Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Living Dangerously; The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong," by Mark Cotta Vaz.

If someone had made up Merian Cooper as a fictional character, he would be completely unbelievable and pulpy. Just from the jacket notes:

-- Bomber pilot in WWI
-- Helped found the Kosciuszko Squadron in battle-torn Poland (after the war)
-- Was captured and held prisoner by the Russians
-- Escaped with the help of a beautiful spy
-- Began making documentary films about life in little known parts of the world
-- In Hollywood, he made King Kong, brought Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers together as a team, and arranged Katherine Hepburn's first screen test.
-- In WWII, he served with General Claire Chennault in China

Random notes from the book:

"Murderers' Island" -- Described by Captain Salisbury of the Wisdom II. In the Andaman Islands, the British maintained a colony of some 10,000 convicted murderers--surrounded by a jungle "populated by a mysterious, feared tribe of black pygmies that hunted with bow and arrow, Stone Age style."

The documentary film Grass about the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe of southern Persia, and their seasonal migration to the mountains--a trek involving 50,000 people and a half-million animals.

When filming Chang in "Siam", he found he could predict the behavior of the native cast and wildlife by the phases of the moon. He had a life-long fascination with aviation and rocketry, and believed that man would eventually colonize space.

Willis O'Brien, was the pioneer in stop-motion animation who did the special effects for King Kong. "Obie" was born in Oakland California in 1886. He had been a cowboy, a freight-train brakeman, a surveyor, and a prizefighter.

With the buzz about the Jackson remake of Kong, a 2004 reunion was planned for three legendary members of the Los Angeles Science Fiction League: Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, and Forrest Ackerman. The "Brown Room" on the 3rd floor of Clifton's cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles.