King Kong (1933)

Growing up a New Yorker in the TV never-never land of the 1960s and ’70s, Thanksgiving meant one thing: giant apes. For some obscure reason, a local broadcast station (back when we had local broadcast stations) would always air, year after year, King Kong, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young from noon to dinnertime. In some households it was the Dallas Cowboys; in others it was the Macy’s parade. But in certain homes, the day was filled with images of black-and-white hand-animated gorillas rampaging through the respective jungles of Skull Island and midtown Manhattan. In 1933, the then-brand-new Empire State Building instantly acquired a legendary aura for millions worldwide who had never been to New York, and we came to believe—in our movie culture’s subconscious, at least—that the Third Avenue El disappeared because the famed subway actually was decimated by Kong. This counterprogramming against football and floats was so consistent that watching these flicks became an ersatz annual tradition for everyone we knew. Why outsized, stop-motion simians? Whatever you say. Somehow today it makes sense, if for no other reason than because Thanksgiving, to kids, is often little more than a big meal. So, on a day that’s dependably gray, cold, and somewhat dull, we were treated to grainy Depression-era urban camaraderie, holy-smokes wisecracker Robert Armstrong, foggy islandscapes, vertiginous cliffs (stalked by pterodactyls!), and horrific images of gargantuan chaos—escapism defined, and best seen on the living room rug with a good November rain rasping outside. Annual traditions certainly tend to be asinine and arbitrary in America, and there’s no reason this one shouldn’t catch on again. The loud, exhausting 2005 remake might suffice in some households, since it as nearly as long as all three films combined.

English: This is a scan of the original public...
English: This is a scan of the original publicity poster for King Kong (1933). The scan was posted at This version has had its exposure adjusted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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