In the movie, the character named Denham (who plays a notorious film-maker) fails to find a star actress to accept the role of the leading lady. His offers were declined because of the unconventional nature of the script – it seemed no one wanted to risk their careers. This situation was testing Denham’s patience and balance. At this juncture, his eyes catch the sight of a poor and miserable young woman in one of the New York streets. Unkempt she might have been, but her underlying beauty was unmistakable. He decides then and there that she (played by Fay Wray) would be the leading lady in his film. He convinces the young woman that this is a rare and lucrative opportunity to achieve popular recognition and fame. The young woman complies. There are many a classic Hollywood thematic elements in this section of the narrative – “a chance encounter”, “journey from obscurity to fame”, “rags to riches”, “the American Dream”, etc. (Grover, 2005).
Exploring further, more classic thematic pieces could be uncovered. For example, when First Mate Driscoll meets Ann (Fay Wray) in the deck, he develops empathy for her. This could be deciphered as a variation on “Damsel in Distress” scenario. First Mate Driscoll, a hard and tough shipman, mellows in the presence of a vulnerable and insecure woman (McGowan-Hartmann, 2006). This scenario too is played out in numerous other Hollywood productions. Damon Young sees the romance in the film from a different perspective:
“The theme of domesticating femininity as that which tames and undoes the male subject through the force of its visual desirability is central to the film’s narrative economy….Insofar as Kong functions as a surrogate for the masculine ego unconstrained by civilization, the film stages the feminine power of desirability as a threat: Kong is destroyed by his love for Ann.” (Young, Damon)
The director maintains an element of suspense and mystery during the adventurous voyage to an island, whose inhabitants are not known to the outside world. First of all, Denham, on whose orders the ship is run, does not disclose any information regarding their destination when the ship leaves shore. He finally decides to brief his crew members of their impending exotic experience. Even at that point there were more questions than answers. The crew only had a vague conception of their enterprise. The director is not just keeping his crew members in a state of uncertainty and anxiety, but also the audience (Grover, 2005). Movies in the horror genre exploit this aspect of human psychology very well. This is a time-tested technique used in narrative arts of all types – novels, plays, movies, etc., to keep the audience hooked to the narrative. Again, this is classic Hollywood. The narrative technique, which was very effective in arousing audience interest found varied expression in Alfred Hitchcock movies decades later (McGowan-Hartmann, 2006).
The second half of the film is a showcase of visual innovations. The scene where King Kong would mount the Empire State building with his lady love in hand was masterfully crafted. Here, the giant beast takes on an array of fighter planes. The use of miniature models in arriving at a real-life visual effect was so perfect that it would escape our notice (Stringer, p.409)
The movie has come to define Hollywood productions because it leaves room for various interpretations. This quality is manifest in all classic works of art and King Kong is no exception. The film can be classified under numerous genres. It is a romantic, adventure, horror, science-fiction, political film. The last adjective is quite interesting, because this particular description is not striking or obvious. It is political to the extent that it depicts American imperialist tendencies through the treatment meted out to the native tribes of the island. It is also political in that the movie making attitude displayed by Denham is purely capitalist – ruthlessly commercial and thereby inhumane. This inhumane subjugation is imposed on his own crew members and the native tribes. In many ways Denham’s character was so typical of the Studio bosses of the 1930s and 1940s. Since Capitalism and Imperialism are both inherent qualities of all Hollywood productions, we can conclude that King Kong typifies the Classic Hollywood production. (Stringer, p.410)