Thirteen years ago I attended a press junket for the film “Anna and the King” and was given what turned out to be a very special gift. Directed by Andy Tennant, the film is set in Siam during the 1860s and tells the story of how King Mongkut (played by Chow Yun-Fat) falls in love with a British school teacher named Anna Leonowens (portrayed by Jodie Foster). I had to look up most of the facts in that last sentence because I can’t remember a single line of dialogue or a specific scene from the film. What I can recall is how ornate and lavish the sets and scenery were, mostly because of the props Twentieth Century Fox handed out to journalists during the press event.
For the past thirteen years a wooden “book” has sat on my desk holding up whichever real literary volumes and papers stood next to it. It is nothing more than a hunk of wood carved and painted to look like a 19th century gilded book. To make it appear to be a best seller the king of Siam might own, rather than an airport paperback, it’s spine is painted in gold and decorated with a few plastic jewels. The glitter that once sparkled on its surface has long since eroded after a decade of contaminating an unending stream of tax forms, bills and miscellaneous paperwork that makes its way across my desk.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of this long forgotten film thanks to this trivial object, so useless it was given away to a journalist. Over the years, in the rare moments when there is a lull in my workload, I have sometimes looked over at this prop and wondered if there was an ideal way for studios to market films with their associated props, costumes, artwork, etc.