Forty-nine years ago, Prince Sirki called to the man who made King Kong move into movie history – Willis O’Brien. O’Brien was a master of stop-motion animation, who was the first to bring dinosaurs and other large creatures to ‘life’ on-screen. O’Brien first came to prominence with the silent film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD (1925), not only for bringing the dinosaurs alive, but also showing the destruction of a major city by a giant creature for the first time in a film, when London is terrorized by the rampaging brontosaurus. He became even more famous and more sought after when he breathed life into his masterpiece, the original KING KONG (1933). This was the film that set so many viewers off into the dreams of making monsters and monster movies of their own. Among the new breed was young Ray Harryhausen who started learning his craft under O’brien. Years later, he’d be called on to assist O’Brien in animating MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949). In 1957, he was hired to do the animation for giant insects in THE BLACK SCORPION. It’s been said that two of the creatures – a crab-like spider and a multi-legged worm-like creature – were actually used in the legendary lost ‘spider-pit scene’ from the original Kong. He was called upon to animate THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959) for Eugene Lourie when Harryhausen wasn’t available. These might not have been his best work, but they’re not what he’ll be remembered for. His legacy will ALWAYS be King Kong.
*- The title I used for the column, ‘Father of Kong, Farewell’ was used as the title of an obituary for O’Brien in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, written by Forrest J. Ackerman.