Welcome back to MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, that column where we look at great quotes from great movies. Up today, one of the true classics, the original KING KONG (1933).
When you think of KING KONG, the first thing that comes to mind are the awesome stop-motion effects of Willis O’Brien and his special effects team. These amazing effects which brought Kong to life remain impressive today.
But the screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose, based on an idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace is a strength in its own right. Rose also wrote the screenplay to the later Willis O’Brien giant ape hit, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), the film which introduced the world to the special effects of Ray Harryhausen, who worked on O’Brien’s team for YOUNG.
KING KONG contains lots of memorable lines of dialogue, including one of the most famous final lines in the history of the movies.
Let’s have a look:
Most of the memorable lines in KING KONG are spoken by Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), the adventurous movie maker who sets out to make an unforgettable movie and then switches gears after seeing Kong, deciding that he’s going to capture the giant ape and bring him back to civilization.
The notable dialogue starts in the very first scene, where Denham argues with his casting agent Charles Weston (Sam Hardy) over whether it’s safe or not to bring a woman on this particular voyage. Also present and taking part in the conversation are ship’s Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) and First Mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot).
Weston says the voyage is too dangerous for a woman, to which Denham scoffs that women face more danger in New York than they ever will with him, causing Driscoll to smirk and make this quip:
CARL DENHAM: Listen, there are dozens of girls in this town tonight that are in more danger than they’ll ever see with me.
JACK DRISCOLL: Yeah, but they know that kind of danger.
Frustrated over Weston’s lack of cooperation, Denham decides to take matters into his own hands, saying as he prepares to leave the ship:
CARL DENHAM: Listen – I’m going out and make the greatest picture in the world. Something that nobody’s ever seen or heard of. They’ll have to think up a lot of new adjectives when I come back.
Of course, Denham does find Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) on the streets of New York City, and he hires her to be in his new movie. Later, on the ship, he has Ann dress in costume so he can photograph her. Seeing that Denham is photographing her himself, she asks him:
ANN: Do you always take the pictures yourself?
DENHAM: Ever since a trip I made to Africa. I’d have got a swell picture of a charging rhino, but the cameraman got scared. The darn fool, I was right there with a rifle! Seems he didn’t trust me to get the rhino before it got him. I haven’t fooled with a cameraman since; I do it myself.
And later, when Denham reveals to Englehorn and Driscoll his belief that there’s something monstrous living on the island, something named Kong, something that he intends to photograph, it leads to this captivating conversation:
CAPTAIN ENGLEHORN: And you expect to photograph it?
DENHAM: If it’s there, you bet I’ll photograph it!
JACK: Suppose it doesn’t like having its picture taken?
DENHAM: Well, now you know why I brought along those cases of gas bombs
Once Kong appears in the movie, the dialogue takes a back seat to the incredibly intense and rapid fire action scenes. Kong has taken Ann, and Denham and his men follow in hot pursuit but have to deal not only with Kong but with man-eating dinosaurs.
Once Jack heroically rescues Ann from Kong’s clutches, and returns her to Denham and the remaining crew, safely behind the other side of the giant wall, it leads to this bit of dialogue, one of the most dramatic verbal sequences in the entire movie:
DENHAM: Wait a minute, what about Kong?
JACK: Well, what about him?
DENHAM: We came here to get a moving picture, and we’ve found something worth more than all the movies in the world!
CAPTAIN ENGLEHORN: What?
DENHAM: We’ve got those gas bombs. If we can capture him alive…
JACK: Why, you’re crazy. Besides that, he’s on a cliff where a whole army couldn’t get at him.
DENHAM: Yeah, if he stays there…[looks at Ann] but we’ve got something he wants.
JACK: Yeah. Something he won’t get again.
Once Denham has captured Kong, he boasts:
DENHAM: Why, the whole world will pay to see this.
CAPTAIN ENGLEHORN: No chains will ever hold that.
DENHAM: We’ll give him more than chains. He’s always been king of his world, but we’ll teach him fear. We’re millionaires, boys. I’ll share it with all of you. Why, in a few months, it’ll be up in lights on Broadway: Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Yup, it’s the famous line which first mentions Kong as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” a phrase that has stuck with the movie and the Kong character through the decades.
This theme continues when Denham introduces Kong to his sold out audience in New York City:
DENHAM: And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.
And of course KING KONG ends with one of the most memorable lines in movie history ever. After the epic conclusion atop the Empire State Building, we find Denham in the crowd on the ground looking at Kong, preparing to utter his immortal closing line:
POLICEMAN: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
CARL DENHAM: Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.
Cue Max Steiner’s classic music score.
KING KONG is a classic of adventure/horror movie cinema, filled with eye popping special effects and a superior script. Ironically, the film’s biggest star other than Kong, Fay Wray as Ann Darrow, is most famous not for her lines of dialogue but for her nonstop screams of fright throughout the movie, which says a lot for Wray’s acting abilities, because she is a true star of this film, and unlike Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham and Bruce Cabot as Jack Driscoll, she makes her mark not with memorable lines of dialogue but with nonstop reaction shots, as she’s Kong’s prisoner for nearly the entire movie.
That being said, there are plenty of memorable lines of dialogue in KING KONG. We looked at some of them in this column. Hope you enjoyed them.
Thanks for joining me for this edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES. Join me next time when we look at more fun quotes from other classic movies.
Books by Michael Arruda:
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.