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King Kong (3) Exceedingly Rare Early Production Scripts: The earliest extant First Draft Treatment.

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King Kong (3) Exceedingly Rare Early Production Scripts: The earliest extant First Draft Treatment.
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135. King Kong (3) Exceedingly Rare Early Production Scripts: The earliest extant First Draft Treatment, titled The Beast; an early developmental script, titled The Eighth Wonder; and a succeeding developmental script, titled Kong [The Eighth Wonder]. (RKO Pictures, 1932) Offered here is an unparalleled original-source archival documentation of the fascinating transition from concept to production for one of the unquestioned greatest horror films of all time, in fact one of the greatest films of any genre, the 1933 version of King Kong. The lot includes three distinctly different typescript/carbon drafts, each one of which, from our extensive experience, is a totally unique surviving example of what were almost certainly never more than a handful of first-generation originals. The humble germination of an original idea that would eventually become one of the grandest and most impressive epic films of all time, King Kong, began in Merian C. Cooper's childhood imagination with a fascination for gorillas, dinosaurs, and other exotic beasts. Once he was beginning to establish himself in Hollywood, he was determined to enlist studio interest in his own special take on what were then generically termed "jungle films", which usually exploited either restless African natives, or hyper-masculine apes, threatening the innocence of young women, which also happened to be a very popular and lucrative film subject of the time. Cooper first took his "great ape among Komodo dragons" concept to Paramount, who bristled at the idea of expensive location shooting and complicated special effects (it's easy to imagine their chagrin at witnessing the extraordinary and totally unprecedented success on every level of RKO's finished film upon release). It was thanks to David O. Selznick that Cooper was brought to RKO in 1931, and was offered the freedom to pursue his dreams, beginning with Most Dangerous Game (about a wealthy big-game hunter who hunts humans on his fantastic, private island), and Creation (in which effects wizard Willis O'Brien was hired to populate another "fantasy island" with stop-motion dinosaurs). It quickly became clear that the Creation project was running out of control, and Cooper wisely realized he could instead make his dream "great ape" film by salvaging O'Brien's dinosaurs as replacements for his originally conceived Komodo dragons, providing the desired element of the fantastic for his epic adventure of a beauty and her beast. Actors Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong were already close at hand in the cast of Most Dangerous Game, and male ingenue Bruce Cabot nearly walked out of his King Kong audition because he assumed he was there to stunt-double for Joel McCrea in the aforementioned film. Cooper was determined to let out all the stops to produce the biggest, baddest, most impressive film of its type to date, and so chose his favorite best-selling mystery/adventure novelist, Edgar Wallace to write both a novel, and at least a screen-treatment if not a working script as well [as a promotional gimmick, to advertise Kong as "from the novel by...]. Wallace worked for five weeks with continuous suggestions from Cooper to realize the first completed treatment, titled The Beast, dated January 5, 1932, and this is exactly what is included here as the first of the three historic early production scripts in this lot: Blue vintage portfolio covers with internal brass binding brads, measuring approximately 9 x 11.5 in., affixed center label typed "The Beast / by / Edgar Wallace" with affixed label at the top right stamped "Kong / 470". Front cover twice-stamped "Please Return / To / Story Dept. / RKO Studios, Inc. / West Coast", with "First Draft" stamped at the lower-left corner and on central title label. Title page dated January 5, 1932. 110 vellum-paper pages typed only on the rectos. Includes black quarter Morocco clamshell case with "The Beast / 1932" gold-embossed on the spine. Very Good condition with soiling, handling wear, toning, and moisture staining to the cover. Also exhibits a two-inch neat separation at lower left cover seam. Inner pages are remarkably clean and white, with minor toning limited almost entirely to first and last pages [due to contact with covers], appropriate for the script's age. Upon close examination, we concur that this is a manuscript typescript, not a carbon as previously described elsewhere, and therefore one of what could only have been a mere handful created for the 01/05/1932 first presentation by Wallace to Cooper and the RKO "suits". Sadly, Wallace would only live long enough to perform what is likely only one significant rewrite, evidenced by Wallace's own later January example with his hand-notations, first sold in 1982 by Sotheby's, then sold by this house in 2017 for $120,000. A few weeks later he was dead of pneumonia, leaving Cooper to turn to screenwriter James Ashmore Creelman, already close at hand on the concurrent Most Dangerous Game project, for the second of the three remarkable scripts in this most extremely remarkable and uniquely historic lot: Titled The Eighth Wonder, tan covers with brass binding brads, measuring approximately 8.5 x 11.25 in., front typed "The Eighth Wonder / by / Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper / Dialogue and Adaptation / by / James Ashmore Creelman / Copied by RKO Stenographic Dept. / March 9, 1932". Twice-stamped "Property of / RKO Studios, Inc. / Return to Scenario Dept. Files", with "470" stamped in the upper-right front corner. 113 vellum-paper carbon pages, numbered irregularly, typed only on the rectos. Includes black quarter Morocco clamshell case with the title and "1932" gold-embossed on the spine. In Very Good condition. Covers exhibit toning, minor handling wear and small areas of chipping loss at four corners; creasing at the left side from use and a two-inch separation at the crease have both been gently reinforced at verso with archival tissue to prevent an eventual fracture. Inner pages exhibit minor toning and wear, almost entirely limited to the first and last few pages, and appropriate for the age of the piece. Here we start to see significant script changes toward the film we know and love today: Edgar Wallace's big-game hunter Danby Denham becomes film director and showman Carl Denham [the big-game hunter association was too close to Most Dangerous Game]; the boatload of rape-minded escaped prisoners is totally deleted; Shirley Redman becomes Ann (though still Redman at this point) Denham's niece, who is along as the official wild-animal whisperer of all things; Vapour Island becomes Skull Island; and one of the briefest written, yet most significant plot concepts, the introduction quote from the bible which establishes the fantastic relationship of "Beauty" and her "Beast".

The third and final artifact in this precious triumvirate of scripts is a further revision several months later by Creelman (back on the project after being pressed into duty on Most Dangerous Game): Titled Kong (The Eighth Wonder), green covers with brass binding brads, measures approximately 9 x 11 in., front typed "Kong / (The Eighth Wonder) / by / Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper / Dialogue and Adaptation / by / James Ashmore Creelman / June 16, 1932". Front cover stamped "PLEASE RETURN / TO / STORY DEPT. / RKO STUDIOS, Inc. / WEST COAST" in purple, and "470" in black. 118 vellum-paper carbon pages typed only on the rectos. Includes black quarter Morocco clamshell case with the spine gold-embossed "Kong / 1932". Very Good condition. Covers exhibit minor toning at extremities due to age, light creasing to the left side from use, and minor handling wear including tiny chipping at two corners. Inner pages are relatively clean and white, showing just a bit of toning almost exclusively at the first and last pages, appropriate to the age of the script. Significant changes here include: Ann is now surnamed Darrow, neither related to Denham nor a wild animal trainer, but a downtrodden waif of the seedy streets of New York, with no acting experience, who Denham presses into service more or less at random; the earliest association we've seen to specific actors as "types" appropriate for their eventual roles; Denham is still an adventure filmmaker, here compared directly to actual documentarians of the day Burton Holmes and Martin Johnson, but mysteriously now "Fritz" instead of "Carl" [possibly as an aside to German auteur Fritz Lang]; direct comparisons of the film Denham intends to make to actual recent films Trader Horn and Ingagi [an egregiously black-African phobic exploitation film, whose enormous popularity and box-office success purportedly influenced RKO execs to greenlight King Kong]; the introduction of the giant wall and gate separating the natives from Kong, described as clearly built by an ancient, superior civilization; the native witch doctor is introduced, with his poison blow gun; and the New York/ Empire State climax is fleshed out with much more specific detail.

It is our carefully considered opinion, based on the extreme rarity of all three of these scripts [in fact, the likely singularity of The Beast], plus the very nature of their physical construction as manuscript-typed and first generation typewriter carbons [as opposed to studio mimeos] indicates a strong likelihood all three of these may have once been the property of an original Kong production insider, and from their early dates, even more likely one of the top people responsible for the development of this project from start to finish. As a group, these scripts represent an incomparably significant, historical research and archive contribution, concerning what is universally considered one of the most important and influential films of all time. 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. We cannot overemphasize this acquisition opportunity, of what could easily be the last time these three icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood pass through the public marketplace. $40,000 - $60,000