Park Ridge is honoring the 85th anniversary of King Kong (1933) with a special exhibit at the Library through the end of February and a showing of the film at the Pickwick Theatre on March 15. Producer Merian C. Cooper’s vision of a giant ape climbing the Empire State Building has been cited as the greatest creature feature of all time, a cinematic legend and pop culture icon.
On display for the first time, the exhibit highlights the film’s legacy and the forces behind its creation, and features some extremely rare items that film historian and Library Circulation Assistant Manager Matthew Hoffman has collected over the years. Several of the items are from the estate of director and cameraman Ernest B. Schoedsack and his screenwriter wife, Ruth Rose. Hoffman discovered them in 2015, when he travelled to western Nebraska to interview Schoedsack’s and Rose’s 95-year-old former caretaker. These include photos, a Rose manuscript, an African statue and the actual plaque presented to Merian C. Cooper (King Kong’s producer) and Ernest B. Schoedsack for the 1927 film, Chang, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production at the first Academy Awards in 1929, the only year when this award was presented.
These items are all that is left of a much larger collection that Hoffman, along with a representative from Brigham Young University (which houses the Merian C. Cooper papers), had previously tried to acquire for the university. While a verbal agreement had been made with the owner of the collection, unfortunately, a third party came in at the last minute and won the bid. The sold pieces included the Ruth Rose diaries, which detailed the production history of King Kong and other films Schoedsack, Rose and producer/director Merian C. Cooper worked on, and also albums of rare photos of their travels around the world.
“Since King Kong has always been my favorite movie, I wanted to help save the collection for the university’s library-- and to help with my own research on the film’s production,” said Hoffman. “These items are a bridge to the past—our motion picture history—and they belong in a museum or university,” Hoffman added. BYU Hoffman are still working on acquiring these lost items.
Special thanks for the exhibit go to local artist Paul Pandocchi (for contributing the Willis O’Brien model), Kong historian/collector Jack Polito and Maxine L. (former caretaker for the Schoedsacks who was a part of the family). Sadly, Maxine passed away in 2016 at the age of 96.