IT’S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE not to think of Yul Brynner as the imperious, baretorsoed Siamese monarch from The King and I. But those who knew Brynner best remember him as a man with a keen eye for images other than his own.
The virile actor was an avid lensman whose skills are evident in Yul Brynner: Photographer, a collection of photos assembled by his daughter Victoria, 33. Nine years after her father’s death from lung cancer in 1985, Victoria finally found the strength to climb into the attic of her father’s mansion in Normandy and sort through stacks of his negatives and prints. ” ‘We need to do something with these pictures,’ ” she recalls thinking. “We couldn’t leave them sitting around.”
The 210 shots in the collection, taken between 1952 and 1982, offer a peek at Hollywood royalty: Elizabeth Taylor, in 1959, lounging in a pool; Mia Farrow, titanically pregnant in 1970. “I thought it was such an incredible talent, it shouldn’t go unnoticed,” says Victoria, who quotes some of her father’s subjects in the book (see captions). “People remembered,” she says, “how comfortable he had made them.”
A photographer herself, the single Brynner was raised in Switzerland—her mother, Doris, was the second of Yul’s four wives—and now lives in Hollywood, where she runs a production service company for photo shoots. Publishing her beloved father’s work, she found, was comforting. “He would be happy,” she says, “that his talent merited such recognition.”