Merian Cooper Wins Oscar; 'Transfers' it to Willis O'Brien

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Ken Viewer

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Merian Cooper Wins Oscar; 'Transfers' it to Willis O'Brien

PostSun Feb 04, 2018 4:59 pm

Here's some footage of one of the most-unusual and self-sacrificing moments in the history of the Academy Awards. As late as 1949, AND BEYOND, still believing there was a huge market out there waiting for yet another giant-gorilla-with-heart film, Merian C. Cooper, who had created the original "King Kong," aided by his long-time collaborator, "Kong" co-director and co-producer Ernest B. Schoedsack, who, in real life, was almost as tall as Kong, made another gorilla film, this time called "Mighty Joe Young."

(Mind you, periodic rereleases of "Kong" were still raking in piles of cash for RKO, which apparently wasn't sharing the gold with Cooper. (I first saw "Kong" during what I believe was its 1952 theatrical rerelease.)

This new one starred the then-RKO studio-owner's (THE Howard Hughes) either wife, or soon-to-be-wife, Terry Moore, as the damsel, and reportedly didn't make a dime. Nonetheless, it was nominated for an Academy Award for best Special Effects (a category the Academy chose to ignore completely for the year "King Kong" was released) for the calendar year 1949.

The Academy's rules, as I understand them, at that time, were that the producer of the film was the actual winner of the Special-Effects Oscar. Cooper was the producer of "Mighty Joe Young," and it was made by his production company, ARKO Productions, which may have owned the film, which was released via RKO.

So at the awards ceremony (the annual events were, in 1950, not yet televised live on any of the then-four national TV networks), when "Mighty Joe Young" won, it was Cooper's Oscar to accept. But he had apparently, in advance, decided that if he won, he would transfer the Oscar to special-effects legend, and the guy in charge of "Young's" effects, Willis H. O'Brien, who'd been creating such tricks and magic in Hollywoodland since the ninteen-teens but had never received an Academy Award (the Academy didn't even exist before the commercial success of talking-pictures).

Now all this is a long and boring story, particularly without some form of documentation.

So, here is digitized film of that Awards ceremony excerpt from 1950, in glorious black-and-white (even though Cooper had secured major help and funding for Technicolor so it could complete development of its smash-hit and industry-standard three-strip Technicolor and find studios to utilize the process).

And so, in an event NOT reminicent of when Jack Warner stole, right on stage, the Best Picture Oscar from producer Hal B. Wallis for "Casablanca" -- who was blocked from getting from his seat to an aisle to the stage by "Yankel Guniff's" brothers ( as a member of my family who once worked for him referred to the guy -- "guniff" -- American spelling -- can mean 'thief' in Yiddish (the Academy later reputedly offered to make Wallis a replacement Oscar), here's what went on when the Best Special Effects Oscar-winner was announced at the awards ceremony:



As for what some of the film's promotional material may have looked like, we have this, among other things:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... @._V1_.jpg" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank

Who the hell in his/her right mind gives away an Academy Award he earned? Cooper, that's who.

Ken
Last edited by silentfilm on Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Embedd YouTube link

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