1933: “King Kong” Premieres in New York

The French poster for 1933’s “King Kong.”

On this date in 1933, the film “King Kong” premiered in New York.

Here are some things you may not have known about it.

“King Kong” is the tale of a wildlife filmmaker and his crew, who stumble upon an enormous gorilla-like ape on an uncharted island off of Indonesia.

The ape falls in love with the actress, Ann Darrow, played by Fay Wray. The ape is brought to New York City to be displayed, where he escapes and kidnaps Ann and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building.

At the time of production, there weren’t many zoos with primate exhibits, so there was public demand to see the animals. Hollywood filled this need with several jungle-themed adventure movies, including “Tarzan,” and “The Lost World” among others.

Among the actresses considered for the role of Ann Darrow were Dorothy Jordan, Jean Harlow and Ginger Rogers. Producers convinced Wray to take the role by promising to put her opposite the “tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood,” whom she took to mean Clark Gable, until she was shown a character design of King Kong.

Four models of Kong were built, two of them 18 inches tall, another 24 inches tall, and the last one made of lead and fur for the final scene in which the ape tumbles from the Empire State Building. A version of Kong’s head was built for closeups, however it was completely out of scale with the other models and would indicate that Kong was up to 40-feet tall, rather than his intended 18-foot height.

Film historians have rejected accounts that some scenes were filmed with an actor in a gorilla suit.

The film was also the first American talkie to have a feature-length score composed for it. Originally the studio, RKO, planned to reuse other music, but one of the producers paid $50,000 out of his own pocket. The studio later reimbursed him.

The film opened at Radio City Music Hall and RKO’s Roxy theater across the street. The two theaters, which sat a combined capacity of almost 10,000, were sold out for all 10 shows each of the first four days, setting a record for attendance at an indoor event.

“King Kong” made a profit of $650,000 on its first run. It was rereleased in 1938, 1942, 1946, 1952 and 1956. Each rerelease was censored more than the previous version.

It was selected as the 43rd best movie of the 20th Century by the American Film Institute, and the fourth best fantasy film of the same period. Rotten Tomatoes ranks “King Kong” as the best horror movie and the 20th best film.

The film was remade in 1976, starring Jessica Lange as the female lead, and in 2005 with Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow. A rebooted version called “Kong: Skull Island” is set to be released on March 10.

Our question: In what country was Fay Wray born?


Today is Texas Independence Day and Air Force Day in Sri Lanka.

It’s unofficially National Banana Cream Pie Day, and National Old Stuff Day.

It’s the birthday of author Dr. Seuss, who was born in 1904; musician Lou Reed, who was born in 1942; and musician Karen Carpenter, who was born in 1950.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1990, the top song in the U.S. was “Escapade” by Janet Jackson.

The No. 1 movie was “Driving Miss Daisy,” while the novel “Devices and Desires” by P.D. James topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: What television series had the second-most-watched finale in the U.S.?

Submit your answer at triviapeople.com/test and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at triviapeople.com. We’ll have the correct answer on tomorrow’s episode.



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