King Kong
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for King Kong can be found here.

Showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) sails with a filming crew, friend Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), and leading lady Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to Skull Island, uncharted except for a map he bought from another sailor. Arriving on the island, they find it inhabited by a tribe of natives who think that the blonde Ann would be the perfect 'bride' for their nemesis...a giant gorilla named Kong. Kong is mesmerized by Ann, but Denham soon gets the idea of capturing Kong and bringing him to New York to be displayed as 'King Kong, the eighth wonder of the world.'

No. The giant gorilla known as Kong was the brainchild of American aviator and screenwriter Merian C. Cooper [1893-1973], conceived after a dream in which a giant gorilla was terrorizing New York City. Screenwriters Ruth Rose and James Ashmore Creelman wrote the original screenplay. A novelization of the screenplay actually appeared in 1932, a year before the film, adapted by newspaper reporter and writer Delos W. Lovelace. It was published in serialized form in Mystery Magazine and in book form later that year by Grosset & Dunlap. A sequel, The Son of Kong was released 8-1/2 months later. There have been two remakes. The first, King Kong, was released in 1976; Peter Jackson's King Kong was released in 2005.

That question has been asked so many times that The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island (2005), an encyclopedic book about Kong's fictional world made for the release of Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), was compiled by Weta Workshop designers Daniel Falconer and Ben Wootten to answer that question and many others like it. In their interpretation, they suggest that the original builders were from Asia. They had earlier captured the offspring of the giant ape Gigantopithecus and raised them to work much like elephants. The giant gorillas are the ones that built the wall. Obviously, they needed a large enough door so that the working apes could go in and out. Then, because of civil war (again using the giant apes like war elephants) and then a great plague, the civilization declined and lost control of the apes. Of course, this is the interpretation of two men in 2005, not the original authors in 1933.

How big is Kong?

Kong's size changes throughout the movie. RKO officially listed him as being 50 feet tall in the film's publicity materials, but he never appears quite that large in the film itself. Two stop-motion models were used for the scenes of Kong on the island, and both of these were built to appear 18 feet tall compared to the miniature sets. A third model, built to appear 24 feet tall, was built to be used in the New York scenes so Kong would appear more imposing next to the cars and trains. However, due to the inconsistent and imprecise nature of composite shots (shots containing stop-motion and live action at once), the models vary greatly in size and regularly appear both larger and smaller than the 18-24 foot range. Meanwhile, the full-sized Kong hand, foot, and head were constructed for a 40-foot monster's stature. Kong's size in later movies is also not consistent. He stood 148 feet tall in King Kong vs. Godzilla so that he'd be large enough to properly battle the 164 foot Godzilla, and he was reduced to about 66 feet for King Kong Escapes, but neither of these films take place within the same continuity as each other or the original. In the 1976 remake a character estimates him to be 50 feet tall, but the actual life-size Kong animatronic used for the film stood exactly 40 feet and the Kong suit was usually made to look that height compared to the miniature sets. In that film's sequel, King Kong Lives, he rose to about 60 feet. Peter Jackson's remake depicted Kong as 25 feet tall, as does the Universal Studios ride "King Kong 360 3D," although its predecessor, "King Kong Encounter," featured a 30 foot animatronic.

How does the movie end?

Kong locates Ann in her hotel, reaches in to grab her, and carries her to the top of the Empire State Building. As four planes circle around him, shooting him full of bullets, Kong sets Ann on ledge and attempts to fight them off, but they are too much for him. He begins to totter. Losing his grasp on the tower, he falls to his death, landing in the street below. Driscoll rushes to the ledge to help Ann down. As Denham makes his way through the crowd, a policeman remarks that the airplanes got him. 'It wasn't the airplanes,' Denham replies. 'It was Beauty killed the Beast.'

From the Criterion LaserDisc audio commentary by Ronald Haver:


This stemmed from something that happened to him, when he was about six years old: an uncle gave him a book called Adventures and Explorations in Equatorial Africa by Paul Du Chaillu, who was one of the first people to ever explore the dark continent, as it was known to him. Now he was, Cooper was six when he read this and he remarked to me that the thing that fascinated him was the description of the tribes of giant apes that lived somewhere in Africa and sometimes raided the native villages and carried off screaming native women into the jungle. And, of course, as you know, when you're young, certain things do stick in your mind. He was never sure, as he said to me, whether or not he had seen a drawing in the book or whether the description itself was just so vivid that he had a mental picture of an ape carrying off a woman into the jungle. But it was something that stayed with him all of his life and did profoundly influence King Kong.

The following is from the audio commentary by Ronald Haver on the Crierion LaserDisc:


The idea for Kong was of course Cooper's. The credits say from an idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar C. Wallace, which has always raised a lot of controversy amongst people who studied the film. I know from my conversations with Cooper and checking the through the RKO files that the outline of the film was done by Cooper. When it came time to do a screenplay, when he was at RKO, Selznick asked him to please use Edgar Wallace, who was a very famous British mystery writer, who was under contract to the studio. And Cooper had several conversations with Wallace about the project. And as he said, "Wallace didn't have the slightest idea of what I wanted to do, but I had told Selznick that I would use him", so we did put him on the picture, but he worked on it for about two weeks and then died of pneumonia, so there really isn't much of Wallace. As a matter of fact, according to Cooper, there isn't a single thing of Wallace's in the script. But Cooper was a very honorable man, and he had given Wallace his word that he would give him co-author credit, so even though he had died, he felt honor-bound to use his name. It wasn't entirely altruistic: there was the fact that Wallace's name in England meant a great deal. But, as far as we've all been able to determine, the people who do this sort of investigative checking into who writes screenplays, there really isn't much of Edgar Wallace in the final completed script of Kong. The other writers who worked on it, in various capacities at RKO while being written were Dudley Nichols, who was a quite well known writer at the time, another writer named James Creelman, who did actually the first complete draft of the script based on Cooper's outline and on his own conception of what the picture should be. And I believe it was Creelman who made use of the great deal of the anti-semitic humor, which the first draft had quite a bit of. Cooper had all of that removed later on when the screenplay was re-written by Ernest Schoedsack's wife Ruth Rose. She re-wrote the entire screenplay in two weeks. It's interesting, the disparity between what someone like Dudley Nichols was paid. He was paid close to $3,000 for his work on it, none of which really amounted to much. And James Creelman made $2,000 and Ruth Rose made $150 for rewriting everything in the script and giving Cooper exactly what he wanted which was that very simple, direct, fairy-tale dialogue. And this is a very important contribution to Kong, because, as Cooper said, he didn't think that long-winded speeches that Creelman had written really enhanced the film at all, and it was a problem getting the screenplay to be as tight and as concise as possible and still make all the various elements that were in it dramatically believable.

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