Richest CelebritiesActors
Net Worth:
$10 Million
Jul 11, 1920 - Oct 10, 1985 (65 years old)
5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Actor, Television Director, Photographer, Musician, Writer
United States of America
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What Was Yul Brynner's Net Worth?

Yul Brynner was a Russian-born actor, director, and producer who had a net worth of $10 million at the time of his death in 1985. After adjusting for inflation, that's the same as around $30 million today. Yul Brynner was best known for playing the role of The King of Siam in the 1951 Broadway musical and 1956 film "The King and I," which earned him two Tony Awards and an Academy Award, respectively. Brynner played the role over 4,600 times on stage.

Yul had more than 40 acting credits to his name, including the films "The Ten Commandments" (1956), "Anastasia" (1956), "The Brothers Karamazov" (1958), "The Sound and the Fury" (1959), "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), "The Madwoman of Chaillot" (1969), and "Westworld" (1973) and the CBS sitcom "Anna and the King" (1972), which was a non-musical adaptation of "The King and I." He directed the 1969 TV movie "15 Million Men Without a Country" as well as episodes of "Studio One" (1949), "Actor's Studio" (1949–1950), "Life with Snarky Parker" (1950), "Starlight Theatre" (1950), "Sure As Fate" (1950–1951), "Danger" (1950–1953), and "Omnibus" (1953), and he served as a producer on "The Robert Q. Lewis Show" (1950). Brynner also starred in Broadway productions of "Twelfth Night" (1941), "The Moon Vine" (1943), "Lute Song" (1946), and "Home Sweet Homer" (1976). Yul passed away from lung cancer on October 10, 1985, at the age of 65.

Early Life

Yul Brynner was born Yuliy Borisovich Briner on July 11, 1920, in Vladivostok, Far Eastern Republic (now known as Primorsky Krai, Russia). Yul's birth took place at his parents' four-story mansion, and he came from a family of silver mining developers and landowners. In 1922, most of his family's wealth was confiscated after the Red Army occupied their city. Yul's father, Boris Yuliyevich Briner, was an inventor and mining engineer of Russian and Swiss-German heritage. His mother, Marousia Dimitrievna (née Blagovidova), trained to become a singer and actress and was reportedly of Russian Romani heritage. Yul, his parents, and his older sister, Vera, were made Soviet citizens after the Soviet Union formed in 1922.

In 1924, Boris divorced Marousia after falling in love with actress Katerina Ivanovna Kornakova, but he kept supporting the family. He adopted a daughter, and years after Boris' death, Yul took her in. Boris and Katerina briefly lived together in Moscow, where they met, then they moved to Harbin, China. Yul, Marousia, and Vera immigrated to Harbin in 1927, and both children attended a school that was run by the YMCA. In 1930, Boris gave Yul an acoustic guitar for his birthday, and Brynner began taking music lessons, becoming an accomplished singer and guitarist after a few years.

The family moved to Paris, France, in 1933, and in 1935, Yul made his stage debut when he sang and played guitar at the "Hermitage" cabaret. He subsequently started performing Roma and Russian songs at Paris nightclubs. He later joined a French circus troupe in Le Havre, training as a trapeze acrobat, but he left after injuring his back. The pain from the injury led to Brynner developing a drug dependency and becoming a drug addict before he turned 18, and his family sent him to a clinic for drug addicts in Switzerland.

He was also treated at Lausanne University Hospital, and after his year of treatment in Switzerland, he refrained from using illicit drugs for the rest of his life. Yul and his mother briefly returned to China in 1938 after Marousia was diagnosed with leukemia. They went there to seek help from Boris, and while there, his second wife, Katerina, gave Yul acting lessons and wrote him a letter of recommendation to study with Michael Chekhov, who had been her stage partner at the Moscow Art Theatre.

After Marousia's cancer progressed, Yul took her to the U.S. in 1940 to get a special medical treatment that wasn't available anywhere else. Brynner settled in New York City, where his sister lived. Vera was a singer who starred in a 1950 Broadway production of "The Consul" and died of cancer in 1967 at the age of 51. During World War II, Brynner took a job with the US Office of War Information, where he broadcasted to occupied France as a French-speaking radio announcer. He also broadcasted to the Soviet Union in Russian for the Voice of America. Around this time, Yul studied acting with Michael Chekhov in Connecticut and worked as a stagehand and truck driver for Chekhov's theatre company. In 1941, Brynner met Marlene Dietrich while performing at New York's Blue Angel, and he fell in love with the actress, who was nearly 20 years his senior.

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Yul made his Broadway debut in a 1941 production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," his TV debut as the title role on the 1944 series "Mr. Jones and His Neighbors," and his film debut in 1949's "Port of New York." In the '40s, he also began working at the CBS television studios as a director. Brynner got his big break when he was cast as The King of Siam in the new Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I," which premiered on Broadway in 1951. He reprised the role in touring productions, the 1977 Broadway revival, the 1956 film adaptation, and the 1972 TV series "Anna and the King." The film adaptation earned nine Academy Award nominations, winning five of them, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for Brynner. In 1956, he played Ramesses II in "The Ten Commandments" alongside Charlton Heston and co-starred with Ingrid Bergman in "Anastasia." Yul then starred in "The Brothers Karamazov" (1958), "The Buccaneer" (1958), "The Journey" (1959), "The Sound and the Fury" (1959), and "Solomon and Sheba" (1959).

In the '60s, Brynner appeared in more than 20 films, such as "Once More, with Feeling!" (1960), "Escape from Zahrain" (1962), "Taras Bulba" (1962), "Kings of the Sun" (1963), "Invitation to a Gunfighter" (1964), "Morituri" (1965), "Cast a Giant Shadow" (1966), "The Long Duel" (1967), "Villa Rides" (1968), and "The Madwoman of Chaillot" (1969). In 1960, he played Chris Larabee Adams in the Western "The Magnificent Seven" alongside Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and Robert Vaughn. Yul reprised the role in 1966's "Return of the Seven." In 2013, "The Magnificent Seven" was preserved in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In the '70s, Brynner starred in 10 films, including "The Light at the Edge of the World" (1971), "Catlow" (1971), "Fuzz" (1972), "Night Flight from Moscow" (1973), and "The Ultimate Warrior" (1975). He played The Gunslinger in the sci-fi Westerns "Westworld" (1973) and "Futureworld" (1976), which were adapted into the HBO series "Westworld" in 2016. Yul's final film was 1976's "Death Rage."

Personal Life

Yul married actress Virginia Gilmore on September 6, 1944, and they welcomed son Yul "Rock" Brynner II (born December 1946) before divorcing in March 1960. In the late '50s, he fathered a daughter, Lark, with 20-year-old Frankie Tilden. Brynner wed model Doris Kleiner on the set of "The Magnificent Seven" less than a week after his divorce from Gilmore was finalized, and they had one daughter together, Victoria (born November 1962). Audrey Hepburn was Victoria's godmother. After Yul and Doris divorced in 1967, he married socialite Jacqueline Simone Thion de la Chaume on September 23, 1971, and they adopted two Vietnamese girls, Mia and Melody, in the mid-1970s. Yul and Jacqueline divorced in 1983, and he wed 26-year-old ballerina Kathy Lee on April 4th of that year. They remained together until Brynner's death in October 1985.

Yul became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943 when he was 22 years old, but he renounced his citizenship in 1965 because he lost his tax exemption while working abroad. In September 1983, he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer after a sore throat and changes in his voice led to doctors finding a lump on his vocal cords. Brynner had started heavily smoking at the age of 12, and he quit in 1971. The national tour of "The King and I" went on hiatus while Yul underwent radiation therapy that temporarily damaged his throat. Brynner enjoyed photography and published the book "Bring Forth the Children: A Journey to the Forgotten People of Europe and the Middle East" (1960), which featured his photos. His daughter Victoria published a book of Yul's photographs, "Yul Brynner: Photographer," after his death. Brynner also published "The Yul Brynner Cookbook: Food Fit for the King and You" (1983).


On October 10, 1985, Yul passed away from lung cancer at the age of 65. After he was cremated, his ashes were buried in France, in the grounds of the Orthodox monastery Abbaye royale Saint-Michel de Bois-Aubry.

A few days after Brynner's death, a public service announcement he had filmed for the American Cancer Society premiered. In the PSA, he stated:

"Now that I'm gone, I tell you: Don't smoke. Whatever you do, just don't smoke. If I could take back that smoking, we wouldn't be talking about any cancer. I'm convinced of that."


In his will, Yul left his son Yul "Rock" Brynner II his Hard Rock Cafe stock and $50,000. His daughter Lark received $25,000, and Victoria received $50,000 and a $100,000 trust fund. He reportedly left his adopted children out of the will but created an "inter vivos" trust for them.

Brynner left his widow, Kathy, his United Nations Plaza apartment in New York City and his home in Cambremer, France, as well as his cars, artwork, and book collection.

Awards and Nominations

In 1957, Brynner won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "The King and I." The film also earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Comedy or Musical. He won a National Board of Review Award for Best Actor for "The King and I," "Anastasia," and "The Ten Commandments," and he received a New York Film Critics Circle Award nomination for Best Actor and a Photoplay Award nomination for Most Popular Male Star for all three films as well. In 1961, Yul earned Laurel Award nominations for Top Male Star and Top Action Performance for "The Magnificent Seven." For the stage version of "The King and I," Brynner won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical in 1952 and the Special Award in 1985, and he earned a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical in 1977. In 1960, Yul received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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