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King Kong, Anne of Green Gables and cable
Written by Submitted   
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 6:02 PM

Because of writing this column I pay more for a cable box in order to get many more movie channels. It isn’t very often that any two channels have two truly old classics that roughly coincide at the same time.

On a recent Saturday afternoon the  Encore western channel was showing Judge Priest (1934) and Turner Classic Movies was showing King Kong (1933). Judge Priest starred the great American humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) as a small town common-sense Kentucky judge shortly after the Civil War. Rogers would star in five more films before his death in a plane crash in Alaska on August 15, 1935 with one-eyed pilot Wiley Post (1899-1935).

Rogers was the most beloved celebrity during my lifetime. He wrote a column in over 500 daily U.S. newspapers. He was nominated for Oklahoma governor and there were many who wanted him to run for president instead of F.D.R. He was a self-admitted democrat, which wasn’t bad in 1932. After seeing The Story of Will Rogers (1952) on TV in 1968 our first trip in the converted bus was to Claremore, Oklahoma to see Will’s memorial where he is buried among other places. His son Will Rogers Jr. (1911-1993) played Will in the film. That is when I came to the conclusion that Will Jr. wasn’t his dad.
King Kong (1933) is about an expedition led by Carl Denham played by Robert Armstrong (1890-1973) going to an island to make a movie when they discover a giant ape about 50 feet tall. Instead of making a movie Denham thinks there’s more money to be made by bringing the giant ape back to New York City. Since this film was made many years before computers the special effects are outstanding. The actual model for the monster ape is about a foot tall, but in the film he is a giant. The ape falls in love with beautiful Fay Wray (1907-2004).

He gets loose raising havoc on the city. He grabs Wray and climbs to the top of the newly built Empire State building. Planes shoot the ape off the building after he puts Wray down and he lands dead in the street. When someone mentions that the planes got him. In the final words of the film Denham replies, “Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes.” “It was beauty killed the beast.”

My number four film that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime is a favorite of my granddaughter Lexis and me. Dawn Evelyeen Paris was born on April 17, 1918. Starting at age four in 1922 using the name of Dawn O’Day and other names she appeared in 33 films. In 1934 at the age of 16, Dawn was chosen for the lead title role in Anne of Green Gables. Dawn changed her stage name legally for the last time to Anne Shirley, which was the name of her character in her best and most remembered film.

Anne who was beautiful and a good actress would appear in 34 films, which never reached the peak of number one stardom with her retiring from films at the young age of 26 in 1944. Anne passed away on July 4, 1993 at the age of 75 from lung cancer.
The novel Anne of Green Gables was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) in 1919. Montgomery used her initials H.M. and was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada where the novel takes place. Orphan Anne is adopted by farmer Matthew Cuthbert played by O. P. Heggie (1877-1936) and his sister Marilla played by Helen Westley (1875-1942). They wanted a boy to help on the farm, but they accept Anne and the fun begins. After her ups and downs Anne is soon endeared by Matthew and Marilla as well as the local villagers. Before laptops there were slates which were slate blackboards about the size of a laptop. One of the funniest moments is when Anne breaks her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head played by Tom Brown (1913-1990) on her first day of school.

He called her carrot because her hair was red and she was ashamed of it. This is truly a great little film with a great cast that you will not forget. Heggie, who was born in Australia shows a lot of wisdom in his role. Prince Edward Island where Green Gables is located is near Nova Scotia and is supposed to be the most beautiful place on earth. At least it was in the movie. My son, Bill, flies to Nova Scotia quite often for his company. As a matter of fact he is there as I write this. I don’t think he has visited Green Gables.

Bill Baird is a Whitewater Township resident who writes a weekly column about old movies and Hollywood Trivia.