woman.

    It's narrow minded people who make sexuality such a huge issue of 100% male or woman.

    So I ask What Makes A Man?

    1. I broke my rule of never reading the comments. Now I find myself laughing at the blatant biphobia expressed here.

      Seems to be that Brynner's fans can be guilty of the same seemly undisputed megalomania that Brynner was guilty of.

  13. Who cares if the man had relationships with other men...not our business. I'm just glad we can visit with him from time to time through his films.

  14. ohh dear i love him no matter who he slept with

  15. If anyone is still scratching their heads on how Yul Brynner and Hurd Hatfield ever knew each other despite many sources confirmed that they both studied under Michael Chekhov simultaneously, here's undeniable photographic proof that they indeed worked together in a theatrical production of "Twelfth Night" :

    Also both Brynner and Hatfield were very good friends. From "The Grand Surprise," Leo Lerman wrote that he and Hurd Hatfield actually went to Brynner's Memorial (took place a few months after his death) at the Shubert Theatre. The memoir was written about a day or two after the event (take note of the New York Times article's DATE: ). So yes, Leo Lerman's memoirs are truthful.

    Now that being said, the only written material mentioning about Brynner and Hatfield's affair is from a short footnote of "The Grand Surprise." The footnote simply said that Leo Lerman later found out that the two had an affair and well, that's about it lol. Oh, and there's also "The Had and the Hadn't" thing, which was mentioned in the "Yul Brynner Memorial" journal entry in the Grand Surprise as described in the previous paragraph, in which Hurd Hatfield was "The Had" and Leo Lerman as the "Hadn't". That pretty much says A LOT right there.

    Well I hope that solves everything!

  16. Gay downlow macho actors. This is not a surprise but a revelation

  17. Wow, this thread has gone on for years. I mean, it's all speculation I suppose but the evidence is pretty overwhelming that he tossed balls with a few guys.

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  19. Very informative article, Terry. In regards to the children of gay or bi sexual actors, Cary Grant's daughter also swears that her father was never gay (denial). It happens lots of times. I've also read that Yul was very helpful and courteous towards his young male co-stars, many of them gay or bi. We will never know the full story, but I see nothing wrong with any of us believing that he was bi.