Margaret Landon; ‘Siam’ Author
Margaret Landon, author of the book “Anna and the King of Siam,” which inspired the hit Broadway musical and movie “The King and I,” has died. She was 90.
Mrs. Landon died Saturday at a retirement home after a stroke.
She and her husband, Kenneth, a Presbyterian missionary who died in August, served in Thailand--then known as Siam--for 10 years in the 1920s and ‘30s.
While there as principal of a girls mission school, Mrs. Landon heard and read about Anna Leonowens, a widow from Wales who became secretary to King Monghut of Siam and governess and teacher to his sixty-some children in the 1860s. Mrs. Leonowens was considered an important influence on the next king of Siam, the reform-minded Chulalongkorn.
Mrs. Landon and her family returned in 1937 to Wheaton, Ill., where she had met her husband while attending college.
Her “Anna and the King of Siam” was published in 1944 and quickly became a bestseller. It became the basis for the 1946 film of the same name starring Irene Dunn and Rex Harrison and the 1951 musical and 1956 movie “The King and I,” which starred Yul Brynner. Brynner won an Oscar for his movie role as the king, and spent his last years touring with a revival of the stage version.
In 1948, Mrs. Landon published a second novel, “Never Dies the Dream,” about an American missionary woman working in Bangkok. In a review of the book, The Times called it “a story of reality and beauty.”
Mrs. Landon is survived by four children, 13 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.