Carl Denham is a fictional film producer and director who appeared in the 1933 film King Kong, its sequel Son of Kong, and its 1998 and 2005 remakes. Carl is typically portrayed as a producer of entertainment, whether that be as a film or stage director. He is seldom shown to have much forethought or introspection but is always fiercely dedicated to his project, sometimes to a problematic extent. He is always known for his work with animals, whether on film or live. However, when he comes to Skull Island and loses his crew, Denham cannot resist the temptation to capture Kong and make a fortune by bringing him home, which tends to end tragically and change Denham for the better.
There are several takes on what happens to Denham after Kong's death, with derived works giving him children and even grandchildren, but he is typically financially ruined by lawsuits for the damages Kong's rampage caused. In both Son of Kong and Kong: King of Skull Island, Carl returns to the island and discovers a newfound appreciation for the ape he had mistreated. This is an overview page. To view information on specific versions of Carl Denham, please click on their corresponding boxes in the table below.
- King Kong (1933)
- Son of Kong (1933)
- The Mighty Kong (1998)
- King Kong (2005)
- The Lost Spider Pit Sequence (2005) [stock footage]
- Main article: Carl Denham (RKO)#History.
In King Kong, Denham was a famous maker of "moving pictures" known for filming wild animals in exotic places. Many questioned his sanity due to his dedication to film. Denham's role in the film began when a movie producer boarded the S.S. Venture to inform Denham that he had not found an actress to be in his new film. This prompted Denham to go into New York City to find a girl for the role. Denham found Ann Darrow in the grip of an angry shopkeeper who believed that she intended to steal an apple from his stand. Denham bought Darrow dinner and hired her for the film. While aboard the Venture, Denham filmed some scenes of Darrow. Denham disapproved of the burgeoning romance between Darrow and the sailor Jack Driscoll while filming. On Skull Island, Denham tried to film the native sacrifice ceremony, only to be found out by the native chief. Darrow was later kidnapped and given to the natives' god, Kong. Denham and a group of others tracked Kong through the jungle in an attempt to rescue Darrow, which led to the deaths of every member of the search party but Driscoll and Denham himself. Denham returned to alert Captain Englehorn of the situation, and was seen again after Driscoll and Ann had escaped. Denham, the Venture's crew, and a brace of natives tried to keep Kong inside the ancient wall of the island, but Kong still escaped. As everyone fled toward the shore, Denham threw a gas bomb at Kong, subduing him for the time being. Months later, Denham had gained a show in New York City with Kong as the star, but on opening night Kong mistook cameras for weapons (and an attack on Ann Darrow), and escaped. Denham and Driscoll went to the local police to think of a way to subdue Kong. Denham was seen again at the end of the film pushing through crowds to get to Kong's body.
In Son of Kong, Denham was staying in a rented room hiding from the press after being financially ruined by lawsuits against him for the destruction of New York City. Denham revealed that he was full of regret for what he did to Kong. He was summoned back to the Venture by Captain Englehorn via a note delivered by the ship's cook Charlie. On board the ship, Denham was made aware that he had been given the option to testify in his defense in the United States Supreme Court. At this time, Denham decided to travel with the Venture. The Venture took to port on an island called Dakang about a thousand miles away from Kong's island. On Dakang, Denham went to see a show where he met the ex-ballet dancer Hilda Petersen, who was now working in her father's small sideshow. After departing from Dakang, it was discovered that Hilda had stowed away on board. Later on in the voyage, a mutiny was staged, which sent Denham, Captain Englehorn, Charlie, and Hilda to Kong's island in a lifeboat. On the island, he almost immediately discovered Kiko and recognized that he is the son of King Kong. Kiko then got into a few predicaments, and Denham and Hilda aided him, thus earning the juvenile Kong's trust. When Denham opened the temple that the party had set up camp near and took the necklace with large diamonds that was inside, the island began to sink into the ocean. Kiko lifted Denham up above the water, saving his life. After Denham and the rest of the party were rescued, Denham questioned weather Kiko knew he was saving his life. Hilda assured Denham that he did, and they discussed their plans for when they would return to the city.
- Main article: C.B. Denham#History.
After closing his stage show Wild Animal Follies, Carl "C.B." Denham set out to pursue his film project at the uncharted Skull Island which his ship, the Java Queen, had accidentally discovered on a previous voyage. He then found Ann Darrow attempting to steal an apple. He then took her to dinner and persuaded her to become his leading lady in his picture in order for her to become a movie star and to live in Hollywood. They then spend six weeks at sea, and eventually arrive on Skull Island, and are run off by the natives, who later kidnap Ann. C.B. and the armed crew went to save Ann, and C.B. and his cameraman Roscoe scaled the volcano to try to get to her, but it erupted, necessitating their escape by bungee jumping from the cliff face with their film. C.B. injured his leg, and bade the cabin boy Ricky to leave him, but at that point Kong found them. Roscoe helped Denham back to the ship where they incapacitated Kong with gas bombs. After returning to New York, C.B. opened a stage show starring Kong, but he broke out of his chains after flash photography made him think Ann was in danger. Denham had intended to set Kong free in south New Jersey after the show, but he broke out and began running amok. C.B. attempted to capture Kong alive with two blimps and a cargo net, but Kong's weight broke the net and he fell to the bottom of the building, and despite Denham's initial beliefs, he was alive.
- Main article: Carl Denham (Universal)#History.
While appealing to his producers to get more money to fund an expedition to film on an uncharted island, the board votes to scrap his picture for stock footage, forcing Denham to grab his assistant Preston and begin making preparations to leave that night. However, Preston informed him that Maureen McKenzie, their lead actress, had pulled out from the project and Denham leaves the taxi to find a new one. He checked a burlesque theater, where in a reflection on the glass door he saw Ann Darrow turn around and walk off. He then found her being held by a shopkeeper for trying to steal an apple. Denham pays her way out of the situation before taking her to dinner to try to entice her into joining the project. She soon agreed, but when they arrived at the Venture, Preston informed him that the police were on their way. Offering Captain Englehorn another thousand dollars to cast off immediately, Denham went on board to see Jack Driscoll, who had only written 15 pages of the screenplay. Carl then stalled him long enough for the ship to cast off, ensuring that he would have time to finish the story. In the morning, Carl introduced Ann to the film crew, but she mistook Mike the recordist for Driscoll. While shopping the story with the real Driscoll, Denham revealed the true location of the film shoot, but was overheard by the sailor Jimmy. While filming on deck, he saw Jimmy telling Hayes, and cut the shot short. He kept filming Ann by herself, and that night he convinced Englehorn to sail out of the shipping lanes toward Skull Island. Jimmy, Lumpy, and Ben Hayes then confronted him in the galley, where they warned of a crazed castaway they had picked up with a dire warning of the horrors of the island. Denham was unfazed. However, when the ship began to turn around, Denham pleaded with Englehorn to stay the course and not turn him in, but the captain refused. Ruined, Carl went to contemplate his situation at the ship's railing, where he and Jack examined a mysterious marking on the map before it was blown out of Carl's hands and into the sea. The ship then began to enter a dense fog and was scuttled on a gigantic carving before Denham looked out and saw the legendary wall of Skull Island. In the morning he took the film crew ashore, where they discovered a village, and Carl tried and failed to give a native child some chocolate. The natives then killed Mike, a sailor, and nearly killed Carl before Englehorn arrived to rescue them. Back on board Denham began drinking and proclaimed that they would finish the film in Mike's memory. When it became apparent that Ann had been kidnapped, Carl had Herb sneak the cameras aboard the whalers to take ashore as part of her rescue. On arriving in the village, Carl ran to the gate after hearing her scream behind the wall where he saw the immense form of Kong disappear into the jungle with Ann in hand. A short way into the jungle, the group was attacked by a Ferrucutus, and Carl narrowly avoided being trampled. After Hayes killed the creature, Carl made sure to film the corpse's twitching tail. Eventually the crew took a five minute break in a narrow valley, and Carl went to film a wide shot before discovering a herd of Brontosaurus. He has Bruce Baxter film with them for a moment before they begin to stampede, and the actor runs away. Carl stumbled and despite Jack's please, was unwilling to give up the camera. While he managed to survive the stampede, Herb the cameraman was killed by Venatosaurus as he tried to help him up a steep ledge, leading him to proclaim to Preston that they would finish the film for Herb. However as they rafted across a swamp, they were attacked by sea creatures. Denham eventually began to shoot at the Piranhadon, causing the raft to collapse. Denham made it to shore, where he collected the camera from Preston and began to crank it to see if it still worked, which it did, and he inadvertently filmed a sailor being killed by the Piranhadon. The crew continued to a log bridging a deep chasm, where Kong emerged and killed Hayes. Denham filmed the attack until the beast shook the log and made Denham drop the camera and it fell into a clump of roots on the side of the log. He asked Lumpy to save the camera, but the sailor kicked it off in spite. Denham and the rest of the sailors fell into the pit below, and he eventually began to stir before discovering that his camera had been destroyed in the fall, and all the film ruined by exposure to the light of Jack's flare. He stood up and watched the Weta-rex attack Jack as the Carnictis consumed Lumpy. Carl finally snapped and began to strike savagely at the various creatures attacking him until Englehorn arrived with the rest of the sailors to save them. This final brush with death filled Carl with a desire to capture Kong alive. Englehorn was bitter at Denham's survival, but was quickly propositioned into Carl's scheme. Carl kept the drawbridge up and refused to lower it even when Jack and Ann screamed from the other side to do so. Preston then lowered it without Carl's approval, and they came over just before Kong smashed through the gate and the operation began. Kong quickly broke free and Englehorn called it off, but Carl was not as willing to abandon his prize, and was the last to the whalers waiting for them on the shore. When Kong caught up, Denham found another chloroform bottle in a boat and prepared to throw it shortly before being tossed from the whaler when Kong struck it. Englehorn then harpooned the beast in the leg and Carl bade him not to shoot again as he climbed up a rock and smashed the bottle on Kong's face, finally bringing the beast down. He then proclaimed the crew millionaires, and vowed to put Kong on Broadway as 'The Eighth Wonder of the World".
On opening night at the Alhambra theater, Carl welcomed the mayor and all of his former producers with enthusiasm before seeing Preston looking on him disapprovingly from a balcony and returning to his party. Onstage Denham proudly introduced Kong to the world and played up his harmlessness before starting the show, starring Bruce Baxter as the hero who saved Ann. With photographers crowding the wings, Denham allowed them to continue shooting as Kong roared in frustration at the flashbulbs for the sake of getting a better picture. Denham then watched as Kong broke free and began to destroy the theater. After Kong was killed by biplanes and fell from the Empire State Building, Denham pushed through the crowd surrounding Kong's lifeless body and proclaimed that it was "beauty killed the beast" before disappearing within the crowd.
- Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (2005) - Nintendo GameCube and DS, PC, Sony PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, Microsoft Xbox and Xbox 360
- Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World (2005) - Nintendo Game Boy Advance
- King Kong: Skull Island Adventure (2008) - PC
Books and short stories
- King Kong (1932)
- King Kong (1933) - Boys' Magazine
- King Kong (1933) - The Mystery Magazine
- King Kong (1933) - London Daily Herald
- The Illustrated King Kong (1976)
- King Kong (1983) - Step Up Adventures
- Anthony Browne's King Kong (1994)
- Kong: King of Skull Island (2005)
- Merian C. Cooper's King Kong (2005)
- King Kong: The Island of the Skull (2005)
- Kong Reborn (2005)
- King Kong (2005) - Pocket Star
- King Kong (2005) - Shueisha
- King Kong: Escape from Skull Island (2005)
- King Kong: The Junior Novel (2005)
- The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island (2005)
- Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World (2007)
- Doc Savage: Skull Island (2013)
- King Kong vs. Tarzan (2017)
- King Kong of Skull Island (2021)
Audio and stage plays
- King Kong (1933) - NBC radio play
- King Kong (1974) - Wonderland Records audio play
- King Kong (2013) - Melbourne, Australia musical
- King Kong: Alive on Broadway (2019) - Broadway musical
- King Kong (1933) - newspaper strip
- Son of Kong (1933) - newspaper strip
- King Kong (1991) [issues #1-6]
- King Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World (2006)
- Kong: King of Skull Island (2007)
- While his name was not always "Carl," the "Denham" character, alongside Captain Englehorn, is one of the earliest characters in the creation of King Kong. He was present as a circus owner who captured and displayed Kong in Edgar Wallace's earliest screenplays.
- In Godzilla vs. Kong, the university where Nathan Lind works is called the Denham University of Theoretical Science, a clear nod to Carl Denham.
- At Universal Studios Florida, Sahara Traders, the gift shop for the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster that replaced Kongfrontation, features brochures and banners identifying Carl Denham as the curator of the attraction's Museum of Antiquities. The museum's Egyptian exhibit is stated to have been assembled by him, with "The Living Mummy" as its "Ninth Wonder of the World" centerpiece. While letters on display show that Evelyn O'Connell wants nothing to do with Denham's latest moneymaking scheme, her brother Jonathan is eager to collaborate and sell anything he can to Denham for his exhibit, including the Book of the Dead.
This is a list of references for Carl Denham. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: 
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