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The Untold Story of Why King Kong Wrestled Some in 1933 Film

 
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Ken Viewer



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 1:19 pm    Post subject: The Untold Story of Why King Kong Wrestled Some in 1933 Film Reply with quote

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.)

Ken
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Ken Viewer



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 4:12 pm    Post subject: Actual Wrestling Scenes in Both "King Kong" & Reply with quote

Here are two links; one is to some scenes from the original 1933 "King Kong" where Kong wrestles several monsters, not including the board of directors of RKO Radio Pictures. Among the holds we see are a flying head scissors, headlocks and some throws.

From the first Kong film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEt_aYBZoTk


From "Son of Kong," which, as Steve mentioned in a separate post, was released before the original film had played itself out of theaters. "Son..." went into production the very same month of Kong's world premiere -- the only film ever to open jointly at the 5,700-seat Radio City Music Hall AND the Fox Roxy -- which was on the next block and just as large (contrary to Wiki's understating of its seating capacity), also with 5,700 seats. They were the two largest theaters in New York.

"Son of Kong" started shooting one week after the original one opened in Los Angeles, and I'll leave the review to Steve. RKO Theaters, in 1933, went bankrupt and rentals due from "Kong" playing at other companies' theaters would slowly roll in to RKO over many months, leaving the studio with $19 for down payment on the budget for "Son of Kong." They got what they paid for and it's sort of a comedy.

The rasslin' scenes showing Kong's son, including a single-leg takedown:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCSweP45x2s

Ken
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Steve Yohe



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Wonderful Montebello CA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Being an expert on bear wrestling, I have to say it looks more like MMA in this film. Mostly ground & pound, but the bear does use a bear hug. Kong Jr used the Lewis headlock & the thing where Kong has him in a head lock while punching in what my wife & I call the Tolos Shuffle. Kong also tried a couple of arm bars & a head scissor, but his legs were too short. Kong wins by KO....but the bear attacks him after the bell & tries to put him in a power bomb, but Kong slips out the back door & hits him with a stick, because he was cheating. The bear didn't cut his finger nails either. Love Kong....hate bears.

It looks great....like they had a blue ray version, I have to buy it. I want a blue ray of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG too. Great movies. --- Steve Yohe
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Steve Yohe



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

King Kong would have just stepped on that stupid bear. He wasn't even a lizard.--Yohe
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Steve Yohe



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Going thru stuff in my garage again, I found a box of movie magazines from 1990 to 1993. The magazines were great back then & they covered real films with great writing. One was a magazine covering movie with dinosaurs.

In it, the writer says that King Kong had it's 4th rerelease in 1952. It grossed two and a half times the amount expected by the studio & was a huge hit. At the end of the 1952, TIME Magazine call it the 18 years old film, movie of the year. So big that restarted a new fad of dinosaurs during the 50's.

This matches up with what I remember as a 4 year old kid. My mother was helping a Uncle that owned a bakery near the end of Broadway in down town LA, which was the center of the city, filled with people. I remember seeing KING KONG was a big deal, we went with a group of people who were very excited. I was real young & I didn't like adult drama type movie with people kissing girls & stuff like that. We ate at a Bar-B-Q place down the street from the Bakery. And I loved the food. They we j walked across Broadway to the United Artists Theater. Which was a major theater built by Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford. Which in our time was used as a church by Dr Gene Scott & now by his sexy daughter.

Seeing King Kong that night hooked me on movies for the rest of my life. I've watched it 200 times at least. My whole like has been based on King Kong. As a kid, and even now, I love Gorillas. I never met an ape I didn't like. The place when nuts for the film & it didn't seem old to them. And the place was packed with people. I only remember parts of it, but the movie with it was WINCHESTER 73 with Jimmy Stewart. After, we went down the street to the drug store and had ice cream. The down town streets were filled with people, just like NYC in King Kong. One of the best nights of my life.--- Steve Yohe
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Ken Viewer



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the time of the 1952 re-release of the original "King Kong," Merian C. Cooper had left RKO Radio Pictures after decades of getting shorted on his share of the profits (I think this was before residuals were standard in Hollywood, and in 1933, when Cooper created the film, he was a newbie in the movie business and didn't know any better).

RKO was on its last legs; it had gone through various owners, including President Kennedy's father Joseph, and, in 1948, crazy Howard Hughes bought it to get more women into bed. Hughes killed the studio and was one factor in "Mighty Joe Young" flopping at the box office (another was it was a lousy film and since credited-director Ernest Schoedsack was blind by then (not kidding), Cooper actually directed the film but hushed it up. Cooper had also chosen Schoedsack's wife, Ruth Rose, to write the script, and, honestly, she wasn't much of a screenwriter.

Cooper was also, by then, partnering with director John Ford and financier C. V. Whitney, and they were releasing their self-financed and self-owned movies via the "B" studio Republic Pictures since RKO allegedly wasn't paying them when the money rolled in.

But Republic had little or no foreign distribution operations and ended up offloading the foreign placement of the Cooper/For d (or Ford/Cooper) films with all manner of minor foreign operators. "Rio Grande," starring John Wayne, was one of those Republic-released films directed by Ford and produced by Cooper with Whitney's money.

Revenues weren't coming in the way they were expected to (if you were a theater owner, since all Republic had to offer, other than the Ford films were short, awful "B" movies in black-and-white and starring corpses, why pay Republic its fair cut of the Ford/Cooper box office?

This was not working out.

But Ford wanted Cooper as his producer and vice versa, so after Ford made a few independent films for major studios such as 20th Century-Fox and MGM, by the time things settled down, Ford and Cooper set up shop at Jack Warner's studio, where they made some superb films.

When you saw Kong in 1952 on a double bill with "Winchester '73," that latter film was played out and ready for the trash can. Likely, the United Artists theater in Los Angeles got it to fill out the program as a flat-rate rental for $50 (not kidding). A travelogue would have cost $15 and let them have more showings of Kong every day. Did they offer a newsreel?

I doubt Cooper or Schoedsack ever saw a penny from that re-release as they were no longer doing business with the all-but-bankrupt RKO Radio Pictures (which was separate from RKO Theaters, but born from the same parents).

Hope this explains some stuff. The Cooper/Ford/Whitney partnership would continue on until it ended not long after they they created the greatest Western ever; "The Searchers," which, since they owned the film and the studio -- Warner Bros. "The Searchers" did not get not one single drop of help in being pushed for Academy Award nominations for the 1956 calendar year.

At that point, Cooper, looking for yet another war to go off and fight in and not caring to join the Hungarian Revolution or Polish second rebellion against the Communist U.S.S.R. in Eastern Europe, retired and left Hollywood. He died in 1973. What a life!

Ken
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Steve Yohe



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG was a great film. I've never heard from anyone who thought different. It's a classic in the field of stop -- focus- motion. It would be high on my list of favorite movies.

I'm going to review SON OF KONG over with my reviews. I re-watched it two nights ago & some of my feelings have changed. --- Steve Yohe
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Ken Viewer



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Yohe wrote:
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG was a great film. I've never heard from anyone who thought different... --- Steve Yohe


Of course you have; me.

I first saw it on television in a cut version when RKO's vault of films were sold off and syndicated, sometime circa the late 1950s. Then I saw it over a decade later in a revival theater projected from a print that may have also been cut -- there are two different versions listed for original theatrical distribution in the IMDB. One is ten minutes longer than the other. I haven't a clue as to who cut what or which was shown where.

It was a fun film the first two times but it's just not in the league with the original "King Kong." Few films are.

Please don't take offense; it's a matter of personal taste and mine is mine and yours is yours. I revisited the movie a few years ago, and found I hadn't changed my opinion.

Ken
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Steve Yohe



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KING KONG is opening nationally for one night on March 15. I can't wait to see it again in a theater.---Steve Yohe
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Ken Viewer



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2020 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope you're well and bring your Army gear to the showing of the original, one-and-only, genuine "King Kong." And I hope it's projected off of a 35 MM film-print on a screen 30 feet high (it was shot in 1:37 to 1:00 ratio).

Should Merian Cooper's ghost show up; ask him if the two of us can interview him (by telephone, alas, since I wouldn't fly anywhere currently due to the C-Virus).

HAVE FUN!!

Ken
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