Sunday, September 12, 2021

RUTH ROSE: The Real "Ann Darrow", the 1933 "King Kong" Screenplay and More


On March 2, 1933, in New York City, New York, "RKO Pictures", held the World Premiere of "King Kong". Mention this motion picture and most people would immediately think of Fay Wray, who portrayed "Ann Darrow".

Wray wasn't the only woman in "Kong's" life and this is her story and the man she loved.

This is a tale, which reads like a motion picture screenplay, and perhaps it was, of two World War One veterans and one woman who entered their lives. The two veterans meet in Vienna, Austria, in 1918, after the First World War had ended. Their names were Merian C. Cooper, and, Ernest B. Schoedsack. 

Cooper had entered the war as an American flyer in October, 1917, and became a bomber pilot. After his chance meeting with Schoedsack in 1918, Merian C. Cooper became a volunteer pilot in the Polish Air Force during the 1919 through 1921, "Polish-Soviet War".

My article, "MERIAN C. COOPER: BEFORE 'KING KONG' TO 'CINERAMA", will be found at:

Schoedsack started his motion picture career in 1915, as a cameraman for producer Mack Sennett.

 His first short for Sennett, as Cinematographer, was 1915's, "Her Painted Hero".

In 1916, Ernest B. Schoedsack joined the "United States Army Signal Corps" as a cameraman and served in France, flying and filming during combat missions. His eyesight had been severely damaged during the war, but after it ended. Schoedsack toured Europe with his camera and had that meeting with another Signal Corps Vet, Merian C. Cooper.

Fate entered both Cooper's and Schoedsack's lives, as both men were hired by the "New York Times" for different reasons, but the paper put them together on a special assignment. 

In January 1923, the paper booked passage for the two men on the ship the "Wisdom II". Their assignment was supposed to be a round the World photographic tour for the paper's magazine, "Asia".

In February, Cooper, Schoedsack, the "Wisdom's" crew and other passengers were attacked by Asian Pirates. The pirates burned the "Wisdom" down, after being rescued by a passing merchant ship and returning to New York. Merian C. Cooper would write a story about these events for "Asia" magazine.

Both men left the "New York Times" and formed a partnership to make documentary motion pictures in Asia. 

In, August 1923, Marguerite Harrison, a journalist, showed up in Angora, today's, Ankara, Turkey, at the base camp for the documentary that Cooper and Schoesack were preparing to shoot. The subject matter was a branch of the Bakhtari People of Persia, who seasonally moved their cattle to higher and greener pastures.

Harrison presented the two men, who shared directing the feature, $5,000 to help finance the project. Asking them to allow her to cover their production during the shoot. Merian C. Cooper immediately agreed, but, Ernest B. Schoedsack couldn't figure out why she showed up in the first place? He would complain the Marguerite Harrison did absolutely nothing, but appear on film. 

Cooper probably knew, because both Harrison and, it is believed, Cooper, were spy's working for the "Office of Strategic Services (OSS)", the forerunner of the "C.I.A.". She was investigating a murder of an American diplomat and Marguerite was using the documentary as a cover.

What both men didn't know, was back on November 21, 1922, Harrison had been arrested and until, February 20, 1923, spent time in a Russian prison. Once free, after a small time to rest, she received new orders and joined the Angora production. Cooper could sympathize with Marguerite Harrison, as he had escaped, in 1920, after spending six months in a Soviet Prisoner-of-War camp.

Below, Merian C. Cooper, Marguerite Harrison, and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Depending upon the site, the woman in the photo is either identified as Harrison, or Ruth Rose. The date appears to be October 1923, the location is clearly marked as Angora. So, there is no possibility of the woman being Ruth Rose, as my reader will learn.

On March 20, 1925, the first on-screen collaboration between Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper appeared. "Grass: A Nation's Battle For Life", was distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Ruth Rose, was the daughter of major playwright, Edward E, Rose, and a one-time Broadway ingenue, seen below, in a 1910 production of the play, "Pietro", with Ottis Skinner. Rose was 14-years-old at the time, but I move forward to, February 11, 1925.

On that date, Ruth Rose was working as the official historian for the "New York Zoological Society", on an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, on-board the ship, "Arcturus". The expedition was led by American naturalist, ornithologist, marine biologist, and entomologist, Charles Willian Beebe. There is some confusion, as some sites claim the expedition took place in 1926, but that was the year Beebe published his book about it.

The actual dates of the expedition were the aforementioned, February 11, 1925, through, July 30, 1925.

The crew of the "Arcturus", was made up of members of the "Wildlife Conservation Society", that Ruth Rose was a member, and, Ernest B. Schoedsack the expeditions official cinematographer.. 

Above, Ruth Rose, and the monkey, "Chiriqui", admire the work of Isabel Cooper, no relation to Merian C. Cooper.

On this voyage, Ruth and Ernest, first met, and fell in love. They would be married in 1926, according to some websites, or where just partners through their life, according to others. Either way they stayed together until her passing in 1978.

On April 29, 1927, Schoedsack and Cooper released another of their documentaries, "Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness", about a poor farmer in Northern Thailand. It was also distributed by Paramount Pictures. After which, the two decided to make a feature film for release by Paramount.

Their first feature film was released in June 1929. Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, had co-produced the motion picture with David O. Selnick, and co-directed with Lothar Mendes. This was the third filmed version of author A.E. W. Mason's, "The Four Feathers", and was the last major silent film made in Hollywood. 

The motion picture starred William Powell, Richard Arlen, Clive Brook, Noah Beery, Sr. and an actress who had been appearing since, 1923, in shorts and silent "B" Westerns. Her name was Fay Wray!

The same people who believe Fay Wray was the only girl in "Kong's" life. Seem to also believe that 1933's, "King Kong", was her first starring role. Among Wray's other leading roles prior to that feature, were the first two all Technicolor Horror motion pictures released by Warner Brothers. My article, "FAY WRAY BEFORE 'KING KONG", can be read at:

In 1931, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, produced separate films, and IF, my reader wants to look at them as predictive of two years later, by all means do so.

Schoedsack wrote and directed 1931's, "Rango", about a young man and his pet orangutan. The story was set in Sumatra, and tells how "Rango" saves the boy's life from a tiger attack.

While Cooper, acted as producer for what ended up as a six-minute short subject entitled, "Creation". There was actually 20-minutes of test footage for a larger picture by Stop Motion Animator Willis O'Brien . However, David O. Selznick, considered the project too expensive. Little did he, or Merian C. Cooper, who considered the project idea boring, have any vision of what would come two years later.

My article, "WILLIS O'BRIEN: 1925's 'The Lost World' and the Story of Gwangi", can be read at:

Considered a Pre-Motion Picture Code Horror motion picture, was producers Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack and David O. Selznick's, still outstanding version of author Richard Connell's, "The Most Dangerous Game", released on September 16, 1932.

Importantly, Cooper, Schoedsack and Selznik had moved from controlling Paramount Pictures to liberal RKO Radio Pictures. 

The feature was co-directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

The motion picture starred Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks and Robert Armstrong.

Above, Fay Wray and Joel McCrea, and, below, Leslie Banks.

Above, Robert Armstrong, like Fay Wray, when everyone thinks of the actor. It's usually, "King Kong" first! My article, "ROBERT ARMSTRONG: It Wasn't All 'The Eighth Wonder of the World', His Brat, or 'Joe" may be found at:

There's another actor in this feature film, that seems only to be associated with "King Kong", as the "Native Chief of Skull Island". Yet, people overlook, among his other accomplishments, that Nobel Johnson had formed one of the first African-American Motion Picture Companies, was a Civil Rights advocate and co-founder of the NAACP, and worked portraying Native Americans for director John Ford.

My article, "NOBLE JOHNSON African-America Pioneer Actor" may be read at:

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace was an acclaimed British mystery and crime novelist. Who had moved from the cold climate of the United Kingdom to the warm climate of California and was living in Beverly Hills! In December 1931, Merian C. Cooper met with, then, RKO contract writer Wallace, to write an outline for a possible screenplay about a giant gorilla.

Wallace wrote a 110-page treatment and submitted it in January 1932. Initially, it was called "The Beast", but was changed to "Kong" and Cooper dropped that title out of fear of confusion from his previous 1927, documentary "Chang". Unfortunately, Edgar Wallace passed away the following February.

Cooper did not use any of the treatment, but as he had promised Edgar Wallace, gave the writer full on-screen credit for the released motion picture.

Next, contract writer James Ashmore Creelman, who was working on "The Most Dangerous Game", was given Wallace's screenplay to rewrite. Cooper and Creelman, now calling the motion picture, "The Eighth Wonder", started to work on concepts.

One of the problems with Wallace's story was it dealt with escaping convicts. There was a big game hunter named, "Danby Denham", that Creelman had changed to film director "Carl Denham". The girl, "Shirley", who loves one of the convicts, became "Ann Darrow". While, her convict-lover, "John", became "First Mate Jack Driscoll". Wallace had "Cute moments" with the gorilla and they were dropped, because Merian C. Cooper wanted a hard and tough story line.

Creelman had to leave the rewrite to complete the other film's screenplay and two uncredited contract writers, Horace McCoy and Leon Gordon, added to the plot. When, Creelman returned, he didn't like Gordon's mythic elements, but Cooper did. A short time later, James Ashmore Creelman's final draft was presented to Cooper and Schoedsack, but they didn't like what they read.

The screenplay was to get another complete rewrite, but keeping the mythic elements. The new screenplay writer was Ernest B. Schoedsack's wife, Ruth Rose.

Ruth started by writing biographies of the three main characters. "Carl Denham" took on a recognizable likeness to Merian C. Cooper. That would be verified, at the film's release, by many who knew Cooper. While, according to the "Encyclopedia Britannica", Ruth Rose's husband, Ernest Schoedsack, became "Jack Driscoll". Remembering her expedition to the Gallipolis Islands and other interacting with the "Wildlife Conservation Society". Rose incorporated those and other elements of her own life to create the leading lady, "Ann Darrow".


Below the cover of the "First Edition", novelization, by Delos W. Lovelace, of Ruth Rose's screenplay for "King Kong". The book was published, three-months prior to the pictures release, by Grossett and Dunlap, in December1932,

The Three Reading Roles went to:

Fay Wray as "Ann Darrow". Twenty-seven days after the release of "King Kong", Fay Wray was billed second, to Ralph Bellamy, in the forgotten search for a World War One submarine containing gold bullion, "Below the Sea".

Robert Armstrong portrayed "Carl Denham". Eight-days after the release of "King Kong", Robert Armstrong had second billing, between silent screen leading man, John Gilbert, and Mae Clarke, "Elisabeth" in director James Whale's, 1931, "Frankenstein", in the forgotten drama, "Fast Workers".

Bruce Cabot portrayed "Jack Driscoll". Eight-days after the release of "King Kong", Bruce Cabot had a role that was so small that he had no credit, or is there even a name and description of the role given. The picture was the forgotten action-adventure comedy, "Scarlett River". That he co-starred with, Creighton Chaney, before he changed his name to Lon Chaney, Jr.

The Three Supporting Roles:

Frank Reicher portrayed "Captain Englehorn". One-month after the release of "King Kong", Reicher's next motion picture was a musical-comedy romance, "A Bedtime Story", starring Maurice Chevalier, Helen Twelvetrees, and Edward Everett Horton. Later, the actor would appear in two more screenplays by Ruth Rose. 

Nobel Johnson, as I previously mentioned, was the "Native Chief". Eight-days after the release of "King Kong", Noble Johnson was another "Native Chief", in the forgotten drama, "White Woman", starring Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton, and Charles Bickford. Noble Johnson would appear in two more screenplays by Ruth Rose.

Victor Wong portrayed the uncredited role of, "Charlie the Chinese Cook". Eight-days after the release of "King Kong". Wong would appear, again without credit, in the "White Woman". Later, he would appear in one more Ruth Rose screenplay.

It was decided that Ernest B. Schoedsack would direct the "live action", he also worked the camera for some shots, and Merian C. Cooper would direct the technical aspects of the motion picture.

Stop Motion Animator Willis O'Brien. O'Brien received credit, under the title of "Additional Crew", as the, "Chief Technician", but no credit, as one of the four "Visual Effects Supervisors".

Model maker Marcel Delgado had the uncredited titles of, "Visual Effects Model Maker" and "Visual Effects Technician". Delgado had worked with Willis O'Brien, on 1925's, "The Lost World". While, O'Brien animated "Kong" and the other dinosaurs, it was Delgado who constructed them.

My article, 'MARCEL DELGADO: The Artist That Built 'King Kong", will be found at:

An important part of making a audience believe what they are seeing on-screen comes from the "Art Department". It is the "Art Director", who works closely with both the producer and director of a feature film, and takes the screenplay to design "The Look of the Picture". In the case of 1933's, "King Kong", his name was Carroll Clark.

Clark had the uncredited titles of, "Art Director", and, "Production Design". While, Carrol Clark is credited in the, "Art Department", for the "Settings" of the picture. Clark would go on to be nominated ten times for an "Academy Award" on his future projects. These included both Alfred Hitchcock's, 1941, "Suspicion", and, 1946's, "Notorious", and among his work for Walt Disney, 1956's, "The Great Locomotive Chase", 1957's, "Old Yeller", 1959's, "Darby O'Gill and the Little People", and 1964'a, "Mary Poppins".

The final element in bringing a motion picture to life is the music. Sometimes it's so subtle that the audience is actually unaware of it, but that was not the case with Max Steiner's classic score for "King Kong". There was a overture to the picture, that ran four-minutes in length, when the feature was originally released.

Steiner had started composing scores for silent films in 1916. For Cooper and Schoedsack, he had composed the score to 1932's, "The Most Dangerous Game", and would compose another three after this feature. Probably, the most known Max Steiner score was for 1939's, "Gone with the Wind", but he also composed the scores for 1942's, "Casablanca", and 1948's, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

In the end it wasn't "Beauty that killed the Beast", it was Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack flying the bi-plane that shoots their "King Kong" off the Empire State Building.

Ruth Rose wrote the screenplay for another Merian C. Cooper production that was directed by her husband, entitiled, "Blind Adventure", released on August 18, 1933.

The plot has an American businessman visiting London, England, and accidently uncovering a criminal ring. 

This was a typical, RKO, "B" feature, but was actually used to kill time for Cooper, Schoedsack, Rose,  Robert Armstrong and Helen Mack. While, Willis O'Brien began working on the Stop Motion Animation for another feature film. One, that all five, were involved with making, but it was to soon to start live action shooting on.

That motion picture came from David O. Selznick and the RKO Executives demanding that a sequel to the successful "King Kong", be filmed, and released, before the end of 1933. Ruth Rose had written the screenplay, O'Brien began his work, and the above six-day wonder was shot.

"The Son of Kong", aka: "Son of Kong", was released nine months after "Daddy", on December 22, 1933.

As the above title card indicates, Merian C. Cooper was the Executive Producer, and his partner, Ernest B. Schoedsack was the producer and director of the feature.

Keeping the picture within their family, as I stated above, Ruth Rose wrote the entire screenplay from a story idea of her own. Rose, with her husband and Cooper's approval, intentionally did not make a serious story. Even though the RKO executives wanted one and the audience, initially, thought they were getting one. In a sense, "The Son of Kong", was a "Family Film"!

When later asked about her reasoning, Ruth, replied to many inquirers that her logic was simply, that they could not surpass the original "King Kong", and:
If you can't make it bigger, make it funnier.

Robert Armstrong has been quoted as saying he preferred the second screenplay, because it gave depth to his character of "Carl Denham".

Helen Mack portrayed the character of "Hilda Petersen", per Rose's screenplay and the film's credits, but you never hear the actress called by that name. Her character's father refers to his daughter by the stage name of, "La Belle Helene", and Carl Denham just keeps referring to her as "Kid". 

Mack would go from second billing to fourth in the feature "All of Me", released February 1, 1934. However, the first three billed actors, in order, are, Fredrick March, Miriam Hopkins and George Raft. The screenplay, his third, was written by Thomas Mitchell, two years before he changed his profession from writer to motion picture actor.

Seeing that she wasn't making "Little Kong" or "Baby Kong", that according to the screenplay is actually named "Kiko", the villain of her piece. Ruth Rose needed to create one

John Marston portrayed "Norwegian Sea Captain Nils Helstrom", Rose's villain. Of Marston's sixteen motion pictures prior to this film, eleven were in non-credited small roles. 


Besides "Carl Denham", Ruth Rose brought back three of her other characters from "King Kong".

Frank Reicher was once again, "Captain Englehorn". Reicher had just been seen, without credit, in 1933's, "Ever in My Heart", starring Barbara Stanwyck, and would follow this picture with, 1934's, "8 Girls in a Boat", in another role without any credit.

Victor Wong, now with full on-screen credit, was back at "Charlie, the Chinese Cook". As already  mentioned, Wong proceeded this picture with "White Woman", without credit, and followed this feature as a "Japanese fisherman", without credit, in 1935's, "Vagabond Lady".

Noble Johnson had the small role, once again without credit, of the "Native Chief". Johnson had just portrayed "The Torturer", without credit, in comedian Eddie Cantor's, musical comedy, 1933, "Roman Scandals", and followed this feature, without credit, as an "Indian Leader", in the 1934 Western, "Massacre", starring Richard Barhelmess and Ann Dorvak.

Willis O'Brien was once more, under "Additional Crew", the credited "Chief Technician", he was an uncredited "Special Effects Technician". While, Marcel Delgado was only listed under, "Additional Crew", as part of the "Technical Staff". 

O'Brien planned to reuse the models, from "Creation", that he had used in "King Kong". O'Brien had made sketches for new sequences, but they were never filmed. Like, Cooper and Schoedsack, O'Brien faced the shorten time line demanded by RKO and the budget.

The budget for "King Kong" was $672,254, but RKO was only permitting a budget of $269,000 for "The Son of Kong".

One of the original armatures made by Delgado that became "Kong", was used for his son, but with different rabbit fur. The size of "Kong's" son is smaller than dad, "Kiko", is 12 feet tall.

While dad's size varied from scene to scene.

Merian C. Cooper envisioned, and used in the novel, a gorilla between 40 and 50 feet tall. However, according to Ruth Rose's screenplay, "King Kong", is 18 feet tall, and was made that size by O'Brien and Delgado for the "Skull Island" sequences. However, the models for New York City make "Kong" appear to be 24 feet tall. When Fay Wray, below, is in his hand, "Kong" would have to have been at least 75 feet tall. The RKO publicity department went with Cooper and advertised "King Kong" as 50 feet tall. So, take your pick.


Below, it is obvious that "The Son of Kong" is approximately twice the size of "Carl Denham".

To cut costs, besides using the armature of "King Kong", the Brontosaurus from the earlier feature was reused. Models of a Triceratops, and a Styracosaurus that had been made for test filming of the first movie, but not used, now were. 

New models included a Cave Bear, a Elasmosaurus, two different flying reptiles, and a Nothosaurus.

Max Steiner composed the musical score and used some of the score from the previous motion picture.

Ruth Rose’s screenplay is simply a love story. Touch guy, in his own mind, “Carl Denham”, falls in love with “Hilda Petersen”, who has fallen for "Carl", but neither wants to tell the other. Enter, “The Son of Kong”, as the match maker.

The story starts in New York City a month after the destruction by "Kong". "Carl Denham" is facing lawsuits, and bill collectors. He is almost bankrupt and goes to "Captain Englehorn", who sees the same fate heading his way. The two take "Englehorn's" ship to sea as partners in a cargo business.

They arrive at the Dutch port of Dakang and "Denham" sees a terrible show with trained monkeys and "Hilda Petersen" attempting to be a singer. 

However, "Carl Denham" feels for the girl, whose father runs the show in an old side-show circus tent.

That night, her father is with his drinking partner, "Captain Helstrom", who lost his ship under very questionable circumstances, the two have an argument and "Petersen" is killed and the circus tent catches fire and burns to the ground.

The following day "Carl Denham" meets "Nils Helstrom", and this is the main plot point, made by Ruth Rose in her screenplay, that ties "King Kong" to "The Son of Kong". "Helstrom" is the source of "Denham's" map to "Skull Island". Sitting with "Denham" is "Captain Englehorn" and "Helstrom" realizes they're his way out of port, before the death of "Petersen" can be tied to him.

"Helstrom" quickly asks the other two, if they found the treasure on "Skull Island"? This will lead to a sailing the following day with all three men on-board. However, that night, "Carl" finds "Hilda", and learns of the tragic death of her father and she asks to go with him. "Denham" refuses, but at sea, she is found by "Charlie the Cook" as a stow-a-way. Finding "Helsrrom" on the ship leads him to threaten the young woman, if she tells anyone about his involvement with her father's death.

The ship reaches "Skull Island", "Helstrom" has organized a mutiny to take command. It only partially works, because the crew wants none of him and he is put in the rowboat with "Denham", "Hilda", and "Englehorn". "Charlie" joins the others and they start to row to "Skull Island" as the ship leaves. On the island they immediately meet the natives, but they will have nothing to do with "Denham" and "Englehorn". Who, like the residents of New York City, blame the two for the destruction of their village by "King Kong"!

They find another landing spot and separate into two groups to find food and shelter! "Hilda" and "Carl" discover "Baby Kong", who is injured and she gets him to bandage the gorilla's hand. Which worries "Denham", first because he's treating a 12-foot gorilla, and, second, he killed the gorilla's father.

At one point, the Nothosaurus attacks "Hilda" and "Carl", and "Little Kong" comes to their rescue. This seems to be a remake of the battle between "King Kong" and the Plesiosaurs to save "Ann Darrow".

Above "King Kong" and below, "Son of Kong".

After the fight, the treasure is found by "Hilda" and "Carl" with "Kiko's" help. "Helstrom" keeps causing problems and the discovery of the treasure is kept from him. A violent storm starts and a small earthquake rocks "Skull Island". When "Helstrom" attempts to get away from the island by stealing the rowboat. He is killed by the Elasmosaurs and the boat drifts back to shore. 

The earthquake becomes more violent and it is now certain the island will be destroyed. "Denham", "Hilda", "Englehorn", and "Charlie" take the rowboat and head out to sea, but "Carl" falls overboard. As "Skull Island" sinks into the ocean, "The Son of Kong", saves "Carl Denham" and then he sinks with the island to be seen no more.


"Carl" now shows the others the large jewel he kept. His plan is to split its sale four-ways, but "Hilda" informs "Carl" that a three-way split will work just fine.

British author Sir Henry Rider Haggard, better known as H. Rider Haggard, wrote two classic adventure novels. In 1885, it was "King Solomon's Mines", and in 1886, it was "SHE". Both have been turned into several motion pictures and my article, "H. RIDER HAGGARD ON THE MOTION PICTURE SCREEN: Ayesha and Allan Quatermain", can take my reader to high adventure at:

On July 12, 1935, Merian C. Cooper released the first sound version of H. Rider Haggard's novel, "SHE".

Back in 1932, Universal Pictures had announced that they had acquired the rights to the novel, but didn't go through with the production. In 1934, RKO Radio Pictures, and Cooper, acquired the rights from Universal. 

Familiar with Haggard's work, this was the kind of picture Cooper liked to make. His partner, Ernest B. Schoedsack was not involved with the production and was working on another project that I will speak to, next.

The hard work of adapting the novel into a motion picture story was given to Schoedsack's wife, Ruth Rose. One of the first things she did, was move the setting from the African interior to the Himalaya mountains of Tibet, a more adventurous setting at the time. Other changes included turning "Leo Vincey" into an American, which was related to the proposed casting of the character, who is called to England. Rose eliminates one main character, "Job", "Holly's" trusted assistant completely, but ads a minor character, a guide named "Dugmore". She also changed "Ustane, of the Amahaggar" into "Tanya Dugmore".

Rose does keep H. Rider Haggard's basic plot and the motion picture does remain as good, today, as when it was released in 1935.

The following colorized photos are from the 2006 colorization under the direction of Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen.

The Four Leading Roles are:

Helen Gahagan portrayed "Aylesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed". This was stage actress Gahagan's only motion picture. She would marry actor Melvyn Douglas and become a member of the United States House of Representatives from California. Douglas ran for the Senate in 1950, but the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, started referring to her as "The Pink Lady", based upon the idea that she wore "Pink Underwear". Most Californians took that as Nixon implying Helen Gahagan Douglas was a Communist Sympathizer, this being the Era of Senator Eugene McCarthy. Nixon won the election, but because of his false tactics, earned the nickname of "Tricky Dicky".

Randolph Scott portrayed "Leo Vincey". This was early Randolph Scott and he had just been seen in the forgotten, 1935, drama, "Village Tale". He followed this picture with third billing after the dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, in 1936's, "Follow the Fleet".

Helen Mack portrayed "Tanya Dugmore". Mack proceeded this feature in fourth billing in the forgotten 1935, detective thriller, "Four Hours to Kill". She would follow this picture, co-starring with Lionel Barrymore, in the fantasy comedy, 1935's, "The Return of Peter Grimm".

Nigel Bruce portrayed "Horace Holly". Bruce turned his characterization of "Holly" into "Dr. Watson", for 1939's "The Hound of the Baskervilles", co-starring Basil Rathbone as "Sherlock Holmes". Bruce had sixth billing, prior to this feature, in 1935's, "Becky Sharp", starring Miriam Hopkins and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. He would follow this picture with the forgotten 1935 drama, "Jalna".

The music was from Max Steiner and Van Nest Polglase was the "Art Director". Polglase designed the "Art Deco" sets for the hidden city of "Kor". "Art Deco" was the fade in the United Stares at the time.

Ruth Rose's story, the screenplay was written by Dudley Nichols from it, with additional dialogue and changes by Rose, briefly has:

American "Leo Vincey" called back to his ancestral home in England by his uncle, "John Vincey", played by Samuel S. Hinds.

With the help of historian and ancient language specialist, "Horace Holly". "John" convinces "Leo" that 500-years ago, his ancestor, also named "John Vincey", played by Randolph Scott in a flashback, discovered the fountain of youth. The ancestor replaced Haggard's, "Kallikrates". The dying uncle now brings out a box that "Leo's" father gave to him for safe keeping, until "Leo" reached a certain age.

Inside the box is a journal with a map and directions from the ancestor to the legendary "Lost City of Kor". Now Rose's version of Haggard switches to "Leo" and "Horace's" journey, after burying this his uncle.

The two meet the guide "Dugmore", played by Lumsen Hare, and he will lead them into the frozen wastelands of the Himalaya's with his daughter as the three men's cook and somewhat slave. 

On a frozen ledge the four find a prehistoric creature frozen solid in the ice with a man. Below, "Dugmore" and the frozen man.


"Dugmore" panics at the site and accidently falls off the ledge and the remaining three find a cave entrance and perceived safety.

Inside, they meet the seemingly friendly Amahaggar people, and, Ruth Rose's story basically follows H. Rider Haggard's novel from this point forward.

Above, speaking to the three is the "Amahaggar Chief", played by Noble Johnson. They will be fed as the Amahaggar prepare to sacrifice and eat them.

Just before the red-hot head-piece is to be placed on "Holly", the High Priest of "Kor", "Billali", played by Gustav von Seyfferitz, appears with soldiers and saves them. He takes "Leo", "Tanya" and "Holly" to "Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed", and the Chief, several Amahaggar men as prisoners.

"Ayesha" almost faints in shock, as she looks upon the face of "Leo", why? "Leo" is very ill and "Ayesha" permits "Tanya" to care for him.

After "Leo" recovers, along with "Tanya" and "Holly", he witnesses how "Ayesha" keeps power. She orders the Amahaggar prisoners put to death for disobeying her order to bring any stranger to her.


Next, "Leo" learns that his ancestor's source of eternal youth was from a secret known only to "Ayesha". In fact, she shows him the body of his ancestor looking as young as he was 500 years before. To "SHE", "Leo Vincey", is the answer to her prayers. Her reincarnated lover has returned, but she also admits in a fit of anger, "Ayesha" had murdered "Leo's" ancestor.

"Ayesha" wants "Leo" to rule at her side, but the question going through "Leo's" mind. IF he's "Ayesha's" reincarnated love from 500-years ago, how old is she?

Should Helen Gahagan's costume, by Aline Bernstein, seems familiar, and you've never seen this movie. In 1937, Walt Disney, who considered Merian C. Cooper's "SHE", one of his favorite live action motion pictures, released "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

"Ayesha" considers "Tanya" competition for "Leo" and arranges to have her kidnapped and murdered, before "Leo's" eyes, without him knowing.

Of course, her plans fail and she now trays another tact involving eternal youth. "Ayesha" reveals she is 2,000-years old and wants "Leo Vincey" to step into the "Flame of Life" with her. He hesitates and she offers to go first, but instead of continued youth, it is taken away from her.


In 79 A.D. the Italian port city of Pompeii was destroyed by the volcano, "Mount Vesuvious". In 1834, Edward Bulwer-Lytton published his novel, "The Last Days of Pompeii". Many film versions of the novel had been made since dueling Italian films in 1913. 

In 1923, Cecil B. DeMille had released his original silent classic, "The Ten Commandments", and discovered "Biblical Sex" sold and that the motion picture censors stayed away. For that story and others, read my article: "The Bible According to Hollywood", at:

Even when creating documentary features, Merian C. Cooper, a religious man, thought that someday he might make his own "Biblical" motion picture like DeMille. Whose last was, 1932's, "The Sign of the Cross", but Cooper never could get the backing needed for such a project. Now, at RKO Radio Pictures, the way forward was cleared. Although not biblical, Cecil B. DeMille's, "Cleopatra", starring Claudette Colbert, from his 1932 feature, was a financial success and the executives at RKO bought into Cooper's idea,

Cooper chose Bulwer-Lytton's novel as the basis for combining spectacle with the teachings of "Jesus". That he wanted to bring to the motion picture screen, the feature would be released on October 18, 1935

It was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and a uncredited Merian C. Cooper.

The musical score was by Roy Webb this time. Webb's work started with the 1929, original, "Rio Rita", and included, but not limited too, in 1935 alone, the Richard Dix Western, "The Arizonian", Katharine Hepburn's, "Alice Adams", Miriam Hopkin's, "Becky Sharp", the Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Foster, "Annie Oakley", and, Katharine Hepburn's, "Sylvia Scarlett".

Willis O'Brien was the credited "Chief Technician", but Marcel Delgado was the uncredited and only, "Visual Effects Artist and Miniature Builder".

The screenplay assignment was given to Ruth Rose and as the story begins, the following appears on-screen:

Although ... the characters and plot have no relation to those in the novel by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, acknowledgement is made of his description of Pompeii which has inspired the physical setting of this picture.

Ruth worked with an original story treatment by James Ashmore Creelman. 

The Four Leading Roles:

Preston Foster portrayed "Marcus". Foster who portrayed the title character in the first all-Technicolor Horror movie, 1932's, "Dr. X", that starred Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill, had just been seen in the previously mentioned, Western, "The Arizonian", and would follow this feature with, the previously mentioned, "Annie Oakley".

Alan Hale, Sr. portrayed "Burbix". Hale had just been seen in Cecil B. DeMille's, 1935, "The Crusades", and would follow this picture with the comedy crime drama, 1935's, "Another Face".

Basil Rathbone portrayed "Pontius Pilate". Rathbone had just been in the Greta Garbo and Frederick March, 1935 version of Russian author Leo Tolstoy's, "Anna Karenina", and would follow this feature with the forgotten, 1935, drama, "A Feather in Her Hat".

John Wood portrayed the grown "Flavis". Between 1934 and 1952, Wood only appeared fifteen times on-screen. During the Second World War, Australian Wood, was captured by the Japanese and spent several years in a Prisoner of War camp.


Above, John Wood with Dorothy Wilson portraying "Clodia".

According to Ruth Rose, "Marcus" is a blacksmith with a loving wife, "Julia", played by Gloria Shea, and a new son.

Everything seems to be going their way, until tragically, both mother and son are run down by a person in a chariot.

Having run out of money to pay for medicines and doctors. "Marcus" goes to the gladiator games and enters, wins and is paid, gets the needed medicine, but returning home. "Marcus" finds the gladiatorial fight was all in vain, as both his wife and son are dead.

The embittered "Marcus" now become a professional gladiator without feelings.


In one of his matches, "Marcus" kills his opponent, only to discover the man had a son whose mother had previously died. "Marcus" adopts the boy, "Flavius", played by David Holt.

"Marcus" hires a slave, "Leaster", played by Wyrley Birch, to teach his son, but concerned about the boy. Now, makes the gladiator overly cautious, loses a match injuring himself, and ending his career. 

"Marcus" reluctantly accepts a job from slaver, "Cleon", played by William V. Mong, raiding African villages and taking their men. On one such raid, he is stopped by a father protecting his son. "Marcus" lets him go and becomes a merchant trader hoping to become rich. As a merchant he buys "Burbix" as his personal servant, but as time passes they two men become friends and "Burbix" does not leave after being freed.

One day "Marcus" rescues a fortune teller who predicts that one day he will be saved by:
The Greatest Man in Judea

"Marcus" takes "Favius" to Jerusalem to meet the one man he believes is the one the fortune teller is speaking about, "Pontius Pilate". Stopping at an Inn, a man tells "Marcus" that the "Greatest Man" is outback, sleeping in the stable, like the one he was born in, and "Marcus" just laughs it off.

In Jerusalem, "Pilate" meets "Marcus" and "Flavius". Learning that "Marcus" was a gladiator, "Pontius Pilate" offer him a job. "Marcus" will lead a group of raiders against the chief of the Ammonites, present day Jordan, who has been causing the Governor problems, and any spoils are his to keep. 

"Marcus" returns home with many fine horses and much treasure, but discovers "Flavius" was thrown from a horse and is near death. All the towns' doctors seem to be away, but "Marcus" hears of a healer and takes "Flavius" to the grotto that the healer is in.


"Marcus" goes to his friend, "Pilate" with his story and discovers the healer was "Jesus" and the governor has sentenced him to death. In Ruth Rose's story, "Pontius Pilate" is remorseful of condemning "Jesus" to death.

While, leaving Jerusalem, "Marcus", "Flavius" and his retainers are approached by one of the Apostles asking for his help in saving "Jesus". He refuses, and as they leave Jerusalem, father and son, notice three crosses upon the hill of Calvary.

Ruth Rose moves forward several years, "Marcus" is a wealthy man and the head of the main arena in Pompeii. He is still friends with "Pilate", but "Flavius" is secretly helping Christian slaves escape and is in love with a Christian girl.

"Pontius Pilate" arrives in Pompeii and visits his old friend "Marcus".

Above, "Flavius" mentions his memories of a man who spoke of love and compassion. His father replies that there was never such a man. 

"Pilate": "Don't lie to him, Marcus. There was such a man."
"Flavius: "What happened to him?"
"Pilate": "I crucified him!"

"Pontius Pilate" leaves and "Flavius" is arrested for his crimes of freeing slaves. "Marcus" fails to get his son released, but learns of his love for "Clodia".

Then Mount Vesuvius erupts.

"Marcus" saves his son and "Clodia", as he holds open a gate to a boat on the water, "Flavius", "Clodia", "Burbix" and others reach it. However, a building falls on "Marcus" and as he dying. "Marcus" is "Saved" by a vision of "Jesus", who comes to him, as the fortune teller had predicted to lead the redeemed man to heaven.

My article about the real Pompeii's destruction, the novel, and the motion pictures, "POMPEII DESTROYED: Motion Pictures VS Reality", can be read at:

Released on April 12, 1940, producer Merian C. Cooper was one of three producers for director Ernest B. Schoedsack. The motion picture was the classic science fiction horror movie, "Dr. Cyclops". The story is about a scientist in the Peruvian jungle who shrinks a group of people including a scientist who disagreed with his theories. The title comes from the group breaking one lenses of the mad scientists glasses, forcing him to see only out of the other.

Both Cooper's and Schoedsack's movie careers came to an abrupt stop on December 7, 1941. Both men joined the United States Army Signal Corps as others in Hollywood were doing. 

Merian C. Cooper's story and the inventing of the process that became "Cinerama", during the Second World War, can be read at the above link about him. 

Ernest B. Schoedsack while testing high altitude photographic equipment, accidently dropped his oxygen face mask and severely injured his eyes as I have mentioned. 

It wouldn't be until 1947, that Cooper, Schoedsack, and Rose came together again. Ernest B. Schoedsack and his wife, had not worked on anything after "Dr. Cyclops". 

However, Merian C. Cooper had, without credit, co-financed three motion pictures for another member of both the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and a United States Navy Reservist, director and Naval Commander, John Ford.

The pictures were:

1947's, "The Fugitive", starring Henry Fonda, Dolores del Rio and Pedro Armendariz.
1948's, "Fort Apache", starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Shirley Temple.
1948's, "3 Godfathers', starring John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey, Jr.
1949's, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, and John Agar.

Now, John Ford assisted his friend as co-producer on a picture released, July 27, 1949:

Merian C. Cooper had the idea for the story in 1947, and Ruth Rose brought it alive in a great screenplay. While, her husband Ernest B. Schoedsack, directed the live action sequences during 1948., but was having problems with his eyesight. It is possible that Cooper, or Ford directed some sequences without on-screen credit.

Willis O'Brien was hired in 1947, and is credited as "Special Effects Technical Creator". O'Brien won his only "Academy Award for Best Special Effects". However, he was only up against one other motion picture, "Tulsa", that starred Susan Hayward, Robert Preston, and Pedro Armendariz. Additionally, the rules, at the time, of "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences" stated that the "Oscar" would be presented to the producer, Merian C. Cooper, and not O'Brien. Cooper would give the statue to Willis O'Brien.

Marcel Delgado was credited as "Special Effects Technical Staff". 

The other main member of O'Brien's staff was hired in 1947, and was an ex-member of motion picture director Colonel Frank Capra's, United States Army Special Services Division. His name was Ray Harryhausen, in actuality, it was Harryhausen that did all the Stop Motion Animation on the motion picture, seen below:

Below, Ernest B. Schoedsack inspects one of the set ups to be animated by Ray Harryhausen.

The Four Leading Roles:

Terry Moore portrayed "Jill Young". Moore was in a relationship with Howard Hughes, the major owner of RKO Radio Pictures at the time of this film. According to Moore, in a April 26, 1976 issue of "People Magazine", and a July 9, 2000, interview for the "Desert News". She secretly married Howard Hughes, in 1949, in a ceremony performed in International Waters by a ship's captain. At some point, according to Terry Moore, Howard Hughes destroyed the ships log that recorded the marriage and they separated and she first remarried, Glenn Davis, in 1951.

Moore had just been seen in 1948's, "The Return of October", co-starring with Glenn Ford. She would follow this picture with 1950's, "The Great Rupert", co-starring with Jimmy Durante.

Ben Johnson portrayed "Gregg". Johnson came to this picture, because of John Ford. Johnson had brought horses to the film site for 1948's, "Fort Apache". The horse wrangler was watching Ford filming a scene of a wagon with three people crossing the desert. When suddenly, the horses bolted and the wagon became a real run-away, but nobody was reacting except Ben Johnson. He jumped on his horse, rode out and stopped the wagon saving the people. Ford had his cameras still running and when Johnson returned to the corral. He was met by John Ford and signed to a seven-year personal contract. Among Ben Johnson's John Ford movies, are two as "Travis Tyree", 1949's, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", which was released  before this picture, and 1950's, "Rio Grande". That had followed another John Ford picture with Johnson, Joanne Dru, and Harry Carey, Jr., the overlooked, 1950 classic, "Wagon  Master".

My article on Johnson, that mentions, among his other roles, both director Sam Peckinpah's, 1965, "Major Dundee", and 1969's, "The Wild Bunch":

"Ben Johnson: Roping a 12 Foot Gorilla",
can be read at:

Robert Armstrong portrayed "Max O'Hara". The way Ruth Rose wrote the character, "Max" is an obvious parody of Merian C. Cooper with just a little more of the fun she had with "Carl Denham" in "The Son of Kong".

Armstrong had just co-starred with Mae Clarke in the forgotten crime film, 1949's, "Streets of San Francisco". He would follow this picture with fourth billing, the horse "Champion", had second billing, in the Gene Autry, 1949 "B" Western, "Sons of New Mexico". Actress Gail Davis had third billing. and in 1954, became televisions "Annie Oakley".

Above left to right, Robert Armstrong, Ernest B. Schodesack, note the special glasses for his eye sight, and Ben Johnson.

Mr. Joseph Young appeared as himself with full on-screen credit. Mr. Young was supposed to appear in the sequel, tentatively entitled, "Joe Meets Tarzan". However, this movie lost $675,000, at the Worldwide box office and a sequel was never made.

Ruth Rose's screenplay is basically a love story with "Joe" as the matchmaker, just like "Baby Kong" in 1933. 

Her story starts in 1937 Africa, in the Tanganyika Territory, as "Jill Young's" father is shocked to find out his daughter traded something for a baby gorilla.

Above, Lora Lee Michel as the young "Jill", and, Regis Toomey as her father, "John Young".

Move forward to 1949, "Max O'Hara" and "Gregg" are in Africa to capture animals for "Max's" Hollywood nightclub. There are cages filled with different animals in the camp and now, 12-Feet-High "Joe" enters, looks around, is bitten by a lion on his fingers, goes on a rampage and frees the animals.

"Max" tells "Gregg" to get some of the other cowboys and capture the 2,000 pound gorilla. This sequence goes back to a story written by Willis O'Brien, see the article about "Gwangi", above.

"Jill" appears, calms "Joe" down, is furious with both "Max" and "Gregg", and storms off with her pet.

"Max" takes "Gregg" to see "Jill", but panics at the sight of "Joe". The three talk and showman, "Max O'Hara" starts to talk to "Jill" into coming to Hollywood with "Joe" and appear at his nightclub. While, "Gregg", who is attracted to "Jill", tries to tell her to stay in Africa and not listen to "Max".

In the end, the girl with her dreams of both traveling out of Africa and of Hollywood, agrees to "Max's" proposal.

On opening night, the audience sees "Jill" playing a piano and "Joe's" favorite piece of music, "Beautiful Dreamer". Slowly, she starts to rotate and the piano and "Jill" are lifted by "Joe".

Things seem to be running smoothly as "Jill" and "Gregg" fall in love, but she and "Joe" are homesick. Then, after one of the performances, three drunks go down to "Joe's" cage and give him whiskey.

Above the drunks are played by three excellent character actors, left to right, Douglas Fowley as "Jones", Nester Paiva as "Brown", and Paul Guilfoyle as "Smith"

Directly above with "Joe", is Nester Paiva, probably best known as "Lucas", the skipper of the "Rita". My article on his varied film career, "NESTER PAIVA: Skipper of the 'Rita' vs The Creature from the Black Lagoon", is available for your reading pleasure at:

The whiskey causes "Joe" to get angry as he wants more from the drunks, but they tease him and "Joe" breaks loose and goes upstairs. Then he panics the customers, starts ripping apart the nightclub and frees the lions.

The court decrees that "Joe" is to be killed, but "Max", "Gregg" and "Jill" form an escape plan.

The police are in pursuit, but "Jill" and "Gregg" come upon an orphanage on fire and ""Mighty Joe Young" proves himself a true hero.

It appears "Mr. Joseph Young" died after saving the young girl. 

Then Ruth Rose cuts to "Max O'Hara" and his assistant, "Windy", played by Frank McHugh. "Windy" runs a short film sent to "Max" from "The Kids, Jill and Gregg" and when "Joe" appears, "Max" jumps back. The picture ends with "Joe" waving good-bye to the audience. "Joe" and "Jill" are happy once more in Africa.


Merian C. Cooper co-produced without credit, both John Ford's aforementioned, 1950's, "Wagon Master", and, "Rio Grande", that starred John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. He also produced, with Wayne and O'Hara, Ford's, 1952, "The Quiet Man". 

After which, Cooper, Schoedsack and Rose came together for one last time for a motion picture that required three cameras to film, three projectors to show, and the largest motion picture screen ever seen by that year. All together, this would give the viewing audience the experience of the complete range of view of the human eye.

Below the Los Angeles Pantages Theatre is transformed:

There were four producers for this documentary motion picture, Merian C. Cooper, Mike Todd, who would create the 70 mm, one camera, one projector, process Todd-A-O, to complete with Cinerama. Lowell Thomas, who filmed newsreels going back to World War One and spent time with T.E. Lawrence aka: "Lawrence of Arabia", and Robert L. Bendick.

The film opens with Lowell Thomas speaking to the audience, in black and white, using the standard 4.3 aspect ratio for movies in 1952. As he is explaining the history of motion pictures, the audience starts to see people get on a roller-coaster and it starts to go up to the first drop point. As the coaster reaches that point, the 12-minute introduction ends,  and Lowell Thomas speaks the words:
This is Cinerama

The movie immediately changes to color and widens to a 2:65:1 aspect ratio. As the coaster takes the first drop and people's stomachs also, because, as I said. They were now seeing things as the human eyes do and in this case, your mind is tricked into believing you're on the actual roller-coaster.

The only part of, "This Is Cinerama", that the Schoedsack's were involved with, was Lowell Thomas' introduction segment. Ruth Rose wrote it and Ernest Schoedsack directed it. 

Above an original scene from the 1952 film, that shows the lines between the three projected images, that was needed to get the full eye's vision. Below, the same image with the lines removed, by the "UCLA Film and Television" preservation archives, for a 2016 re-release of the original production. 

Merian C. Cooper passed away at the age of 79, on April 21, 1973.
Rose Rose passed away at the age of 82 on June 8, 1978, her husband's birthday.
Ernest B. Schoedsack passed away at the age of 86, on December 23, 1979.


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