In the classic film King Kong (1933), Carl Denham, the filmmaker turned exhibitor, introduced his captured, prehistoric giant ape as “Kong, the eighth wonder of the world.” Well, for some of us, film could also be labeled as one of the world’s wonders. Before we get into discussing film’s impact on learning, let’s have some fun swapping stories about our most wonderful films. I’ll go first.
While growing up in southern New Jersey with my brother and five sisters, the film King Kong would appear on television once or twice per year. When it did, life would halt for two hours as we watched what we believed was the greatest movie ever made. I was only five years old the first time I watched King Kong. All seven of the Clayton kids, sprawled across the couch and the living room floor, along with our parents sitting in their two comfortable chairs, would watch this Clayton family classic. Before I was old enough to read, my father, one of the great practical jokers ever, told me that he was the Director of the movie. I replied, “no way, Dad, you’re a salesman, not a movie Director.” He explained that he directed King Kong before he became a salesman. As the film’s opening credits approached the end, he would say, “ok, now look Douglas, there’s my name, you see, it says ‘directed by J.B. Clayton’.” I didn’t know how to read and I was a trusting little fella, so, I totally believed my Dad. Without my Dad’s knowledge, the next week I told my friends, my teachers, and our adult neighbors on East Knight Avenue that my father was the world famous director of King Kong. My friends wanted my Dad’s autograph, my school’s principal wanted my Dad to speak about Hollywood film making at a special Parent Teacher Association school assembly, and my neighbors would simply shake their heads and walk away from me mumbling something about “that poor little Clayton boy.”
As we watched the movie, my siblings and I would reenact the scene where Kong killed the scary tyrannosaurus rex by cracking and ripping open the T-rex’s jaw. My sibs always made me play T-rex while they would take turns playing Kong. It may have taken a week or two, but, eventually feeling would return to my jaw and it would operate normally. My sibs were into realism.
The movie’s most memorable scene captured the climactic battle that Kong waged against several military airplanes equipped with machine guns, while he balanced himself 102 stories atop of the Empire State Building in New York City. We cheered when he was able to grab one plane and smash it against the building. And we cried when Kong, bleeding from bullet wounds, looking confused and hurt, fell to his death. My sibs always made me play the airplane while they, once again, would take turns playing Kong, throwing me off the couch (the Empire State Building) onto the living room floor. As I mentioned, they were into realism.
Watching King Kong was a physical, emotional and fun event. It’s the film that kicked off what would become my budding love affair with movies.
I’d love to hear about your first, most memorable movie. What was it? Where were you when you watched it? What made it so memorable… or such a wonder?