Joined: 04 Aug 2006
|Posted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 1:19 pm Post subject: The Untold Story of Why King Kong Wrestled Some in 1933 Film
|This is part of the true story of the original King Kong as a wrestling giant against them animals who look, to me, like various current politicians in drag, in the original film of the same name by the legendary Merian C. Cooper, who was a favorite of a famed wrestling historian here:
Merian C. Cooper's original King Kong -- not kidding -- wrestled other creatures on-screen in the 1933 film. Kong then stayed with RKO Radio Pictures until the early 1950s in some sort of office job, apparently, until the film had saved RKO's ass via eight theatrical re-releases, which is even more than "Gone With the Wind" had. I don't know if he primarily ate fruit or beautiful blondes... but there were plenty of fruits and vegetables in Los Angeles in those days, including imports from Jim Londos's avocado ranch.
I'd guess he lost his RKO position when Cooper, who apparently was a wrestler at Annapolis when he was pursuing a career in the Navy, but was kicked out in his senior year, allegedly for "hell raising," championing air power and large monkeys -- it was quite rare in those days to expel a fellow in the graduating class, went on to co-found the Cinerama process and direct the first Cinerama film. Cooper eventually hooked up with Warner Bros., but couldn't bring Kong along but -- again, not kidding -- intended to make another "King Kong" film in three-strip original Cinerama. It never got done but I've made a link of the sketches for the Cinerama version available here in past years (I think).
...And of all the famous people in the world I've been lucky enough to interview over a news-gathering career that spanned over a half-century, there are about a dozen I didn't get to in time that I should have, due to a lack of knowledge of their vast lives (at the time) or my own failures. (Not counting those who declined to be interviewed.)
Merian Cooper is one of them. He chased Pancho Villa, flew one of the first bombers over Germany during WW I and was shot down, spending time in a POW camp. Joined the Polish independence movement when the nascent Soviet Union invaded a-then-independent Poland, and flew for them. Was shot down by a Soviet plane/flyer. Served time as one of the first Americans in a Communist prisoner of war camp, from which he escaped...
After Lowell Thomas sort of invented the documentary (with all due respect for Raoul Walsh in Mexico earlier) when he followed T.E. Lawrence and turned him into "Lawrence of Arabia," Cooper and his long-time directing/producing partner Ernest Schoedsack did the same for other subjects.
Schoedsack and Cooper were investors, co-directors and co-producers of two documentaries that Jesse Lasky, a partner in the company that would become Paramount Pictures, purchased for theatrical distribution.
One of those films was nominated for the first Academy Award in a Best Picture category...
Cooper was a founding director of Pan American airlines, critical investor/backer of Technicolor after that company ran out of money trying to develop a three-strip color-coordinated process -- which it did with the backing brought in by Cooper. (Three-strip Technicolor was first licensed to Walt Disney for the purpose of full-length films due to RKO being too stingy to use the perfected Technicolor over black-and-white.
In addition, at RKO, Cooper is the executive who paired Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire, requiring that all tap-dancing Rogers did with Astaire to be faked on-screen (dubbing) because she couldn't do it.
As a middle aged man, Cooper rejoined the U.S. Army prior to the U.S. entry into WW II and flew for The Flying Tigers, what would become the U.S. Army's 14th Air Force, and for the dangerous air-caravans over "the hump" from India to Burma to bring massive quantities of supplies to Burma when the Burma Road was cut by the Japanese...
...co-founder of Cinerama, producer of the greatest Western ever made: "The Searchers" and co-owned the film...although it didn't make much profit for the original owners (Cooper, John Ford and C.V. Whitney.)
Cooper was a wrestling fan and came from a wealthy family, so who knows what live matches he attended...was he in Chicago for Hackenschmidt vs Gotch... or New York City for Strangler Lewis vs Stan Zbyszko... did he see Stecher defeat Londos for the title... Londos win the National Boxing Association world's title? I'd never get to ask him...
He used wrestlers as extras in several of his films... and while I was busy covering the National Institutes of Health and the "medicine" beat for a newspaper and learning who he was, Cooper died in San Diego...semi-forgotten, in 1973.
One of the greatest adventurers/creators who got away before I knew enough about him to do a proper interview... A great regret.
(The film/TV/uninvented-distribution-methods rights to the leading Cooper biography have been sold, where they remain in some studio's hoard of forgotten properties it owns.)