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. 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.

10 comments:

  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.

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  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.

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    Replies
    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.

      Delete
    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.

      Delete
  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.

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  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.

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    Replies
    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.

      Delete
    2. http://gayinfluence.blogspot.com/2013/06/manuel-puig.html

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

      Delete
  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

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  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.)

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