VLADIVOSTOK AND MOSCOW, 2016
The Vladivostok International Film Festival "Pacific Meridian," 12-19 September 2015
MOSCOW, 21-27 SEPTEMBER 2015
Dalnegorsk (pop. 42,000) was founded with the Bryner Mines in 1896 by my Swiss-born great-grandfather Jules Bryner. Jules was one of a half-dozen Europeans who built the city of Vladivostok (pop. 500,000), but he built Dalnegorsk with his own capital and that of his mine's investors. Today, a towering, 12-foot-high statue of him stands in the city center.
I was invited by the city and the company that now owns the mines, Dalpolymetall, to come celebrate the 70th anniversary of Victory Day. Indeed, at least one out of eight Russian bullets fired at nazi troops came from these mines. And so I found myself as the honored guest, in a proud spot on the review stand where the town's 37 surviving W.W.II veterans and scores of war widows sat to witness the parade in their honor, and to receive the flowers that the children of the city brought to them.
Yul Brynner Tribute at The Solzhenitsyn House of Russians Abroad, Moscow, November 7-8, 2014
. . . along with Sergey Zaitsev, renowned documentary film-maker and the head of the Film Festival, and the members of the Chekhov Committee.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn created the Center to honor the work of Russians who, like himself, were forced to leave their homeland during the Soviet era. This year they honored my father - three times. The "Russians Abroad Film Festival" honored Yul with the Michael Chekhov Award -- especially fitting, since it was with Chekhov that he studied for three years and emigrated to the United States. And the Solzhenitsyn Center honored him with a documentary, beautifully filmed by Rita Kuklina, entitled "Yul - Gypsy Soul," which was shown both nights, and will soon be broadcast on the national channel, Kultura. Finally, a two-room exhibit of Yul Brynner and our family's memorabilia was opened, from the collection of Elena Sergeyeva. It will remain at the Center until the end of November.
. . . to announce the publication in Russian of my book Empire and Odyssey: The Brynners in Far East Russia and Beyond in 2016, as well as Rita Kuklina's documentary, Yul - Gypsy Soul.
Inauguration of Jules Bryner Statue in Dalnegorsk, Russia September 27th, 2014.
(My thanks to Alexander Borisenko and Sergey Kiryanov for use of all the photos.)
A true gentleman, Slava played for his Moscow team for more than a decade, as well as on the national Soviet Union team. Then he became the first former Soviet player to join the NHL, and played for the New Jersey Devils before winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. Today Slava serves in the Duma (Parliament) representing Vladivostok and the region of Primorye.
Lecture at the Far East Federal University, Sept. 16th, 2014
President Putin ordered the construction of the university to serve as the site for the Asian-Pacific Economic Conference, hosted by Russia for the first time in 2012. Today the university can serve 50,000 students from across Russia and Asia, since it absorbed the three main universities in the city.
2013 - The XIth Vladivostok International Film Festival
Her brilliant new film, Tip Top, directed by Serge Bozon (La France), had its Asian and Russian premiere at our Festival. Isabelle left early the next morning for the Paris premiere. I was introduced to her by my "Russian brother," Sasha Doluda, who first invited me to Vladivostok in 2003.
His career on the screen goes back thirty years. Most recently he has appeared in a number of films by Quentin Tarantino.
. . . who told me that he only imagined becoming an actor after seeing a Danny Kaye film: an interesting comedic inspiration. He also explained that he saw Yul's posthumous anti-smoking declaration in 1986 and stopped smoking the next day -- for which he credits his good health and long life.
Each year it falls to me to choose the winner and present the "Special Prize in the name of Yul Brynner" to the Most Promising Young Actor or Actress.
My sister Victoria gave me these after she bought them at auction in Hollywood, and I wore them to the Gala. After Yul left Vladivostok for China at the age of seven, he had never again walked the streets of the city where he was born. . .
. . . but now, as I noted onstage, at least his boots had!
A young actress from Moscow, Anfisa gives a heartfelt performance that was passionately embraced by Festival audiences.
Year after year, it is only thanks to scores of these devoted, sleep-deprived university students that the Festival is able to exist at all.
A peripheral event of the Festival, my lecture covered the important distinction betweeen Stanislavsky's "System" or "Method" based upon the recall of personal memories, and Chekhov's injunction that the actor must find the character and the emotions through the practiced use of imagination. I further emphasized that, until recently, Stanislavsky's greater renown owed primarily to his willingness to capitulate to any demands Stalin made upon him. By contrast, Michael Chekhov would not collaborate with Stalin's inhumanity, and had to flee his homeland in the 1930s. In 1940, at the age of twenty, Yul first came to the United States to live and study with him.
YUL BRYNNER DAY IN VLADIVOSTOK, JULY 2013
Rockenteur in the Arbat
Moscow, April 2013
Moscow's friendliest street, the Arbat, is a five-hundred-year-old passage, closed to traffic, where Pushkin and generations of independent artists have thrived. It is also where Russian theatre and film actors have gathered at the Actor's House for the past eighty years.
Vladivostok Spring Lecture Series, 2013
Far East Federal University
A bouillabaisse of topics:
"Mikhail Chekhov, Konstantin Stanislavsky, and the Worldwide Revolution in the Art of Acting, 1900-1960."
"Global Problems Demand Global Solutions: Terrorism, Climate Change, World Hunger, and Sustainability."
"The Social and Political Impact of Rock 'n' Roll in the U.S. and Soviet Russia, 1960-1990."
"The Development of the American Language from Britain's English and the Birth of the American Character."
"Strengths and Weaknesses of the U.S. Constitution."
"Jules Bryner's Yalu River Timber Contract and The Russo-Japanese War."
Yul Brynner Statue and Park in Vladivostok, Russia
People from across the city came for the Inaugural Ceremony in a festive atmosphere with a brass band, balloons, children playing in the park, dignitaries of Vladivostok and Primorye, and the very gracious United States Consul General Sylvia Curran.
This view of the statue will greet every visitor arriving from Moscow on the Trans-Siberian -- the longest railroad in the world -- on their way to the city center. The house built by my great-grandfather is just a block from the railway station where Jules Bryner helped Tsar Nicholas II lay the corner-stone in 1891. The wall above the street is currently being re-faced in granite.
The announcement of the Inauguration featured a photo from The Magnificent Seven, which is still today the all-time most popular foreign film in Russia. But though The King and I has been seen by far fewer Russians, everyone who helped create this monument knew that Yul spent an unequalled fourteen years of his life in the theatre performing this role, for which he also won the Oscar.
Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkariov gave indispensable help to make the park and the statue possible.
The Yul Brynner Park grew out of the love and pride that this city of 600,000 feels toward its most renowned son. Even today, Yul Brynner remains the only Russian-born actor to win the Academy Award, for the title role in "The King and I," which he also played on stage for fourteen years of his life. His last performance on Broadway as the King came thirty-four years after his first. He continued playing eight shows a week until four months before his death from lung cancer in 1985.
Left to right: Sergei Stepanchenko, Moscow actor and head of the Vladivostok International Film Festival; Alexei Bokii, sculptor of the statue; Alexander Doluda, Rock's "Russian brother," who worked for years to bring Yul Brynner Park into existence; Igor Pushkarev, mayor of Vladivostok; Rock Brynner; Sergei Bogdan, Chairman of Primorye Bank; U.S. Consul General Sylvia Curran, who has done everything possible to support the Brynner legacy; and Anatolii Melnik, Chief Architect of the city of Vladivostok.
Liza Minnelli and Rock in Vladivostok, 2011
Publishers Weekly - Starred Review:
A four-generation family saga—featuring one of the world’s sexiest movie stars—would usually signal a fluffy beach read, but the story of the Brynner patriarchs is too historically complex and fascinating to fall into that genre. Great-grandson Rock Brynner opens by introducing Swiss-born Jules, who started in the import-export business out of Shanghai and then Yokohama, before establishing himself in Vladivostok in the 1870s. Jules took advantage of the city’s Wild West character and the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad to expand from shipping into mining and forestry, and created an extraordinary commercial empire. It was Jules’s son Boris who had to negotiate the socialization of the family businesses in the newly created Soviet Union. Boris’s émigré son Yul learned show business in France before turning his much-touted Genghis Khan genes—and his Russian method acting—into American box office gold. Yul’s American son Rock concludes the volume with his own adventures in the counterculture before becoming an academic. The odyssey comes full circle in 2003 when the city of Vladivostok invites Rock to come and celebrate as a native son. An enthralling family chronicle, the Brynner perspective on Far East Russian history should be important for Pacific Rim historians as well. 165 Photos.
Brynner can truly be described as a Renaissance man accomplished in many fields, from street clown and actor to band manager, pilot, historian, professor, and writer. In this personal yet meticulous work, he chronicles the lives of four generations of his own family, beginning with his great-grandfather, Jules Bryner, a Swiss who eventually settled in Vladivostok, where he was greatly responsible for establishing its importance in the Russian Far East. Next, he covers Jules’s son Boris, a major industrialist, and then Boris’s son, the author’s father, actor Yul Brynner. He concludes, full circle, with his own odyssey to Vladivostok in 2003. Brynner expertly paints each era in the context of the family history, showing how each man made his own mark upon his generation, whether through direct involvement in the Russo-Japanese War or as an exemplar of Hollywood glamour. Brynner refers to many well-known celebrities, and he isn’t shy about revealing previously unknown stories involving Sammy Davis Jr., Marlene Dietrich, and Sam Giancana. Illustrated with over 150 photographs, this book can stand by itself as a fascinating tale of a fascinating family.
"The enthralling story, across four generations, of a singular dynasty of fathers and sons, all of them gifted, dynamic, complicated and driven, all of them firmly embedded in the history of their times. . . . They include the restless, brilliant, and ambitious Yul Brynner, whose odyssey from the Russian Far East to Paris, New York and Hollywood is chronicled with the flair of a born raconteur, the professional historian’s command of facts, and the memoirist’s firsthand knowledge of intimate family lore. His son, Rock Brynner, brings this dazzling saga full circle with his adoption by the people of Vladivostok."
— Elizabeth Frank, novelist and Pulitzer-prize winning biographer
"Empire and Odyssey is the Forsyte Saga of the Russian diaspora, an absorbing story of an extraordinary family adapting to changing times, of ambition, talent, egotism, loyalty, estrangement, and betrayal, set against a tumultuous background of imperial expansion, war, revolution, exile, and homecoming. It captures the characters Jules, Boris, and Yul with candor, humor, and poignancy. Rock Brynner’s curiosity and sensibilities, cultivated no doubt over the course of personal triumphs and travails, have attuned him to lyrical, tragic, ironic, and comic melodies, so that he can feel — and convey — the burden of Russia’s past, of Russia’s tragedies."
— Prof. John J. Stephan, author, The Russian Far East: A History
"Yul Brynner was among the most powerful actors of all time. Rock Brynner is one of the most exhilarating story-tellers I have ever read."
— James Earl Jones
"Dr. Rock Brynner is a gentleman and a scholar, and during my championship years he was always a true friend and reliable bodyguard."
— Muhammad Ali
This was my father's signature song in the Paris clubs where he performed in the 1930s with Aliosha Dimitrievitch, and in New York in the 1940s. "Okonchen Poot," is Russian, though the dialect is distinctly Tsigani (Gypsy). Yul auditioned for "The King and I" with this song im 1950. It is very popular in Vladivostok - and all across Russia - today. To listen, RIGHT-CLICK on the link below this paragraph and then select "OPEN."
It's like no other song I've ever heard.
In 1891, Jules joined the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, in laying the cornerstone for this station.
Built on a narrow peninsula, Vladivostok is surrounded by two bays.
The curved, Art Nouveau peak of the Bryner Residence was very daring when Jules had the house designed in 1910, and still looks modern today. Jules built it, Boris lived in it, and in 1920 Yul was born there. Eighty years after my family was forced to flee Stalin,I was welcomed there warmly. Now it is a city landmark.
How Yul made it by the age of thirty from his childhood in Vladivostok to stardom in The King and I is only one part of the family epic, Empire and Odyssey . . .
Yul is the only Russian-born actor to have won the Academy Award.
Yul's last performance as King came 34 years after his first. Even authentic royalty was happy to welcome him in their ranks.
This was at the opening of the New York Hard Rock Cafe in 1984, the year before my father died.
In the 1930s, my father Yul, then 17, often hunted in North Korea with his father, Boris, and with Valery's father, Yuri Yankovsky, known since the late 1800s as "the greatest tiger hunter in the world."