Tonight on MeTV- we bring you the first major accomplishment of famed stop-motion animation genius Ray Harryhausen ( though there were things about it that he wasn’t quite fond of!)- in the amazing tale of a gorilla, raised by a loving young girl in Africa, who becomes a show business success in America by entertaining crowds with feats of strength and face-offs with professional wrestlers- but finds heartbreak attached to that fame- when we meet “Mighty Joe Young”!
This classic film from 1949 begins with a charming visit to the African ranch of John Young – where his little daughter Jill sees a baby gorilla being carried by some local tribesmen and makes a deal with them to make it her own- naming him Joe, and giving him her last name. Her father John doesn’t seem quite thrilled about her new pet, knowing he will grow into a large and powerful animal!
From there, we move forward in time twenty years- and head to an office in America- where brash show biz mogul Max O’Hare is trying to come up with something new and different to wow the public- and, thanks to a visit from Gregg, a rodeo star looking for work, decides to bring cowboys to darkest Africa to capture wild animals there for his new nightclub! The crazy scheme actually seems to be working, as the wranglers obtain fierce beasts, and all seems well- until a huge gorilla invades O’Hara’s camp- and destructively frees one of the beasts!
Gregg and the cowboys set out to stop the simian invader- and aren’t having much success. Max himself gets involved, keeping his men from shooting the big ape in hope of finding a way to bring it back alive- only to be caught himself by his quarry! It looks like he’s in mortal danger- when a lovely young woman shows up, admonishes the beast, and gets it to let go of Max! Angry with the interlopers to her territory, she instructs the ape to leave with her- and Max, a bit rumpled but okay, decides he may have just discovered his next big attraction!
Gregg finds the ranch where the young woman lives, and on slightly better terms, introduces himself to her. She is actually little Jill, now grown up, and owner of the ranch since her father has passed. The gorilla, of course, is Joe- the baby ape she has raised since childhood, which she considers her only friend- and who responds to the tune of “Beautiful Dreamer”! Thanks to Gregg’s friendly ways, she finally has a chat with Max- who convinces her that she and Joe will find great fame and fortune in the exciting land of Hollywood- in spite of Gregg voicing some concerns about whether that will be true.
Sure enough, when Max opens his African-themed nightclub, crowds are amazed by the performance of Joe, accompanied by Jill- and the success Max predicted becomes a reality! However, neither Jill nor Joe is very happy about being in the public eye- and Joe being in what amounts to a cell when he isn’t appearing on stage. Jill wants them to return home, but Max convince her to hang on for just a little while- which expands to more and more weeks! Their unhappiness grows- and when a horrific incident brings out Joe’s savage nature- there’s pandemonium that puts Joe’s very life at stake!
This film, from the same people who brought us the original “King Kong”, stars young Terry Moore as Jill, Robert Armstrong ( in much the same role he played in “Kong”) as Max O’Hara, and Ben Johnson as Gregg, along with many familiar actors we’ll tell you about. We’ll briefly talk about how Ray Harryhausen got his big break, being appointed by “Kong” animator Willis O’Brien to handle most of the animation- and tell why Ray wasn’t fond of the story. We’ll add in a song, and a pitch for a sure fix-it for gorilla destruction. Due to some content and the film’s length, we had to do a little careful editing- but we wanted to be able to bring this film to you!
“Mighty Joe Young” makes his appearance tonight on MeTV at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central time. The live-Tweeting during the show last week again had us among the highest trending subjects during that rime on Twitter- and MeTV invites you to join in, always adding the hashtag #svengoolie. This morning, our Chicago area viewers can again enjoy “Devil Doll” on our main local station, CW 26, at 11 am.
Watch for some new Sven merchandise to appear- most appropriately- next weekend on Halloween!
Join us tonight as we introduce Mr. Joseph Young of Africa to everyone- from Hollywood to Berwyn!