December 17th, 2005

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

The Best Collector's Edition DVD ever!

The Best DVD released is the Collector's Edition of
"King Kong." Time and care were taken in researching
this classic tale of beauty and the beast. Besides
directing the new remake, Peter Jackson has lovingly
recreated a lost sequence from the original movie, the
nightmarish “Spider Pit Sequence.”

To recapture the
spirit of the animator Willis O'Brien, Jackson had his
team recreated the original stop motion technology from
70 years ago. The results are inspirational.

It is easy to see why this “Spider Pit” sequence was
eliminated from the original release to the 1933
audience. After sailors fall into a pit, four
creatures crawl out and devour the sailors. The
deaths are gruesome and could have been a showstopper.
While the sequence does detract from the beauty and
the beast theme, the lost sequence is considered the
holy grail of celluloid.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

One of the Best of 2003 :"Broadway the Golden Age, by the Legends who were There"

2004 anno domini will mark the passing of two cinematic icons; Marlon Brando and Fay Wray. While both legends paid their mortgages through their work in the motion picture industry, both actors earned their bones on the streets of Manhattan theatre, Broadway to be precise.

"Broadway the Golden Age, by the Legends who were There" is Rick McKay’s retrospective look at Broadway’s halcyon days from the 1920's through the mid 1960's. Unlike the heavily hyped musical theatre presentations that are broadcast on PBS during the network telethons, Rick McKay's movie spotlights both musicals and dramas. One treasure contains lost footage of Marlon Brando from his Broadway productions. Cast and crew comment on the intensity that Brando created during his public performances and how he was treated as the Olympic God of Drama, Thespis. Most appropriately is the attention given to Brando's co star from Kim Hunter.

A fellow alumnus from the Lee Strasberg Actor's Studio, Kim Hunter matched Brando on stage with the chemistry of Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh. Yet for all of her prolific work in Tennessee Williams dramas, Kim Hunter is best known for portraying the primate Dr. Zira from the "Planet of the Apes" movies.

Cinema's greatest ape is "King Kong" and the beauty who killed the beast was Fay Wray. While Wray came to accept her relationship with the mighty Kong, the actress preferred her work in serious drama. As a writer, Fay Wray partnered with Clifford Odets and frequently performed as an actress. While on Broadway, Fay Wray encouraged actor Archie Leach to change his name to Cary Grant.

The lesson of "Broadway the Golden Age" is the candid blue-collar approach of the hundred legends that Rick McKay interviewed. Acting was their higher calling, but saving money was a priority. Jerry Orbach from Television's original "Law & Order" discussed second actors. Because they could not afford the price of admission, second actors were actors who snuck into theatres during the second act of a show.

Despite sprains, pains, flu and broken bones, these actors became Broadway legends by showing up to work with more tenacity than a postman. For 2003, I ranked "Broadway the Golden Age by the Legends who were There" on my top tenlist. The film has had a successful run in film festivals and has been recently been released on DVD with an additional 90 minutes of interviews.

Given the passing of Gwen Verdon, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Fay Wray, Rick McKay's interviews serve as an important documented oral history. Yet these Broadway Legends are not self-serving, but instructive. The stories these people have to share are fascinating and are inspiring and should interest anybody in any profession.

(To order the first generation of his "Broadway" series,
please visit )
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

My 2003 interview with Fay Wray

Rick McKay tried to warn me, but my journalistic instincts got the better of me.
I looked at the legendary Fay Wray in the eye and asked the legendary actress THE question,
"How does it feel to be First Ever Scream Queen in motion picture history?"
Fay Wray shot me a look that would have made King Kong himself put on an apron and do the dishes in a banana tree for six months. Ms. Wray replied, "I do NOT like it at all, would you?"

As much as horror movie mavens love her horror movies, Fay Wray was not a fan of the genre.

"I don't like it at all...being called Scream Queen," Fay Wray told me. Sadly when Fay Wray passed away last Summer, most mainstream Entertainment magazines labeled her by the title, "Scream Queen."

Fay Wray realized that this not-so-objective journalist was a fan and she must have sensed my discomfort. Her face brigtened up and she told me that she fled to England to escape the "Scream Queen" label and explore different acting opportunities. Miss Wray stated that the first thing the British casting directors asked her to do in an audition was to scream. After "King Kong " was released, Miss Wray starred in several classic horror movies ("Mystery of the Wax Museum" and "Doctor X") that have influenced many actresses in the twenty first century.

"King Kong" was released during the darkest days of the Depression of the 20th century, went on to break box office records and save the R.K.O. Studio from bankruptcy. Fay Wray's participation in "King Kong" involved ten months of filming in 1932. Since she was not needed on the set everyday, due to the special effects, Miss Wray worked on several motion pictures at the same time, including "The Most Dangerous Game" with Joel McCrae.

Miss Wray's participation in "King Kong" involved ten months of filming in 1932. Since she was not needed on the set everyday, due to the special effects, Miss Wray worked on several motion pictures at the same time, including "The Most Dangerous Game" with Joel McCrae. This David O. Selznick/Merian Cooper/ Ernest B. Schoedsack production utilized the same sets from "King Kong" with some of the same actors; Robert Armstrong and Noble Johnson.

This 1932 classic is the blueprint for all modern day thrillers and horror movies. Leslie Bank's Count Zaroff must be a blood ancestor of Dr. Hannibal Lector. There is nightmarish imagery and brutal action sequences featuring man battling beast. The movie is only 63 minutes long, but it packs a powerful punch 72 years after release. The Broward County Main Library "Literary Cinema" presented a free screening of "The Most Dangerous Game" in March 2005. To experience of a Saturday matinee event, the program opened with the six minute test reel for "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," a film inspired by both "The Most Dangerous Game" and "King Kong."

Wray's favorite role was in "The Wedding March," a film directed by Erich Von Stroheim. During the 1920's Von Stroheim was billed as the man you loved to hate. Wray found this to be far from the truth and refered to him as "The man you loved to love!" Fay Wray enthusiastically refered to Von Stroheim as "Wonderful, there is no one like him." While best known for his portrayal as Gloria Swanson's butler in "Sunset Blvd," Von Stroheim directed the silent movie classic, "Greed."

While performing in a stage play, Wray persuaded her costar Archie Leach to change his name to that of Cary Grant. She refered to Cary Grant as a "Good friend and a nice person." and she was looking forward to watching his tribute on cable television. Among the Hollywood community, Fay Wray was also known as a Ping Pong champion.

She also wrote "Nikki," "Meadowlark" and cowrote a play with Clifford Odets. It her connection to the stage that lead to Wray's return to the big screen for the first time in forty five years with "Broadway the Golden Age, by the Legends who were There." Rick McKay's documentary is a living history of Broadway theatre. It was the winner of the Best Documentary award at the recent Palm Beach Film Festival. Of note Fay Wray's first husband, the late John Monk Saunders, won an Oscar for "Wings'" the first ever Oscar recipient for Best Picture.

Fresh from his Oscar triumph for "The Pianist" in 2003, Adrien Brody was honored with the "Newcomer" award at the 8th Annual Palm Beach Film Festival when Fay Wray honored with the "Legend" award. In Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong," Brody will be portraying the Bruce Cabot inspired role, who happened to be Fay Wray's love interest from the original movie. Originally, Peter Jackson had planned to cast Fay Wray in a cameo role in a remake. The intent was for the legendary actress to utter the immortal line, "It was beauty that killed the best."

In her mid nineties, Fay Wray still knew how to soothe the savage beasts. She charmed a room full of cynical reporters at the 8th Annual Palm Beach Film Festival press conference and she commanded the respect and awe of young local filmmakers. Despite an injured hand and going against doctor's orders, Fay Wray signed autographs for eager and appreciative fans. It was a classy move and modern day actors should take a tip from this Hollywood Legend, Fay Wray sincerely wanted to be certain that every audience member received respectful and individualized attention. As for the secret of her success at being a very spunky 95 year old, Wray commented "I eat simple and do not combine different foods." Her one indulgence was vanilla ice cream.

She didn't dwell on her halcyon days when she was defeating Charlie Chaplin in the Hollywood ping pong championships, but focused on the present moment. She wrote and found new ways to challenge herself. For the first time ever on the big screen, Fay Wray sang during the closing credits of her last movie, " Broadway the Golden Age, by the Legends who were There."

While documenting history with his "Broadway Legend" series of movies, Rick McKay has now become a footnote to cinematic history. Rick hosted the historical dinner in which Fay Wray met Naomi Watts with Peter Jackson. While she still claimed to be Ann Darrow, it was at this dinner that Fay Wray passed the torch of Ann Darrow to Naomi Watts.

(Portions of this article can be found in an April edition of
"the Observer"
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

BIG news found in Peter Jackson's Production Diaries

Peter Jackson revealed that his loyal crew has already begun work on
"King Kong : Son of Kong" and "King Kong: in the Wolf's Lair." Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody will be returning.

It looks like "Son of Kong" takes a page out of an unused Willis O'Brien script titled, "King Kong versus Frankenstein." This O'Brien script became the blue print for "King Kong versus Godzilla."

Jackson's Production Diaries reveals that the "Son of Kong" will take place during World War II and will involve nazi genetic scientists. This looks like pure Saturday Matinee eating fun and will be released in June 2006 :)

For more information about the big guy and his family, check out

Merry Christmas ! ! !