Merian C. Cooper

Merian Caldwell Cooper (October 24, 1893 – April 21, 1973) was an American aviator, United States Air Force and Polish Air Force officer, adventurer, screenwriter, film director, and producer. Cooper was the founder of the Kościuszko Squadron during the Polish–Soviet War and was a Soviet prisoner of war for a time. He was a notable movie producer, and got his start with film as part of the Explorers Club, traveling the world and documenting adventures. He was a member of the board of directors of Pan American Airways, but his love of film always took priority. During his film career, he worked for companies such as Pioneer Pictures, RKO Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He is also credited as co-inventor of the Cinerama film projection process. Cooper's most famous film was the 1933 movie King Kong. He was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Merian C. Cooper
MSS2008 B50 CooperHeadshot
Merian C. Cooper in 1927
Born
Merian Caldwell Cooper

October 24, 1893
DiedApril 21, 1973 (aged 79)
NationalityAmerican
Alma mater
Occupation
Military career
Allegiance United States
 Poland
Service/branch United States Navy
 United States Army
 Polish Air Force
Years of service
  • 1912–1915
  • 1916–1919
  • 1919–1921
  • 1941–1945
RankBrigadier General (US)
Podpułkownik (PL)
Battles/wars
Awards

Early life

Merian Caldwell Cooper was born in Jacksonville, Florida, to the lawyer John C. Cooper and the former Mary Caldwell.[1] He was the youngest of three children. At age six, Cooper decided that he wanted to be an explorer after hearing stories from the book Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa.[2]:10,14 He was educated at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and graduated in 1911.[2]:19[3]

After graduation, Cooper received a prestigious appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy,[2]:19 but was expelled during his senior year for "hell raising and for championing air power".[4] In 1916, Cooper worked for the Minneapolis Daily News as a reporter, where he met Delos Lovelace.[5] In the next few years, he also worked at the Des Moines Register-Leader and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.[2]:22

Early military service

Georgia National Guard

In 1916, Cooper joined the Georgia National Guard to help chase Pancho Villa in Mexico.[6] He was called home in March 1917. He worked for the El Paso Herald on a 30-day leave of absence. After returning to his service, Cooper was appointed lieutenant; however, he turned down the appointment hoping to participate in combat. Instead, he went to the Military Aeronautics School in Atlanta to learn to fly. Cooper graduated from the school as the top in his class.[2]:24–25

World War I

Merian Cooper
Merian C. Cooper in Polish Air Force uniform

In October 1917, Cooper went to France with the 201st Squadron. He attended flying school in Issoudun. While flying with his friend, Cooper hit his head and was knocked out during a 200-foot plunge. After the incident, Cooper suffered from shock and had to relearn how to fly. Cooper requested to go to Clermont-Ferrand to be trained as a bomber pilot. He became a pilot on the 20th Aero Squadron (which later became the 1st Day Bombardment Group).[2]:26–27

Cooper served as a DH-4 bomber pilot with the United States Army Air Service during World War I.[7] On September 26, 1918, his plane was shot down. The plane caught fire, and Cooper spun the plane to suck the flames out. Cooper survived, although he suffered burns, injured his hands, and was presumed dead. German soldiers saw his plane's incredible landing and took him to a prisoner reserve hospital.[2]:8,38–41

Cooper AEF death
Death statement from when Cooper was presumed dead in 1918

Captain Cooper remained in the Air Service after the war; he helped with Herbert Hoover's American Food Administration that provided aid in Poland. He later became the head of the Poland division.[8]

Kościuszko Squadron

From late 1919 until the 1921 Treaty of Riga, Cooper was a member of a volunteer American flight squadron, the Kościuszko Squadron, which supported the Polish Army in the Polish-Soviet War.[6] On July 13, 1920, his plane was shot down and he spent nearly nine months in a Soviet prisoner of war camp[8] where the writer Isaac Babel interviewed him.[9] He escaped just before the war was over and made it to Latvia. For his valor he was decorated by Polish commander-in-chief Józef Piłsudski with the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari.[8]

CooperAtLatvianBorder
Cooper at the Latvian Border after escaping the Soviet POW camp

During his time as a POW, Cooper wrote an autobiography: Things Men Die For.[6] The manuscript was published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in New York (the Knickerbocker Press) in 1927. However, in 1928 Cooper regretted releasing certain details about "Nina" (probably Małgorzata Słomczyńska) with whom he had had relations outside of wedlock. Cooper then asked Dagmar Matson, who had the manuscript, to buy all the copies of the book possible. Matson found almost all 5,000 copies that had been printed. The books were destroyed, while Cooper and Matson each kept a copy.[6][10]

An interbellum Polish film directed by Leonard Buczkowski, Gwiaździsta eskadra (The Starry Squadron), was inspired by Cooper's experiences as a Polish Air Force officer. The film was made with the cooperation of the Polish army and was the most expensive Polish film prior to World War II. After World War II, all copies of the film found in Poland were destroyed by the Soviets.[11]

Career

Cooper and Schoedsack

After returning from overseas in 1921, Cooper got a job working the night shift at The New York Times. He was commissioned to write articles for Asia magazine. Cooper was able to travel with Ernest Schoedsack on a sea voyage on the Wisdom II. As part of the journey, he traveled to Abyssinia, or the Ethiopian Empire, where he met their prince regent, Ras Tefari, later known as Emperor Haile Selassie I. The ship left Abyssinia in February 1923. On their way home, the crew narrowly missed being attacked by pirates, and the ship was burned down.[2]:81–83,95–104 His three-part series for Asia was published in 1923.[2]:106

After returning home, Cooper researched for the American Geographical Society. In 1924, Cooper joined Schoedsack and Marguerite Harrison who had embarked on an expedition that would be turned into the film Grass (1925).[2]:111 They returned later the same year. Cooper became a member of the Explorers Club of New York in January 1925 and was asked to give lectures and attend events due to his extensive traveling. Grass was acquired by Paramount Pictures. This first film of Cooper and Schoedsack gained the attention of Jesse Lasky, who commissioned the duo for their second film, Chang (1927). They also produced the film The Four Feathers,[2]:132–137,162 which was filmed among the fighting tribes of the Sudan. These films combined real footage with staged sequences.[7]

Pan American Airways

Between 1926 and 1927, Cooper discussed the plans for Pan American Airways with John Hambleton, which was formed during 1927.[2]:180 Cooper was a member of the board of directors of Pan American Airways.[12] During his tenure at Pan Am, the company established the first regularly scheduled transatlantic service.[8] While he was on the board, Cooper did not devote his full attention to the organization; he took time in 1929 and 1930 to work on the script for King Kong. By 1931, he was back in Hollywood.[2]:182,183 He resigned from the board of directors in 1935, following health complications.[2]:258

King Kong

Cooper had said that he thought of King Kong after he had a dream that a giant gorilla was terrorizing New York City. When he woke, he recorded the idea and used it for the film.[13] He was going to have a giant gorilla fight a Komodo dragon or other animal, but found that the technique of interlacing that he wanted to use would not provide realistic results.[2]:194

King-Kong-1933-RKO
King Kong movie poster

Cooper needed a production studio for the film, but recognized the great cost of the movie, especially during the Great Depression. Cooper helped David Selznick get a job at RKO Pictures, which was struggling financially. Selznick became the vice president of RKO and asked Cooper to join him in September 1931, although he had only produced 3 films thus far in his career.[2]:202–203 Cooper began working as an executive assistant at age thirty-eight.[14]:74 He officially pitched the idea for King Kong in December 1931. Shortly after, he began to scope out actors and build full-scale sets, although the screenplay was not yet complete.[2]:207–208

The screenplay was delivered to Cooper in January 1932. Schoedsack contributed to the film, focusing on shooting scenes for the boat sequences and in native villages, leaving Cooper to shoot the jungle scenes. In February 1933, the title for the film was registered for copyright.[2]:218–223 Throughout filming there were creative battles. Critics at RKO argued that the film should begin with Kong. Cooper believed that a film should begin with a "slow dramatic buildup that would establish everything from characters to mood ..." so that the action of the film could "naturally, relentlessly, roll on out of its own creative movement," and thus chose to not begin the film with a shot of Kong. The iconic scene in which Kong is on top of the Empire State Building was almost called off by Cooper for legal reasons, but was kept in the film because RKO bought the rights to The Lost World.[2]:229,231

Overlapping with the production of King Kong was the making of The Most Dangerous Game, which began in May 1932. Cooper once again worked with Schoedsack to produce the film.[2]:214

In the 1933 version of King Kong, Cooper and co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack appear at the end, piloting the plane that finally finishes off Kong. Cooper had reportedly said, "We should kill the sonofabitch ourselves."[15] Cooper personally cut a scene in King Kong in which four sailors are shaken off a rope bridge by Kong, fall into a ravine, and are eaten alive by giant spiders. According to Hollywood folklore, the decision was made after previews in January 1933, during which audience members either fled the theater in terror or talked about the ghastly scene throughout the remainder of the movie. However, more objective sources maintain that the scene merely slowed the film's pace. Legend has it that Cooper kept a print of the cut footage as a memento, although it has never been found.[16] In 1963, Cooper argued unsuccessfully that he should own the rights to King Kong; later in 1976, judges ruled that Cooper owned the rights to King Kong outside the movie and its sequel.[2]:362; 387 Selznick left RKO before the release of King Kong, and Cooper served as production head from 1933 to 1934 with Pan Berman as his executive assistant.[14]

In the 2005 remake of King Kong, upon learning that Fay Wray was not available because she was making a film at RKO, Carl Denham (Jack Black) replies, "Cooper, huh? I might have known."[17]

Pioneer Pictures, Selznick International Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Cooper helped the Whitney cousins form Pioneer Pictures in 1933, while he was still working for RKO.[2]:254 He was named vice president in charge of production for Pioneer Pictures in 1934.[18] He would use Pioneer Pictures to test his technicolor innovations. The company contracted with RKO in order to fulfill Cooper's obligations to the company, including She and The Last Days of Pompeii. Cooper later referred to She as the "worst picture I ever made."[2]:259,263

After these disappointments, Pioneer Pictures released a short film in three-strip technicolor called La Cucaracha which was well received. The film won an Academy Award in 1934. Pioneer released the first full-length technicolor film, Becky Sharp in 1935.[2]:267–269 Cooper helped to advocate and pave the way for the ground-breaking technology of technicolor,[8] as well as the widescreen process called Cinerama.[19]

Selznick formed Selznick International Pictures in 1935, and Pioneer Pictures merged with it in June 1936.[2]:269,274 Cooper became the vice president of Selznick International Pictures that same year.[1] Cooper did not stay long; he resigned in 1937 due to disagreements over the film Stagecoach.[2]:275

After resigning from Selznick International, Cooper went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in June 1937. Cooper's most successful film at MGM was War Eagles. The film was postponed during World War II, and Cooper returned to the Air Force. The film was abandoned, however, and never finished.[2]:276–281

World War II

Cooper re-enlisted and was commissioned a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces.[8][20] He served with Col. Robert L. Scott in India. He worked as logistics liaison for the Doolittle Raid. Thereafter, Cooper and Scott worked with Col. Caleb V. Haynes at Dinjan Airfield. They all were involved in setting up the Assam-Burma-China Ferrying Command. This marked the beginnings of The Hump Airlift.

Colonel Cooper later served in China as chief of staff for General Claire Chennault of the China Air Task Force, which was the precursor of the Fourteenth Air Force.[20] On 25 October 1942 a CATF raid consisting of 12 B-25s and 7 P-40s, led by Colonel Cooper, successfully bombed the Kowloon Docks at Hong Kong.[21]

He served then from 1943 to 1945 in the Southwest Pacific as chief of staff for the Fifth Air Force's Bomber Command.[22] At the end of the war, he was promoted to brigadier general. For his contributions, he was also aboard the USS Missouri to witness Japan's surrender.[8]

Argosy Pictures and Cinerama

Cooper and his friend and frequent collaborator, noted director John Ford, formed Argosy Productions in 1946[23] and produced such notable films such as Wagon Master (1950),[24]:112 Ford's Fort Apache (1948), and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.[23] Cooper's films at Argosy reflected his patriotism and his vision of America.[2]:321

Argosy negotiated a contract with RKO in 1946 to make four pictures. Cooper was able to make Grass a complete picture. Argosy also produced Mighty Joe Young, which brought in Schoedsack as director. Cooper visited the set of the film every day to check on progress.[2]:335,340–342

Cooper left Argosy Pictures to pursue the process of Cinerama.[2]:350 He became the vice president of Cinerama Productions in the 1950s. He was also elected a board member. After failing to convince other board members to finance skilled technicians, Cooper left Cinerama with Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney to form C.V. Whitney Productions. Cooper continued to outline movies to be shot in Cinerama. C.V. Whitney Productions only produced a few films.[2]:355–358 Cooper was the executive producer for The Searchers (1956), again directed by Ford.[24]:117

Awards

Merian C. Cooper Star HWF
Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6525 Hollywood Blvd., with first name misspelled

For his military service in Poland, Cooper was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari (presented by Piłsudski), and Poland's Cross of Valour.[6]

In 1927 Cooper was one of 19 prominent Americans who were given the title of "Honorary Scouts" by the Boy Scouts of America for "... achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure ... of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys". The other honorees were Roy Chapman Andrews, Robert Bartlett, Frederick Russell Burnham, Richard E. Byrd, George Kruck Cherrie, James L. Clark, Lincoln Ellsworth, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, George Bird Grinnell, Charles Lindbergh, Donald Baxter MacMillan, Clifford H. Pope, George Palmer Putnam, Kermit Roosevelt, Carl Rungius, Stewart Edward White, and Orville Wright.[25]

In 1949 Mighty Joe Young won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, which was presented to Willis O'Brien, the man responsible for the film's special effects.[26][27]

Cooper was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952.[28] His film The Quiet Man was nominated for Best Picture that year, but lost to Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth.[29] Cooper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, though his first name is misspelled "Meriam".[30]

Personal life

Cooper was the father of Polish translator and writer Maciej Słomczyński.[6] He married film actress Dorothy Jordan on May 27, 1933.[1] They kept their marriage a secret from Hollywood for a month before it was reported by journalists. He suffered a heart attack later that year.[2]:252,255 In the 1950s he supported Joseph McCarthy in his crusade to root out Communists in Hollywood and Washington, D.C.[31]

Cooper founded Advanced Projects in his later life and served as the chairman of the board. He wanted to explore new technologies like 3-D color television productions.[2]:374 Cooper died of cancer on April 21, 1973,[1] in San Diego.[8] His ashes were scattered at sea with full military honors.[2]:378

Filmography

Year Title Director Producer Writer Cinematographer Notes
1925 Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life Yes Yes No Yes Role: Himself; Documentary
1927 Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness Yes Yes Yes No Documentaries
1928 Gow the Head Hunter No No No Yes
1929 Captain Salisbury's Ra-Mu No No No Yes
The Four Feathers Yes Yes No Yes
1931 Gow the Killer No No No Yes Documentary
1932 Roar of the Dragon No No Story No
1933 King Kong Yes Yes Story No Role: Pilot of plane that kills Kong
1935 The Last Days of Pompeii Yes Yes No No
1949 Mighty Joe Young No Yes Story No Also presenter
1952 This Is Cinerama Yes Yes No No Documentary
Only Producer
Year Title Producing role Notes
1932 The Most Dangerous Game Associate producer
Flaming Gold Executive producer
The Phantom of Crestwood Associate producer
1933 The Monkey's Paw Producer
Lucky Devils Associate producer
Diplomaniacs Executive producer
The Silver Cord
Emergency Call
Cross Fire
Professional Sweetheart
Melody Cruise
Bed of Roses
Flying Devils
Double Harness
Headline Shooter
Before Dawn
No Marriage Ties
Morning Glory
Blind Adventure
One Man's Journey
Rafter Romance
Midshipman Jack
Ann Vickers
Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men
Ace of Aces
After Tonight
Chance at Heaven
Little Women
The Right to Romance
If I Were Free
The Son of Kong Also characters
Flying Down to Rio
1934 Stingaree Presenter
The Meanest Gal in Town Executive producer
Man of Two Worlds
Long Lost Father
Two Alone
Hips, Hips, Hooray!
The Lost Patrol
Keep 'Em Rolling
Spitfire
Success at Any Price
This Man Is Mine
Sing and Like It
Finishing School
Kentucky Kernels
1935 She Producer
1936 Dancing Pirate Executive producer
1938 The Toy Wife Producer
1940 Dr. Cyclops
1947 The Fugitive Presenter, producer
1948 Fort Apache Presenter, executive producer
3 Godfathers Presenter, producer
1949 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Presenter, executive producer
1950 Wagon Master
Rio Grande Producer
1952 The Quiet Man
1953 The Sun Shines Bright
1956 Seven Wonders of the World Documentary
The Searchers Executive producer
1963 Best of Cinerama Co-producer Documentary

References

  1. ^ a b c d James V. D'Arc and John N. Gillespie (2013). "Merian C. Cooper papers". Prepared for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Provo, UT. Retrieved 8 Jul 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Vaz, Mark Cotta (August 2005). Living dangerously The adventures of Merian C. Cooper, creator of King Kong. Villard. ISBN 978-1-4000-6276-8.
  3. ^ "Notable Alumni". The Lawrenceville School. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  4. ^ Smith, Dinitia (August 13, 2005). "Getting That Monkey Off His Creator's Back". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Lovelace, Delos; Wallace, Edgar (2005). King Kong. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-345-48496-3. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Memoirs of King Kong Director and War Hero at Hoover". Hoover Institution. Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University. March 4, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  7. ^ a b West, James E. (1931). The Boy Scouts Book of True Adventure. New York: Putnam. OCLC 8484128.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Merian C. Cooper – Forgotten hero of two nations". American Polish Cooperation Society. Archived from the original on August 12, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  9. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Isaac Babel". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on March 8, 2014.
  10. ^ "Things Men Die For: About the Book". Open Library. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  11. ^ Snusz, Zbyszek. ""Gwiaździsta eskadra" – film kręcony z gigantycznym rozmachem w 1930 roku". Naszemiasto. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  12. ^ Schwartz, Rosalie (October 2004). Flying Down to Rio: Hollywood, Tourists, and Yankee Clippers. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-421-2. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  13. ^ Krizanovich, Karen. "The big monkey with a big backstory: The Legend of King Kong". Picture Box Films. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Lasky, Betty (1984). RKO: The Biggest Little Major of Them All. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 0-13-781451-8.
  15. ^ Wallace, Edgar; Cooper, Merian C. (2005). King Kong. Modern Library. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-8129-7493-5. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  16. ^ Morton, Ray (2005). King Kong: the history of a movie icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson. New York, NY: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 1-55783-669-8.
  17. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (April 4, 2008). "Turner Classic Movies celebrates the 75th anniversary of 'King Kong'". Cleveland.com. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  18. ^ "Pioneer Plans Color Films". The Wall Street Journal. November 5, 1934.
  19. ^ "Merian C. Cooper Productions Sunday, July 3". TCM. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  20. ^ a b "Colonel Merian C. Cooper". Ozatwar. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  21. ^ "WW2 Air Raids over Hong Kong & South China: View pages - Gwulo: Old Hong Kong". gwulo.com. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  22. ^ Rowan, Terry. Who's Who in Hollywood. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-329-07449-1. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  23. ^ a b "John Ford—Independent Profile". Hollywood Renegades. Cobblestone Entertainment. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  24. ^ a b Eckstein, Arthur M. (February 2004). The Searchers: Essays and Reflections on John Ford's Classic Western. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-3056-2. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  25. ^ "Around the World". Time. August 29, 1927. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  26. ^ "'Mighty Joe Young' (1949)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  27. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (2014). RKO radio pictures horror, science fiction and fantasy films, 1930–1956. Mcfarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6047-2. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  28. ^ Rausch, Andrew J. (July 2002). The Hundred Greatest American Films: A Quiz Book. Citadel. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-8065-2337-8. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  29. ^ "1952 Academy Awards® Winners and History". AMC. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  30. ^ Conradt, Stacy. "6 Misspellings on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". mental_floss. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  31. ^ Vaz, M. Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong. Villard (2005), pp. 386–91.

Further reading

  • Cooper, Merian C. (February 1928). "The Warfare of the Jungle Folk: Campaigning Against Tigers, Elephants, and Other Wild Animals in Northern Siam". National Geographic: 233–68.
  • Cisek, Janusz (2002). Kosciuszko, We Are Here!. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-1240-2. OCLC 49871871.
  • I'm King Kong!—The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper (2005), TCM documentary on Cooper, directed by Kevin Brownlow.

External links

Archival materials

Double Harness

Double Harness (1933) is an American pre-Code film starring Ann Harding and William Powell. It was based on the play of the same name by Edward Poor Montgomery. A young woman maneuvers a lazy playboy into marrying her.

This was one of several films, all produced by Merian C. Cooper at RKO, that were out of distribution for more than 50 years as a result of a legal settlement that gave Cooper complete ownership of the films. Turner Classic Movies eventually acquired the rights to the films.

Dr. Cyclops

Dr. Cyclops is a 1940 American Technicolor science fiction horror film from Paramount Pictures, produced by Dale Van Every and Merian C. Cooper, directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, and starring Thomas Coley, Victor Kilian, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Frank Yaconelli, and Albert Dekker.The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects by (Farciot Edouart and Gordon Jennings) at the 13th Academy Awards.Dr. Cyclops is based on a short story of the same name by fantasy and science fiction writer Henry Kuttner, which first appeared in the June 1940 issue of the pulp magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories.

Ernest B. Schoedsack

Ernest Beaumont Schoedsack (June 8, 1893 – December 23, 1979) was an American motion picture cinematographer, producer, and director. He worked on several films with Merian C. Cooper including King Kong and Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness.

Flying Down to Rio

Flying Down to Rio is a 1933 American pre-Code RKO musical film noted for being the first screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although Dolores del Río and Gene Raymond received top billing and the leading roles. Among the featured players are Franklin Pangborn and Eric Blore. The songs in the film were written by Vincent Youmans (music), Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu (lyrics), with musical direction and additional music by Max Steiner. This is the only film in which Rogers was billed above famed Broadway dancer Astaire.

The black-and-white film (later computer-colorized) was directed by Thornton Freeland and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Lou Brock. The screenplay was written by Erwin S. Gelsey, H. W. Hanemann and Cyril Hume, based on a story by Lou Brock and a play by Anne Caldwell. Linwood Dunn did the special effects for the celebrated airplane-wing dance sequence at the end of the film. In this film, Dolores Del Rio became the first major actress to wear a two-piece women's bathing suit onscreen.

Grass (1925 film)

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925) is a documentary film which follows a branch of the Bakhtiari tribe of Lurs in Persia as they and their herds make their seasonal journey to better pastures. It is considered one of the earliest ethnographic documentary films.

King Kong

King Kong is a giant movie monster, resembling an enormous ape, that has appeared in various media since 1933. The character first appeared in the 1933 film King Kong from RKO Pictures, which received universal acclaim upon its initial release and re-releases. A sequel quickly followed that same year with The Son of Kong, featuring Little Kong. In the 1960s, Toho produced King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), pitting a larger Kong against Toho's own Godzilla, and King Kong Escapes (1967), based on The King Kong Show (1966–1969) from Rankin/Bass Productions. In 1976, Dino De Laurentiis produced a modern remake of the original film directed by John Guillermin. A sequel, King Kong Lives, followed a decade later featuring a Lady Kong. Another remake of the original, this time set in 1933, was released in 2005 from filmmaker Peter Jackson.

The most recent film, Kong: Skull Island (2017), set in 1973, is part of Legendary Entertainment's MonsterVerse, which began with Legendary's reboot of Godzilla in 2014. A crossover sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, once again pitting the characters against one another, is currently planned for 2020.

The character King Kong has become one of the world's most famous movie icons, having inspired a number of sequels, remakes, spin-offs, imitators, parodies, cartoons, books, comics, video games, theme park rides, and a stage play. His role in the different narratives varies, ranging from a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero.

King Kong (1933 film)

King Kong is a 1933 American pre-Code monster adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea conceived by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong, and opened in New York City on March 2, 1933, to rave reviews. It has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the greatest horror film of all time and the thirty-third greatest film of all time.The film tells of a huge, ape-like creature dubbed Kong who perishes in an attempt to possess a beautiful young woman (Wray). King Kong is especially noted for its stop-motion animation by Willis O'Brien and a groundbreaking musical score by Max Steiner. In 1991, it was deemed "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. A sequel quickly followed with Son of Kong (also released in 1933), with several more films made in the following decades.

King Kong vs. Tarzan

King Kong vs. Tarzan is a 2016 novel by Will Murray, featuring the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in a crossover with the characters created by Merian C. Cooper for the novelization of King Kong. It is authorized by Burroughs' estate.

Mark Cotta Vaz

Mark Cotta Vaz (born September 16, 1954, in San Francisco, California) is an American author, editor and film historian. He has authored over thirty books, including four New York Times bestsellers. He has focused on documenting film special effects and other behind-the-scenes aspects of visual presentation. He has written about these aspects for both Star Wars and Star Trek. He has produced a number of movie companion books, such as those for The Spirit, Beautiful Creatures and four for the Twilight series. Publishers Weekly said about his biography of Merian C. Cooper: The charismatic Cooper, "a man living his own movie," is no longer an obscure, remote figure, thanks to Vaz's exhaustive research and skillful writing.

Mighty Joe Young (1949 film)

Mighty Joe Young (also known as Mr. Joseph Young of Africa and The Great Joe Young) is a 1949 American black and white fantasy film distributed by RKO Radio Pictures and produced by the same creative team responsible for King Kong (1933). Produced by Merian C. Cooper, who wrote the story, and Ruth Rose, who wrote the screenplay, the film was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and stars Robert Armstrong (who appears in both films), Terry Moore, and Ben Johnson in his first credited screen role.

Mighty Joe Young tells the story of a young woman, Jill Young, living on her father's ranch in Africa, who has raised the title character, a large gorilla, from an infant and years later brings him to Hollywood seeking her fortune in order to save the family homestead.

Pioneer Pictures

Pioneer Pictures, Inc. was a Hollywood motion picture company, most noted for its early commitment to making color films. Pioneer was initially affiliated with RKO Pictures, whose production facilities in Culver City, California were used by Pioneer, and who distributed Pioneer's films. Pioneer later merged with Selznick International Pictures.

The company was formed in 1933 by investor John Hay Whitney, who wanted to get into the motion picture business, and his cousin Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, on the encouragement of RKO executive Merian C. Cooper, an enthusiast of the newly improved, full-color Technicolor Process No. 4, introduced in 1932. The process had been used thus far only in Walt Disney cartoons. Technicolor, Inc. had been operating at a loss in 1931–1933, mostly servicing old contracts for its two-component color system, and badly needed a movie studio that would move the new three-component process into feature filmmaking. Although there was no formal connection between Technicolor and Pioneer, the Whitneys invested in stock and stock options estimated at 15 percent of Technicolor.Pioneer announced that its first color production would be The Last Days of Pompeii, but it was eventually filmed by RKO in black and white. Other never-realized color projects were adaptations of the novels The Three Musketeers and Green Mansions. Instead, Pioneer designated the musical short La Cucaracha (1934) to be its Technicolor live-action showcase, and subsequently won an Academy Award for it.

In late 1934, Pioneer contracted with Technicolor to make nine features in the full color process, and hired RKO's Merian C. Cooper to be its vice-president in charge of production. Becky Sharp (1935), an adaptation of Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair, became the first feature-length motion picture in full color, followed by Dancing Pirate (1936).Helen Gahagan became the first actor under a multi-picture contract with Pioneer Pictures, while John Ford was engaged to direct several color productions, starting with The Life of Custer. Neither would actually make a picture with Pioneer.

The Whitneys became founding investors in the newly formed Selznick International Pictures in 1935, and Pioneer Pictures was informally merged with it the following year, after Pioneer completed its releasing obligations with RKO. Directing contracts with John Ford and George Cukor were transferred. Selznick International, which also used the RKO studio and Forty Acres backlot, carried out Pioneer's commitment to produce features in Technicolor. Two Selznick color productions, A Star Is Born (1937) and Nothing Sacred (1937), were in fact copyrighted to Pioneer Pictures.

Selznick International Pictures was dissolved by its owners in 1940–1943. John Hay Whitney then sold Becky Sharp, Dancing Pirate, A Star Is Born, and Nothing Sacred to the distributing company Film Classics, Inc. Film Classics was acquired by Cinecolor Corporation in 1947 — a company specializing in a two-component color process. Cinecolor resold Film Classics to Film Classics' officers in 1949.

She (1935 film)

She is a 1935 American film produced by Merian C. Cooper. Based on H. Rider Haggard's novel of the same name, the screenplay combines elements from all the books in the series: She: A History of Adventure, She and Allan, Ayesha: The Return of She and Wisdom's Daughter. The film reached a new generation of moviegoers with a 1949 re-release.

The ancient civilization of Kor is depicted in an Art Deco style with imaginative special effects. The setting is Arctic Siberia, rather than in Africa, as in the first book. The third book is set in the Himalayas. With music by Max Steiner, the film stars Helen Gahagan, Randolph Scott and Nigel Bruce.

It was hoped that She would follow Cooper's previous success, King Kong. Cooper had originally intended to shoot the film in color, but budget cuts by RKO forced him to shoot the film in black and white at the last minute. However, the black and white film had disappointing results at the box office. It initially lost $180,000, although it later had a successful re-release. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

The Four Feathers (1929 film)

The Four Feathers is a 1929 American war film directed by Merian C. Cooper and starring Fay Wray. The picture has the distinction of being one of the last major Hollywood pictures of the silent era. It was also released by Paramount Pictures in a version with a Movietone soundtrack with music and sound effects only. The film is the third of numerous film versions of the 1902 novel The Four Feathers written by A. E. W. Mason, and the cast features William Powell, Richard Arlen, Clive Brook and Noah Beery Sr.

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935 film)

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) is an RKO Radio Pictures film starring Preston Foster and directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, creators of the original King Kong. Although inspired by the novel of the same name by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the film has virtually nothing to do with the book.

The Lost Patrol (1934 film)

The Lost Patrol is a 1934 American pre-Code war film made by RKO. It was directed and produced by John Ford, with Merian C. Cooper as executive producer and Cliff Reid as associate producer. The screenplay was by Dudley Nichols, adapted by Garrett Fort from the novel Patrol by Philip MacDonald. The music score was by Max Steiner and the cinematography by Harold Wenstrom. The film is a remake of a 1929 British silent film, also named The Lost Patrol.The earlier film was directed and written by Walter Summers and is based on the same novel. The Lost Patrol stars Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny, J. M. Kerrigan and Alan Hale.The Lost Patrol was reprised in a number of films, the script was the basis for the 1936 Soviet film The Thirteen, set by director Mikhail Romm in the Central Asia desert during the Basmachi rebellion.

This Soviet film was then adapted in Sahara, featuring Humphrey Bogart and the 1995 remake featuring James Belushi. Last of the Comanches is a Western remake from 1953.

The Most Dangerous Game (film)

The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 pre-Code adaptation of the 1924 short story of the same name by Richard Connell, the first film version of that story. The plot concerns a big game hunter on an island who hunts humans for sport. The film stars Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and King Kong leads Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong; it was made by a team including Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, the co-directors of King Kong (1933). The film was shot at night on the King Kong jungle sets.

The Toy Wife

The Toy Wife is a 1938 American drama film directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Luise Rainer and Melvyn Douglas. The period film was produced by Merian C. Cooper and written by Zoë Akins.

This Is Cinerama

This is Cinerama is a 1952 full-length film directed by Merian C. Cooper and starring Lowell Thomas. It is designed to introduce the widescreen process Cinerama, which broadens the aspect ratio so the viewer's peripheral vision is involved. This is Cinerama premiered on September 30, 1952 at the Broadway Theatre, in New York City.

1928–1950
1951–1975
1976–2000
2001–present

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