Saturday, August 1, 2020


Imagine a movie made by RKO in 1933 where a big-game hunter by the name of Danby Denham with a girl named Shirley Redman sail on a ship captained by a man named Englehart to a place called Vapour Island where they come up against a giant gorilla called "The Beast", and you'll have a sense of the first draft script of KING KONG.

Written by the famous British mystery writer, Edgar Wallace (whose stories were made into popular "Krimi" films in West Germany) the developmental script deemed "exceedingly rare" by the auction house is on the block with a bid starting at $31,250.

From the Auctioneers:

King Kong Exceedingly Rare First Draft Developmental Script, Titled The Beast (RKO Pictures, 1932). Blue covers, measuring approximately 9" x 11 ½", affixed center label reading "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. Title page dated January 5, 1932. 110 carbon pages typed only on the rectos. Includes black archival clamshell book box with "The Beast / 1932" gold-embossed on the spine. Very Good Plus condition with soiling, handling wear, toning, and moisture staining to the cover. Also exhibits a two-inch separation Inner pages look great, with minor toning appropriate for the script's age.

In the storied history of fantastic cinema, few titans stand as tall as King Kong. Created by writer Edgar Wallace and director Merian C. Cooper, the 1933 film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and remains perhaps the greatest of all creature features. The incredible story and striking imagery of gargantuan monsters lurching from out of the foggy depths of some long-forgotten epoch of prehistory, and the King of these beasts later rampaging through 1930s New York (expertly brought to life by the groundbreaking special effects of Willis O'Brien) ensure King Kong will forever reign as King of the Monsters (Apologies, Godzilla!).

The first, offered here and titled The Beast, markedly differs from later drafts. The Beast was composed by British writer Edgar Wallace, who was brought in by Cooper specifically to use Wallace's popularity to publicize the film. In this first draft, instead of filmmaker Carl Denham, you'll find rugged big-game hunter Danby Denham. Whereas we're all used to Ann Darrow (wonderfully portrayed in the film by Fay Wray), in The Beast you'll find Shirley Redman, who is saved by Kong from a band of escaped convicts! In fact, there are several pages dedicated to the convicts, who've kidnapped Shirley from the Governor's mansion. Though there are these and other very noticeable differences between this manuscript and the finished product, Wallace's story is still the essential framework of King Kong, with Kong fighting a Tyrannosaur to protect the girl, and the final showdown of beast and man taking place in a bustling New York.

Edgar Wallace died of pneumonia just over a month after this manuscript was complete, so his vision (inspired by the concept dreamed up by Cooper) would be changed extensively through successive drafts. If Wallace had lived, perhaps Kong would have been a very different beast.

This outstanding manuscript is a veritable treasure for collectors of monstrous cinema. Scratch that, as only the second of these ever offered at auction, and the importance of the film in which it became, this is a Holy Grail for cinephiles of all stripes! Behold, the beginnings of the monster movie blockbuster!

The second script in this trio of developmental scripts for KING KONG is titled THE EIGHTH WONDER, written by James Ashmore Creelman who was busy at work on scripting THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, but was called in for another treatment of the Kong script after the death of Edgar Wallace. Opening bid for this script is $18,750.

From the Auctioneer:

King Kong Rare Early Developmental Script, Titled The Eighth Wonder (RKO Pictures, 1932). Tan covers, measuring approximately 8 ½" x 11 ¼", front reading "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. 105 carbon pages typed only on the rectos. Includes black archival clamshell book box with the title and "1932" gold-embossed on the spine. In Very Good Plus condition. Covers exhibit toning, minor handling wear, small areas of chipping loss at three corners, creasing at the left side from use, and a two-inch separation at the crease. Inner pages exhibit minor toning and wear, appropriate for the age of the piece.

Offered here is the second of three successive drafts of developmental manuscripts that would become the immortal creature feature King Kong. Titled The Eighth Wonder, it's a revision of Wallace's scenario by screenwriter James Ashmore Creelman, who was brought on by Marian C. Cooper from another film he was working on, The Most Dangerous Game. In it, you'll find big-game hunter Danby Denham is now simply Denham, brutish film director. Shirley Redman is now Ann Darrow, and her lover in the first draft, a convict named John, has become first mate Jack Driscoll. This is also the draft in which the "beauty and the beast" theme was introduced, and the Kong in New York sequence is lengthened, reading more like the scene we all know.

After Creelman was forced to temporarily step away from the project due to his work on The Most Dangerous Game, the script saw further revisions by Horace McCoy, who added a few of the more fanciful and exotic elements, like the terrifying island natives, sacrificial maidens, and the gigantic wall used to keep Kong at bay. When Creelman returned to the project, he despised the new fantastic elements (though a film with lumbering dinosaurs and a giant ape is already quite fantastic). Thankfully, Cooper stood firm they remain in the script.

This is the first of its kind we've ever seen. There well may be other copies out there, but not one Heritage has come across. The sheer rarity of these pieces aside, seeing the evolution of one of the greatest films of all time through the progression of these screenplays is to truly witness the magic of movies.

The third draft of Kong sees Denham's first name changed to Fritz, but the story becomes closer to the KING KONG that we know and love. The opening bid for this item is $18,750.

From the Auctioneer:

King Kong Rare Developmental Script, Titled Kong (The Eighth Wonder) (RKO Pictures, 1932). Green covers, measures approximately 9" x 11", front reading "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 carbon pages typed only on the rectos. Includes black archival clamshell box with the spine gold-embossed "Kong / 1932". Very Good Plus condition. Covers exhibit minor toning due to age, light creasing to the left side from use, and minor handling wear. Inner pages look great, showing just a bit of toning appropriate to the age of the script.

Here, the third of three drafts of scripts that would become King Kong begins to take shape as the basis for the iconic adventure film deemed "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. In this draft, Denham has somewhat morphed further into Fritz Denham, wild and boisterous director of several wild animal films made in exotic locales, while Captain Engelhorn is one of the few characters who's remained the same throughout. This version is a further revision by James Ashmore Creelman, the screenwriter brought on by co-director and co-creator Merian C. Cooper as a replacement for the then-recently deceased Edgar Wallace. Here the Witch King is added to the mix, and Kong's death is written with an even more heart-wrenching tone.

As with the previous lot, The Eighth Wonder, this is the only script of its kind we've ever laid eyes on. Whether it's the only copy in existence we don't know, but the scarcity of this manuscript can't be overstated.

What's incredible about these screenplays is that each is wildly different from the last. The first could be a different, albeit similar movie to Kong, while the latter two are much closer to the beloved creature feature we all know, while still displaying an array of differences from one another. These rare manuscripts truly show the frenzied evolution of the mother of all monster movies, King Kong!

An incredible trio and among the rarest of the rare in King Kong and giant monster memorabilia!

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