I’m King Kong: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper (Christoper Bird/Kevin Brownlow, 2005): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed on TCM.

  Long before his collaborative work at Argosy Productions with the great John Ford, on such notable films as Fort Apache (1948), Rio Grande (1950), and The Quiet Man (1952), Merian C. Cooper co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed the tedious, though technologically advanced King Kong (1933).

King Kong features the work of skilled animator Willis O’Brien and his highly crafted, soft-mold over metal armature creatures, which were shot frame by frame for each movement and gesture, known as stop-motion animation.  The film also boasted an original score by maestro Max Steiner who scored many a screen hit, including Gone With The Wind (1939).  Steiner incorporated a leitmotif, which singled out a recurring theme identified with a particular character.  King Kong also has the distinction of having the lead character Carl Denham, loosely based on its creator – Merian C. Cooper.

I’m King Kong:  The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper  takes us back to a time long before Cooper’s Hollywood career began.  Born in 1893, Cooper joined the Naval Academy in 1912, but was forced to resign because of his outspoken views that the use of airplanes would lead to victory on the battlefield.

Cooper became a bomber pilot and was twice shot down, captured, and served time as a POW, first in WWI and again in the Polish-Soviet War, serving as a volunteer.  A strong proponent for the many uses of aircraft, Cooper later served on the Board of Pan American Airways.

In 1925, Cooper and two companions, Ernest B. Schoedsack and Marguerite Harrison, traveled to Persia in order to document on film, the migration of the Bakhtiari tribe in search of better pasture for their herd; it was an early ethnographic film, known as Grass.

After Paramount, Cooper went on to work for RKO, Selznick International, and MGM, before partnering with John Ford at Argosy, and eventually producing The Searchers in 1956.  Cooper also helped to advance film technologies such as Technicolor and Cinerama – the precursor to Widescreen.

Narrated by Alec Baldwin and presented through taped interviews, archival footage, film clips, stills, and talking head interviews, with exceptional editing, I’m King Kong exudes the curiosity, energy and enthusiasm that was Merian C. Cooper.

  A larger than life figure that rarely exists today, Cooper was “a real life Indiana Jones” type character that proclaimed  “I made myself be a champion…I’m King Kong!”

 

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