Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Fay Wray. With Love, King Kong.

These stills were taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine in 1933 New York during the making of King Kong (1933), which is one of my favorite movies.  King Kong is pure cinema: visual and enthralling from beginning to end while you follow the characters through this adventure in and out of worlds, twists and turns.  The stop motion animation of the gorilla and behind-the-scenes movie sets are just magical.  I love the idea of the mysterious island they discover, the fictional Skull Island representing an undiscovered place in South East Asia; though it is hard to ignore the ethnocentric perspective, classic of the time period, embedded in their portrayal of the 'island natives', keeper of Kong, portrayed barbarically and sporting bone jewelry.   The costuming of Fay Wray's characters and the other movie industry characters in the film is the picture of 30s elegance: simple slim gowns in silk and immaculate tuxedos. When it was first released, audiences were so shocked by the life-like gorilla that there was mass hysteria while the movie played, with people crying, screaming, fainting, and stampeding out of the theatre in fear.  In reality though, the gorilla used on set was just a tiny jointed iron skeleton with a rabbit fur exterior that was used in miniature diorama-like settings and fixed to look larger than life in post production.

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