Mar 5, 2014

Yul Brynner: Bisexual Beefcake from Hollywood's Golden Age

Speaking of Yul Brynner, the Russian-born actor with the shaved head (1920-1985) was a reliable source of beefcake in the 1950s and 1960s.  While other actors were kept strictly under wraps, Brynner's chest and shoulders were usually on display, to add to his exoticism or sexiness.

Born in Vladivostok and raised in Paris, Brynner immigrated to the U.S. with his mother in 1940, and worked as a radio announcer for awhile before hitting Broadway.  In spite of the rumors, he never posed for physique magazines, though he did model nude for some private photos.

In 1951 he originated the role of Mongkut, King of Siam, in The King and I (he was to play Mongkut twice more in Broadway revivals, in the 1956 movie, and in a 1972-73 tv series).

No doubt the King's bare-chested costume added to his popularity.

In 1956 Brynner also starred in Anastasia and in The 10 Commandments; his Pharaoh Ramses began a fad for ancient Egyptian beefcake that lasted for about ten years.

Next came a string of adaptions of classics:  The Brothers Karamazov, The Sound and the Fury, Taras Bulba; plus Westerns, secret agent, and adventure movies.  He played Arabs, Russians, Native Americans, Mexicans, always with the shaved head and sultry looks, always with the physique.

One of his more interesting roles came in The Surprise Package (1960), in which he plays a thief who teams up with a deposed king (Noel Coward).

In The Magic Christian (1969), an anti-establishment movie in which a zany rich guy (Peter Sellers) and the hippie he adopts (Ringo Starr) set out to prove that money can buy not only love, but everything else.  Brynner plays a drag queen who cruises Roman Polanski. Apparently it wasn't his first time in drag.

 Although married four times, Yul Brynner was bisexual, and had relationships with Paul Newman,  Hurd Hatfield, Jean Cocteau, and Manuel Puig (who wrote Kiss of the Spider Woman).

Plus Marlon Brando; according to rumor, he provided the penis for that famous photo of Brando engaging in a homoerotic act.

There's a memorial to Brynner in his hometown of Vladivostok, including this full-sized statue (fully clothed). They probably don't know that he was bisexual.

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