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Fay Wray, Beauty to Kong's Beast, Dies at 96
The New York Times ^ | 08/09/2004

Posted on 08/09/2004 10:43:48 AM PDT by GeneD

Fay Wray, an actress who appeared in about 100 movies but whose fame is inextricably linked with the hours she spent struggling helplessly screaming in the eight-foot-hand of King Kong, died on Sunday night at her apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. She was 96.

Rick McKay, a friend, announced her death.

The huge success of "King Kong," a beauty-and-the beast film that opened in New York at both Radio City Music Hall and the Roxy in 1933, led to roles for Miss Wray in other 1930's films in which her life or her virtue, or both, were imperiled: "Dr. X," "The Mystery of the Wax Museum," "The Vampire Bat" and "The Most Dangerous Game."

But she was always aware that she would be remembered for the culmination of "King Kong," in which the giant ape from Skull Island carries her to the top of the Empire State Building, gently places her on a ledge, lunges furiously at fighter planes peppering him with bullets and falls to his death from the 102-story skyscraper, his strength and power neutralized by love. "When I'm in New York," the actress wrote in The New York Times in 1969, "I look at the building and feel as though it belongs to me, or is it vice versa?"

The most hazardous part of filming "King Kong," Miss Wray recalled, was the tendency of the giant gorilla hand to loosen its grasp while she was suspended high above the set. When she felt she was about to fall, she implored the director, Merian C. Cooper, to have her lowered to the stage floor to rest a few minutes before being secured once again in the hand and sent aloft.

She spent an entire day recording additional screams, variously shrill and plaintive, that an editor later inserted in the soundtrack — too often, she later emphasized. Asked how she was able to muster such animated cries, she replied, "I made myself believe that the nearest possible hope of rescue was at least a mile away."

Over the years, Miss Wray said, she came to feel that Kong had "become a spiritual thing to many people, including me."

"Although he had tremendous strength and power to destroy, some kind of instinct made him appreciate what he saw as beautiful," she said in a 1993 interview. "Just before he dies, he reaches toward me, but can't quite reach. The movie affects males of all ages. Recently, a 6-year-old boy said to me, `I've been waiting to meet you for half my life.' "

In a 1987 interview, Miss Wray said she had been sent a script for the 1976 remake of "King Kong," in which Jessica Lange played Kong's co-star, because its producers wanted her to play a small role. She said she disliked the script and declined the offer, because "the film I made was so extraordinary, so full of imagination and special effects, that it will never be equaled."

"They shouldn't have tried," she added.

Fay Wray was born on Sept. 15, 1907, on a farm in Alberta, Canada, the daughter of Jerry Wray, an inventor, and his wife, Vina. The couple separated when Fay was 12, and her mother moved to Los Angeles with her five children. As a teen-ager, Miss Wray began acting in bit parts in movies, then won supporting roles.

After graduating from Hollywood High School, she was the ingénue in a half-dozen silent westerns and played the bride in Erich von Stroheim's 1928 silent classic "The Wedding March." Among her prominent sound films were "The Four Feathers" (1929), "Dirigible" (1931), "One Sunday Afternoon" (1933), "Viva Villa!" (1934) and "The Affairs of Cellini" (1934).

Miss Wray was always drawn to writers, as she recounted in her 1989 autobiography, "On the Other Hand." She was just 19 when she married John Monk Saunders, a Rhodes scholar and screenwriter known for films like "Wings" and "The Dawn Patrol." Miss Wray recalled that her husband "had this theme in his life of living dangerously and dying young." He was a womanizer, an alcoholic and a drug addict, and she divorced him, she said, after he injected her with drugs while she slept, sold their house and their furniture and kept the money, and disappeared for a time with their baby daughter, Susan. During the 11 years they were married, Miss Wray and her husband each earned half a million dollars, but nothing was left. Mr. Saunders hanged himself in 1940, at 43.

She was pursued by Sinclair Lewis and had a long romance with Clifford Odets. In 1942, she was married to Robert Riskin, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," and "Lost Horizon." They had two children, Vicki and Robert Jr., who survive her, as does her daughter Susan. Mr. Riskin had a stroke in 1950 and died five years later. In 1971, she married Dr. Sanford Rothenberg, a neurosurgeon who had been one of Mr. Riskin's doctors. Dr. Rothenberg died in 1991.

Miss Wray retired in 1942, but made occasional movies in the 1950's and starred in "Gideon's Trumpet," a 1979 film with Henry Fonda. On television, she starred in a situation comedy, "The Pride of the Family," from 1953 to 1955. In later years, she also wrote plays that were produced in regional theaters.

When Aljean Harmetz of The New York Times visited her in 1989, she found Miss Wray, then 81, a "cheery woman, a mother hen with black leather pumps, pearls at the throat, a splash of bright red lipstick and auburn hair."

Miss Wray said: "I find it not acceptable when people blame Hollywood for the things that happened to them. Films are wonderful. I've had a beautiful life because of films."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: 2004obituary; faywray; film; houseofwax; kingkong; kong; mostdangerousgame; movies; obituaries; obituary; wray
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1 posted on 08/09/2004 10:43:53 AM PDT by GeneD
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To: GeneD

I immediately heard that song from Rocky Horror in my mind.


2 posted on 08/09/2004 10:46:06 AM PDT by Behind Liberal Lines
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To: GeneD

3 posted on 08/09/2004 10:47:07 AM PDT by NautiNurse ("I served in Viet Nam, and we have better hair"----John F'n Kerry campaign platform)
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To: Behind Liberal Lines

4 posted on 08/09/2004 10:47:32 AM PDT by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I shall defend to your death my right to say it)
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To: GeneD
What a beautiful woman she was. Rest in peace, Ms. Darrow.


5 posted on 08/09/2004 10:48:24 AM PDT by Xenalyte (I love this job more than I love taffy, and I'm a man who loves his taffy.)
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To: Behind Liberal Lines

"What ever happened to Fay Wray?"


6 posted on 08/09/2004 10:49:19 AM PDT by Lunatic Fringe (Where’s my fuŠking balloons?!)
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To: Lunatic Fringe

Rick James, Fay Wray. Who'll be number three?


7 posted on 08/09/2004 10:50:10 AM PDT by YourAdHere (Hooters has great buffalo wings.)
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To: GeneD

A capture from King Kong. She was a looker back then...

8 posted on 08/09/2004 10:50:54 AM PDT by Jonah Hex (Only 5 cents a troll? Must be too many of the varmints around here...)
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RIP Fay


9 posted on 08/09/2004 10:51:17 AM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ...... "Shovin' it .. annNND Loving it since 1996! ....... FRee Republic)
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To: Behind Liberal Lines
I immediately heard that song from Rocky Horror in my mind.

Same thing here.

10 posted on 08/09/2004 10:51:36 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: NormsRevenge

"On The Other Hand"! LOL! Great title. Great lady.

Rest in peace.


11 posted on 08/09/2004 10:54:10 AM PDT by martin_fierro (Been there, done that, got the refrigerator magnet)
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To: GeneD

Good for her!


12 posted on 08/09/2004 10:57:18 AM PDT by A CA Guy (God Bless America, God bless and keep safe our fighting men and women.)
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To: GeneD
Miss Wray recalled that her husband.....He was a womanizer, an alcoholic and a drug addict, and she divorced him, she said, after he injected her with drugs while she slept,.....

Some things never change. My grandfather and his brother worked for the studios in the 30's and 40's, from crafts to stunts. They both had little use for the "celebrities" in that business.

13 posted on 08/09/2004 11:02:06 AM PDT by elbucko (A Feral Republican)
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To: GeneD

14 posted on 08/09/2004 11:02:38 AM PDT by Maceman (Too nuanced for a bumper sticker)
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To: GeneD

She was great in that role.
The first Oscar winner for special effects was Willis O'Brien who made King Kong the terror he was.
Sadly I worked on Wall St in the 70's. I saw them doing the remake of KK at the WTC. I miss the WTC.


15 posted on 08/09/2004 11:02:47 AM PDT by ProudVet77 (So many questions - so few answers)
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To: GeneD

She was great in that role.
The first Oscar winner for special effects was Willis O'Brien who made King Kong the terror he was.
Sadly I worked on Wall St in the 70's. I saw them doing the remake of KK at the WTC. I miss the WTC.


16 posted on 08/09/2004 11:03:19 AM PDT by ProudVet77 (So many questions - so few answers)
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To: GeneD

Warner Brothers screwed up BIG TIME by not re-releasing King Kong in 2003 (on the 70th anniversary of it's release).


17 posted on 08/09/2004 11:07:07 AM PDT by weegee (YOU could have been aborted, and you wouldn't have had a CHOICE about it.)
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To: GeneD

Goodbye,Fay.


18 posted on 08/09/2004 11:21:12 AM PDT by rko1933
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To: GeneD

19 posted on 08/09/2004 11:37:58 AM PDT by UnklGene
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To: GeneD

"It wasn't the airplane. It was beauty killed the beast.”


20 posted on 08/09/2004 11:40:42 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (Take Luca Brazzi, make him an offer he can't refuse.)
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To: GeneD

21 posted on 08/09/2004 11:53:11 AM PDT by UnklGene
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To: ProudVet77
I saw them doing the remake of KK at the WTC. I miss the WTC.
I took my kid sister to the shoot at the WTC for the final scene. Everytime the crowd rushed the corpse of King Kong, people would start pulling hair out of it for souvenirs. The director would yell, "Cut!," the offenders would be escorted off the set, the crew would fix up Kong, and we'd start all over again. Lots of fun, great memories : )
22 posted on 08/09/2004 11:55:31 AM PDT by eastsider
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To: GeneD

23 posted on 08/09/2004 11:59:43 AM PDT by UnklGene
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To: Jonah Hex
I seem to remember that King Kong was the only movie in which she was a blonde.
24 posted on 08/09/2004 12:01:49 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: NautiNurse
King Kong is the original summer blockbuster movie. For a 1933 movie it was way ahead of its time.

Peter Jackson will screw up the remake, like the 1976 version that starred Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. I don't understand why Hollywood just can't remaster the original and re-release it back in theaters.

25 posted on 08/09/2004 12:02:02 PM PDT by ServesURight
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To: weegee
Warner Brothers screwed up BIG TIME by not re-releasing King Kong in 2003 (on the 70th anniversary of it's release).

It just goes to show you how vapid and clueless H'wood is. I understand that Peter Jackson (LOTR) is making a remake. Ugh! I'll take cheesy stop-motion effects over computerized special-effects anyday.

26 posted on 08/09/2004 12:07:53 PM PDT by 12 Gauge Mossberg
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To: GeneD

'And lo, the beast looked on the face of beauty...

27 posted on 08/09/2004 12:10:00 PM PDT by UnklGene
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To: 12 Gauge Mossberg
I agree with you about the computerized special effects. To me they give a cartoonish look to a movie.
28 posted on 08/09/2004 12:12:57 PM PDT by Wiggins
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To: GeneD

If the villagers wanted to keep Kong out, why did they put a door in the wall?


29 posted on 08/09/2004 12:15:34 PM PDT by bruin66 (Time: Nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.)
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To: 12 Gauge Mossberg
The thing for me is "we know it's fake, does it look cool".

Stop motion animation was only ever done in the film by a relatively small number of special effects people so a lot the technique is consistently applied.

Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien (and later Dave Allen) all were able to put some personality into their sculptures and in the movements they gave the figures.

The skeletons in Jason & the Argonauts, Kong, et al may look "fake" but it's a good fake. With computer editing, motion blur could even be added now (and matting is much better than in old days).

I think that the bigger factor is cost (although computers aren't cheap).

I will say that Gollum in the second LOTR movie approaches the sophistication of stop motion animation dazzle. I still haven't seen the third film (missed it in the theaters and am waiting for the extended DVD).

I don't have high hopes for 21st Century Kong (Jack Black and others in the cast strike me as populism over ability).
30 posted on 08/09/2004 12:22:07 PM PDT by weegee (YOU could have been aborted, and you wouldn't have had a CHOICE about it.)
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To: Wiggins
I agree with you about the computerized special effects. To me they give a cartoonish look to a movie.

Yep. That's why the 1998 Godzilla movie bombed. Give me the old Godzilla anyday.

31 posted on 08/09/2004 12:23:04 PM PDT by 12 Gauge Mossberg
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To: ServesURight

I've seen the WB archive print and the film is already in flawless condition (better than ever definition and contrast).

I think this is in part due to a print that was located in England in the 1990s.

Some other countries have released Kong to DVD but I don't know how good the quality is.


32 posted on 08/09/2004 12:24:34 PM PDT by weegee (YOU could have been aborted, and you wouldn't have had a CHOICE about it.)
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To: 12 Gauge Mossberg
The plot and character designs of the American Godzilla film were lousy as well.

Godzilla 2000 was a return to form with an extended (something like 20 minute) fight scene. It is glorified wrestling; not "dinosaur invades NYC and births 2000 'Raptors".

33 posted on 08/09/2004 12:27:32 PM PDT by weegee (YOU could have been aborted, and you wouldn't have had a CHOICE about it.)
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To: YourAdHere

Oil firefighter Red Adair.


34 posted on 08/09/2004 12:28:25 PM PDT by weegee (YOU could have been aborted, and you wouldn't have had a CHOICE about it.)
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To: bruin66
"If the villagers wanted to keep Kong out, why did they put a door in the wall?"

A truly Existential question.

Regards,

35 posted on 08/09/2004 1:22:16 PM PDT by Jimmy Valentine (DemocRATS - when they speak, they lie; when they are silent, they are stealing the American Dream)
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To: GeneD
To this day the original is the BEST KONG ever made. IMHO, also the best beauty to all the beasts that made it to celluloid. A big inpact on this kid in in the black bottom "FORTIES".

God rest her soul!!

36 posted on 08/09/2004 1:26:18 PM PDT by PISANO (NEVER FORGET 911 !!!!)
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To: GeneD
This is the original 1933 movie review from the NY Times. Check out the bit I bolded. Sub-literacy amongst journalists is older then we thought. KING KONG By MORDAUNT HALL Published: March 3, 1933 At both the Radio City Music Hall and the RKO Roxy, which have a combined seating capacity of 10,000, the main attraction now is a fantastic film known as King Kong. The story of this feature was begun by the late Edgar Wallace and finished by Merian C. Cooper, who with his old associate, Ernest B. Schoedsack, is responsible for the production. It essays to give the spectator a vivid conception of the terrifying experiences of a producer of jungle pictures and his colleagues, who capture a gigantic ape, something like fifty feet tall, and bring it to New York. The narrative is worked out in a decidedly compelling fashion, which is mindful of what was done in the old silent film The Lost World. Through multiple exposures, processed "shots," and a variety of angles of camera wizardry, the producers set forth an adequate story and furnish enough thrills for any devotee of such tales. Although there are vivid battles between prehistoric monsters on the island which Denham, the picturemaker, insists on visiting, it is when the enormous ape, called Kong, is brought to this city that the excitement reaches its highest pitch. Imagine a fifty-foot beast with a girl in one paw climbing up the outside of the Empire State Building, and after putting the girl on a ledge, clutching at airplanes, the pilots of which are pouring bullets from machine guns into the monster's body. It often seems as though Ann Redman, who goes through more terror than any of the other characters in the film, would faint, but she always appears to be able to scream. Her body is like a doll in the claw of the gigantic beast, who in the course of his wanderings through Manhattan tears down a section of the elevated railroad and tosses a car filled with passengers to the street. Automobiles are mere missiles for this Kong, who occasionally reveals that he relishes his invincibility by patting his chest. Denham is an intrepid person, but it is presumed that when the ape is killed he has had quite enough of searching for places with strange monsters. In the opening episode he is about to leave on the freighter for the island supposed to have been discovered by some sailor, when he goes ashore to find a girl whom he wants to act in his picture. In course of time he espies Ann, played by the attractive Fay Wray, and there ensues a happy voyage. Finally, through the fog, the island is sighted and Denham, the ship's officers and sailors, all armed, go ashore. It soon develops that the savages, who offer up sacrifices in the form of human beings to Kong, their super-king, keep him in an area surrounded by a great wall. Kong has miles in which to roam and fight with brontosauri and dinosauri and other huge creatures. There is a door to the wall. After Denham and the others from the ship have had quite enough of the island, Kong succeeds in bursting open the door, but he is captured through gas bombs hurled at him by the white men. How they ever get him on the vessel is not explained, for the next thing you know is that Kong is on exhibition in Gotham, presumably in Madison Square Garden. During certain episodes in this film Kong, with Ann in his paw, goes about his battles, sometimes putting her on a fifty-foot high tree branch while he polishes off an adversary. When he is perceived on exhibition in New York he is a frightening spectacle, but Denham thinks that he has the beast safely shackled. The newspaper photographers irritate even him with their flashlights, and after several efforts he breaks the steel bands and eventually gets away. He looks for Ann on the highways and byways of New York. He climbs up hotel façades and his head fills a whole window, his white teeth and red mouth adding to the terror of the spectacle. Everywhere he moves he crushes out lives. He finally discovers Ann, and being a perspicacious ape, he decides that the safest place for himself and Ann is the tower of the Empire State structure. Needless to say that this picture was received by many a giggle to cover up fright. Constant exclamations issued from the Radio City Music Hall yesterday. "What a man!" observed one youth when the ape forced down the great oaken door on the island. Human beings seem so small that one is reminded of Defoe's Gulliver's Travels. One step and this beast traverses half a block. If buildings hinder his progress, he pushes them down, and below him the people look like Lilliputians. Miss Wray goes through her ordeal with great courage. Robert Armstrong gives a vigorous and compelling impersonation of Denham. Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher, Sam Hardy, Noble Johnson, and James Flavin add to the interest of this weird tale. KING KONG (MOVIE
37 posted on 08/09/2004 1:56:27 PM PDT by Borges
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To: GeneD

She played Leslie Nielsen's mother in "Tammy and the Bachelor." Debbie Reynolds movie. 1956-ish. :)


38 posted on 08/09/2004 2:02:39 PM PDT by Graymatter (Countdown---85 more days.)
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To: Jimmy Valentine
"If the villagers wanted to keep Kong out, why did they put a door in the wall?"

Well they didn't want to keep him out altogether. They wanted to control the circumstances and make a sort of sacrament of the experience. It being so very scary and potentially fatal. Kong was taboo. Taboo, it's like cooking with rum, you have to know exactly what you're doing, and do it in small doses, or else you wind up in the gutter.

Nothin' existenshal about it! :P

39 posted on 08/09/2004 2:08:15 PM PDT by Graymatter (Countdown---85 more days.)
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To: YourAdHere

>>>Rick James, Fay Wray. Who'll be number three?

If you're not talking entertainment people, Ms. Wray would be #3...James, Red Adair, and Wray in this batch...


40 posted on 08/09/2004 2:11:19 PM PDT by Keith in Iowa (Michael Moore has made "documentary" a 1-word oxymoron.)
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To: GeneD

Three marriages, but no divorces. Weird.


41 posted on 08/09/2004 2:24:25 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan
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To: Keith in Iowa

Actress Virginia Grey died July 31.


42 posted on 08/09/2004 2:27:11 PM PDT by TracyPA
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To: Arthur McGowan

King Kong one of the best movies ever.


43 posted on 08/09/2004 2:29:02 PM PDT by Lori675
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To: Behind Liberal Lines
Oh thank you very much . . . I've had that song stuck in my head since you posted!

Micheal Rinney was ill the day the earth stood still . . . .

44 posted on 08/09/2004 3:41:32 PM PDT by WIladyconservative (Proud monthly donor - ARE YOU???)
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To: weegee
Especially since Ms. Wray is no longer around to provide an interview for the disc.

They made the same mistake with The Thing-the original movie, which I consider far better than the overpraised John Carpenter film-which they also failed to provide a DVD for on its 50th anniversary. Instead, two years later, they released, without fanfare, a bare-bones DVD with just a ratty old trailer, no commentary, no extras, nothing. Not even a Marvin the Martian cartoon. Now that star Kenneth Tobey is gone, it hurts even more.

45 posted on 08/09/2004 3:47:18 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist (<A HREF=http://www.michaelmoore.com>stupid blob</A>)
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To: 12 Gauge Mossberg; Wiggins

Peter Jackson says he's remaking his favorite movie because "today's kids" can't stand black and white and are incapable of appreciating stop motion. To which I say-f***'em if they can't appreciate good art. It's that attitude which has resulted in Shakespeare and Byron being replaced by Maya Angelou in schools. If you want to get kids to appreciate the original story, get them to appreciate the original movie. I suspect the REAL reason Jackson wants to do a remake is just plain ego-stroking: Kong is the movie he always wished he had made, and now, he has the chance to make it.


46 posted on 08/09/2004 3:53:37 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist (<A HREF=http://www.michaelmoore.com>stupid blob</A>)
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To: ProudVet77

Willis O'Brien didn't win the Oscar for King Kong, though-he won it for Mighty Joe Young. And the animation on that film was mostly by Ray Harryhausen.


47 posted on 08/09/2004 3:55:13 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist (<A HREF=http://www.michaelmoore.com>stupid blob</A>)
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To: Doctor Stochastic

I loved 1932's "Vampire Bat". Wasn't she a blonde in that one?


48 posted on 08/09/2004 3:57:18 PM PDT by MrLee
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To: Arthur McGowan
I remember several screen writers, actors and directors sitting around and discussing the most beautiful actresses they had ever worked with. Minelli (Liza Minelli's father) stated that Fay Wray was the stunningly most beautiful of all and the rest of the men agreed wholeheartedly. After seeing that interview, I paid attention to whenever Fay Wray was on the screen and came to the same conclusion.
49 posted on 08/09/2004 4:36:41 PM PDT by vetvetdoug (In memory of T/Sgt. Secundino "Dean" Baldonado, Jarales, NM-KIA Bien Hoa AFB, RVN 1965)
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To: RightWingAtheist

There's a thread on how some Three Stooges shorts are going to be colorized as well. Hollywood just can't leave well enough alone.


50 posted on 08/09/2004 7:30:44 PM PDT by 12 Gauge Mossberg
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