Monday, March 13, 2017

A Quick Look: MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)

   MIGHTY JOE YOUNG was created by much of the creative staff that gave us KING KONG. Although it too is a fun adventure movie, the two are very different animals. MIGHTY JOE YOUNG concerns the story of a young girl in love with a cowboy who has been brought to Africa by a night club owner to capture live animals for a jungle-themed club to be built in the States. Our heroine just happens to have a domesticated giant gorilla, and all think Joe, as she calls him, would be a dandy attraction at the new club. All goes well until some drunks rile Joe and he breaks loose! Classic family entertainment, I saw this one at a very early age. It may be at least partly responsible for my romantic notions of Africa. Robert Armstrong, Kong's Carl Denham, plays bigwig Max O'Hara mostly for laughs, and indeed there's a sweetness that undergirds the whole film. Our young starlet is Terry Moore. Miss Moore would go onto a long career, but is mostly noted for being the secret wife of industrialist and innovator Howard Hughes. In her 50's, Moore posed for Playboy, and still looked much better than the bulk of the younger models found within the skin rag's pages. MIGHTY JOE YOUNG was also a milestone behind the scenes, and it was the first feature collaboration of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen and his idol Willis O'Brien. O'Brien's career continued to slide until his passing in the early 60's, but Ray's career flourished. The two men would work together again to create the dinosaur sequences of Irwin Allen's nature documentary THE ANIMAL WORLD.

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