A Dive Into The History Of King Kong
King Kong may be spry for his age, but still he’s lived a long time. It’s been more than 90 years since his birth in the mind of Merian C. Cooper to the release of Godzilla vs. Kong — and he’s stayed busy all that time, living a long and complicated life.
Many hands brought King Kong to life, but it all began with Merian C. Cooper. As outlandish as the movie’s story of lost islands and daring adventures may seem, it’s not too far from Cooper’s own life.
In Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson, author Ray Morton chronicles the director’s career in what Cooper called “natural dramas,” documentaries filmed all over the world, then reshot and recut into narrative form.
Even the seemingly inexplicable presence of a movie starlet on a documentary shoot came from real life. Screenwriter Ruth Rose based the fictional filmmaker Carl Denham’s monologue about how every critic and exhibitor demands a love story on Cooper’s own complaints.
The discovery of the Komodo dragon, a huge, primitive reptile that had long been thought extinct, fired Cooper’s imagination. He conceived a new natural drama about a war between komodo dragons and a clan of gorillas, eventually whittled down to just one great ape. When Cooper learned the dragons he’d shipped over from Komodo died in captivity, he found his tragic ending.
Cooper commissioned a script from mystery writer Edgar Wallace about a big game hunter who meets a rowboat full of escaped convicts on a lost island. James A. Creelman rewrote it, replacing the hunter with a Cooper-esque filmmaker.
But their studio, RKO, balked at the cost of filming live animals in their natural habitats. Fortunately, they were also filming a never-finished movie called Creation, featuring stop-motion dinosaurs created by the great Willis O’Brien, and Cooper found the man to bring his Kong to life.
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King Kong’s creation | 0:00
The original Kong | 1:35
Son of Kong | 2:33
King Kong copies | 3:52
King Kong vs. Godzilla | 5:08
Dino De Laurentiis’ Kong | 6:34
King Kong Lives | 7:39
Peter Jackson’s Kong | 8:45
Kong: Skull Island | 9:54
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