In 1973, this ten year old boy wrote Professor Gruebeard, the renown scholar from **Famous Monsters of Filmland.** In issue #105 of the magazine, Professor Gruebeard responded to my question, in which I wanted to know if the Son of Kong lived after the island sank. Professor Gruebeard responded that Little Kong had been holding his breath for a long time and that he did not think the Son of Kong would resurface. As the years went by, I realized that as much as I adored Forry Ackerman’s "Famous Monsters of Filmland,” the search for academic truth was not a priority. "The Son of Kong" had survived and his son, "the Grandson of King Kong," will be visiting the Broward County Main Library Auditorium this Saturday Afternoon at 1PM. "The Grandson of King Kong," one of 500 hundred children raised by Sideshow Collectibles, will be in attendance to observe the original, uncut 1933 version of "King Kong," in glorious black and white.
Before the days of computer programs and virtual reality, the creation and production of the original "King Kong" is worthy of the artistic merits created by Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Willis O’Brien studied the stop motion camera techniques of film as created by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and the telephone. Willis O’Brien realized that if one took a snapshot of a standing object and move the object ever so slightly, the viewer would perceive the standing object as moving. Inspired by his own children, Willis O’Brien created a series of short comedies starring his stop motion animation puppets. "The Dinosaur and the Missing Link" features a missing link who O’Brien later claimed to be an ancestor of "King Kong." Not content to sit on his laurels, O’Brien sought to include live actors on the big screen with his dinosaurs. The opportunity arose with the production of "The Lost World," written by Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
As O’Brien began work on his latest project titled, "Creation," producer and World War I flying Ace Merian C. Cooper became a producer for RKO Studios. After filming a series of animal documentaries with his partner, Ernest B. Schoedsack, Cooper watched the building of the Empire State Building and thought about a giant gorilla climbing to the top of the spire. When the production costs escalated for "Creation," Cooper ended the production and hired O’Brien for his future giant gorilla movie, titled "King Kong."
While Cooper and Schoedsack handled the big picture, O’Brien handled the details. It is the details that has made "King Kong" such an enduring figure for 75 years. As scary as Kong was during his entrance, the big ape became a romantic hero who saved Fay Wray from the mouths of a tyrannosaurus rex, a python and a pteradon bird. Being a boxing and a wrestling fan, O’Brien had King Kong abide by the Marquis of Queensberry rules. Of course, the look of the dying King Kong as he bids goodbye to his beauty, was worthy of an academy award for best actor.
The grief of Kong was a premonition for Willis O’Brien. When "King Kong" was still breaking box office records, O'Brien’s ex wife, Hazel Ruth Collette, shot and killed their two boys and turned the gun on herself. She survived but died soon from cancer and tuberculosis. While he was given an honorary Oscar in the 1950s, Willis O’Brien never reclaimed the artistic heights that he achieved with "King Kong" and his son.
Given that "King Kong" was really an 18 inch furry puppet made out of nuts, bolts and steel, one sees the genius of a Willis O’Brien. Given that "King Kong" has now celebrated 75 years, the artistic soul of Willis O’Brien has touched more than millions since producer Merian C. Cooper imagined seeing a big ape climbing the Empire State Building.
As part of the free screening this Saturday Afternoon, the Bonnie Kafin Literacy Fun through the Broward Public Library Foundation will donate free copies of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and Ken Follet’s “The Pillars of the Earth” while supplies last. The Grandson of King Kong will NOT be autographing memorabilia.