Mighty Joe Young (1949 film)

Mighty Joe Young (1949 film)
Mighty Joe Young

film poster
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
Produced by Merian C. Cooper
John Ford (executive producer)
Written by Ruth Rose
Starring Terry Moore
Ben Johnson
Robert Armstrong
Frank McHugh
Douglas Fowley
Music by Roy Webb
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) July 27, 1949 (1949-07-27)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,800,000[1]

Mighty Joe Young is a 1949 RKO Radio Pictures film made by the same creative team responsible for King Kong (1933).

Written and produced by Merian C. Cooper (who provided the story) and Ruth Rose (screenplay), and directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, it tells the story of a young woman, 'Jill Young', played by Terry Moore, living on her father's farm in Africa, who ends up bringing the title character — a giant ape — to Hollywood. The movie co-stars Ben Johnson, as 'Gregg', in his first major role.

Willis O'Brien, who created the animation for King Kong, was the supervisor of special effects on this film, although by some accounts the majority of the animation was performed by Ray Harryhausen. The models (constructed by Kong's builder Marcel Delgado) and animation are more sophisticated than King Kong, containing more subtle gestures and even some comedic elements, such as the chase scene where Joe is riding in the back of a speeding truck and spits at his pursuers. Despite this increased technical sophistication, this film, like Kong, features some serious scale issues, with Joe noticeably changing size between many shots. (The title character is not supposed to be as large as Kong - perhaps 10–12 feet tall.) Harryhausen has attributed these lapses to producer Cooper, who insisted Joe appear larger in some scenes for dramatic effect.

Buoyed by the enormous success of King Kong in 1933 and its profitable theatrical reissues in 1938, 1942, and 1946, RKO had great hopes for Mighty Joe Young. Upon its release in 1949, the film was honored with an Academy Award for Special Effects (a category that did not exist in 1933 for King Kong), however, it was unsuccessful at the box office and, as a result, plans to produce a sequel tentatively titled "Joe Meets Tarzan" were quickly dropped.[1] The film has become a minor classic, and has an affectionate following. Special effects artists consider it highly influential, with the elaborate orphanage rescue sequence lauded as one of the great stop-motion sequences in film history.[citation needed] It was remade in 1998 with Charlize Theron playing Jill and Bill Paxton as Gregg.



After being taken from his home in Africa, Joe is an instant hit in the Hollywood nightclub "The Golden Safari" (on opening night, he wins a tug-of-war with ten real-life strong men, including ex-boxer Primo Carnera, whom he throws into the audience), but the novelty wears off and he is tired and homesick after seventeen weeks of performing. An ill-conceived skit with Jill as an organ-grinder leaves Joe (and Jill) storming off-stage, and, to make matters worse, three drunks sneak backstage and ply Joe with liquor. Intoxicated, he breaks out of his cage and into the club, his rampage turning lions loose and inflicting massive damage. A court orders him shot.

Jill, Gregg, and O'Hara cook up a plan to get Joe out of the country, but on the way to a ship, they stop to rescue children from a burning orphanage, and Joe redeems himself. The film ends with O'Hara receiving home movies from his friends in Africa, letting the audience know that Joe is going to be all right.



Mighty Joe Young won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, the other nominee being the film Tulsa.

See also


External links

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