Sunday, July 13, 2014

Greatest Film Lines, 85-84

Continuing the countdown of the American Film Institute’s 2005 top 100 movie lines . . .


“My precious.”

- Spoken by Andy Serkis as Gollum, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

  • Gollum's pupils signal his frame of mind. "Treacherous Gollum" has narrow pupils; "friendly Gollum" has slightly wider pupils. This is most obvious in the scene when the two sides of his personality struggle with each other.
  • In Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gollum is a CGI character voiced and performed by actor Andy Serkis. The CGI character was built around Serkis' facial features, voice, and acting choices, with Serkis basing the iconic "gollum" throat noise on the sound of his cat coughing up hairballs. Serkis’s performance started a debate on the legitimacy of CGI-assisted acting. Some critics felt Serkis should have been nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, since his voice, body language, and facial expressions were used. It was not to be, just as he was overlooked for his work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. However there are some who feel that this time he may get a nod for his role as Caesar, head ape in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

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"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast."

-Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham, King Kong (1933)

  • What an amazing film, one that is still watchable after 81 years. It has rightly been referred to as iconic but surprisingly it was not nominated for any Oscars. The category for special effects did not exist until 1938 but it has since received some significant honours. In 1975, Kong was named one of the 50 best American films by the American Film Institute, and, in 1991, the film was deemed "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 1998, the AFI ranked the film #43 on its list of the 100 greatest movies of all time.
  • Authors Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero, in their 2013 book "Abominable Science", argue that the UK release of "King Kong" in the spring of 1933 led directly to the supposed sightings of a sea monster in Loch Ness, Scotland. The first sightings of the supposed Loch Ness Monster occurred within six months of the film's release. The descriptions and blurry photos of "Nessie" that emerged from 1933 on seemed likely inspired by the scene in "King Kong" in which a prehistoric water beast, a Diplodocus, attacks the searchers on a raft.
  • This film--along with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Laurel and Hardy movies--were thought to be Adolf Hitler’s favourites.
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Prior to 1930 there had been no moral code for movies, allowing plenty of risqué scenes and costuming, in some cases no costuming. In 1922, after several risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, most notably the death of Virginia Rappe at a Fatty Arbuckle shindig, the studios enlisted Presbyterian elder Will H. Hays to rehabilitate Hollywood's image. Hays was made head of the newly formed Motion Picture Producers and Directors Association and was responsible for the film companies adopting the Motion Picture Production Code in 1930. The Code sought to self regulate the making of films so that only wholesome values, messages and images were depicted. Administered through Hays’s office, it was more commonly known as the Hays Code, with Hays being the chief censor. The Great Depression saw avoidance of the Hays Code as film companies sought to put bums on seats, leading once again to a proliferation of racy and violent content. From 1934, however, the Code began to be strictly enforced.

King Kong was made the year before, 1933, when the Depression was still biting. It smashed box office records for opening attendances and was shown at multiple theatres in each city in back to back sessions. 

One thing that is immediately notable is the number of occasions that Fay Wray is depicted in revealing clothing or in saucy images, even by today’s standards. 

For those not familiar with King Kong’s storyline, film producer Carl Denham takes a film crew and the unknown actress Ann Darrow to an island to make a film, not disclosing that he has learned of an incredible, giant ape on the island. At the island Ann is kidnapped by natives and offered as a sacrifice to the ape, called Kong by the natives. Kong is infatuated with Ann and saves her from attack by prehistoric creatures but she manages to escape. When Kong is knocked out by a gas bomb, he is shackled and taken back to New York for exhibition in chains. Flashing bulbs of cameras make Kong think that Ann is being attacked. He breaks loose and takes Ann with him, scaling the Empire State Building where he is eventually killed by machine gun fire from aeroplanes. Carl Denham declares that it wasn’t the planes, it was beauty that killed the best.

How many opportunities are there in such a story to depict Fay Wray in tattered, revealing clothing.

Here are some scenes from the pic and some promotional stills . . .

The Janus 1971 reissue of the fiilm includes the scene of Kong peeling off Fay Wray’s clothes, such scene having been cut from the original at about the 3.43 mark, stills

The 2005 DVD restoration shows some of the risqué liberties of a 1933 pre-code film release in two scenes. The first is when the heroine, Ann, played by Fay Wray, is on the ship's deck and the second is where Denham is shooting some test footage of Ann ("Scream for your life, Ann, Scream!"). The thin material used for Ann's dress and gown in both scenes makes it obvious that Fay Wray is not wearing a bra; a wardrobe decision that may not have made it past the Code the following year.

Surprisingly, a scene showing Fay Wray swimming away from Kong was not cut. Here is a still from that scene:

Other stills from the movie and promotional . . . 

Btw, Fay Wray died in her sleep in 2004 aged 96. She had declined a cameo in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake, declaring the original Kong to be the true King. On her death the lights of the Empire State Building were switched off for 15 minutes in her memory.

Fay Wray, visits the observation deck on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building in New York, on May 15, 2004. She died on August 8, 2004 of natural causes.

A portrait of Fay Wray by Justin Mecier using junk materials.

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