It wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty, killed the beast.
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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 fruit from his stand. Denham bought Darrow dinner and hired her for the film. While aboard the Venture, Denham filmed some scenes of Darrow. Denham disproved 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 by the native chief. Darrow was later kidnapped and given to the god Kong. Denham and a group of others tracked Kong through the jungle in an attempt to rescue Darrow, which to the deaths of every party member 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 shown to be staying in a rented room hiding from the press, 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 the ship's cook Charlie (credited as Chinese Chef). 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 recognizes 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 discuss their plans for when they return to the city.
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.
Carl Denham was a failing film producer and mild conman. He was shown to be unscrupulous, as he engaged in drinking alcohol during prohibition, lying to actors, stealing equipment, and writing checks for money he did not have. He cared for nothing but making a profit. In order to pursue his next big project, filming the mythic Skull Island, he stole cameras and essentially kidnapped the writer Jack Driscoll to write the script. On Skull Island, Denham encountered a native child whom he attempted to give chocolate as a sign of peace, but ended up getting the party attacked, and costing the life of his sound editor. When he suffered losses of friends and co-workers during his expedition, he simply drank and claimed that the proceeds of the film would go to the deceased's family, but as he said this twice about two different people, it is clear that he had no intention of giving any proceeds away. After his camera broke, and all hope of making millions of dollars seems lost, he became determined to capture Kong alive. He seemed to care nothing for human losses sustained to do so. It was Denham that smashed the last bottle of chloroform onto Kong's face, which subdued him and allowed him to be captured. When Denham returned to New York, he put Kong into a stage show as "The Eighth Wonder of the World". He seemed to not be affected at all by what he saw on Skull Island. He edited the story of their adventure to put Bruce Baxter into the central role. He only became concerned with Kong when he escaped and wrecked the theater. After Kong was killed, Denham approached the body, claimed that "It was beauty, killed the beast" and walked away into the crowd.
At age 35, while waiting aboard the venture, Denham was approached by Weston, his casting agent who informed him that they had no lead actress. Weston tried to minimize his failure by pointing out that Denham had never used a woman in a film before, but Denham scoffed him away, telling him that crowds were complaining that his films needed a leading lady to truly enjoy and appreciate his films. On the question of safety for his cast and crew, Denham pointed out that they had sleeping gas powerful enough to incapacitate an entire herd of elephants. When Denham refused to disclose the location where such precautions needed to be taken, Weston ran off, glad he had not found him a girl. Denham then scoured New York City before finding Ann Darrow being wrongly accused of theft. Denham bought her out of her situation and learned that she had been in films before at a closed down studio. She eagerly signed on, and Denham began regularly working with her to try on costumes and gather test footage. During the journey to Skull Island, Denham noted that Darrow's presence was making the ship's cook Lumpy's monkey Ignatz behave very well, a situation he likened to the legend of "Beauty and the Beast", a motif which he planned to use in his movie. After six weeks of travel, they reached Skull Mountain Island. Jack insisted that Ann not accompany them on their first expedition onto the coast, but Denham insisted he have his leading lady with him. The party eventually came across a native ceremony to a god called Kong. Denham's attempts to film the ritual lead to their discovery. While they were furious at first, the villagers offered to trade six of their women for Ann. The sailors refused, but said they would negotiate in the morning. Back on the ship Carl, Driscoll, Englehorn, and Ann discussed what Kong might be. The general consensus was that Kong lived behind the wall, and Denham wondered if the size of the wall meant that Kong was a huge monster like a dinosaur. That night, Ann was kidnapped by the natives. As soon as this was discovered, Carl and Jack lead a rescue party into the village and past their gigantic wall into Kong's jungle. They followed the trail of debris left from Kong's trek before them until a Stegosaurus came out of the mist and attacked them. They knocked it out with a gas bomb before Denham put two bullets in its heart. They attempted to build a raft to cross a lagoon, but a Brontosaurus attacked them and they lost two crewmen along with all of their guns. Jack lead the party from there with Denham taking up the rear to minimize losses to the crew, and they watched as Kong fought some Triceratopses on an asphalt flat before the maddened dinosaurs chased them into the jungle after their defeat. As they crossed a ravine on a log to escape the Triceratops, Jack saw Kong approaching from the other side and ducked into a cave on the ravine's cliff face as Kong shook the crew to their deaths in the ravine. Denham managed to escape as well, but all of the other crewmen on the log were shaken off the log and sent to their deaths in the ravine. Denham blamed himself for Ann's loss, and agreed with Jack from the other side of the chasm that he would return to the village for supplies and more men. When he got back, he was very frank about the dangers that lurked and the men that were lost, but the crew believed Ann was worth it, and they gathered supplies and waited to head out to make sure that they timed their journey so that it would be light when they found Jack's trail. Just as they were about to head out, Lumpy the ship's cook spied Jack and Ann returning from atop the wall. Unfortunately, Kong quickly caught up to them and began to tear the village apart in search of Ann. However, Carl was able to knock Kong out with his gas bombs, and talked Captain Englehorn into making a raft to float Kong back to the States. In New York City, Carl turned Kong into a stage show called Kong: The Eighth Wonder. On opening night, all of New York had come to see his monster, but the photo shoot for the newspapers angered Kong and he broke out of his chrome steel chains and broke through the front of the theater. Denham and the police began to chase the beast down, and learned from Driscoll that Kong had taken Ann. Unfortunately, they lost Kong's trail but Driscoll theorized that he would go to the highest place he could find: The Empire State Building. Denham called in the army planes from an upstate airfield, and they took Kong down with minimal loss of life while Denham, Driscoll and the police went up the tower. Jack immediately went to Ann, but Denham and the police looked down at Kong's body, causing Denham to remark that the aviators had not killed him, but that beauty had killed the beast, leaving the policeman thoroughly puzzled.
Feeling greatley remorseful for Kong's death, Denham disappeared after the incident and left his wife and son Vincent Denham behind in New York City in an alleged attempt to take Kong's body back to Skull Island.
In the continuity of the 2005 film, Carl dreamed of adventure from a young age. When living in his middle-American home he often worried that by the time he got into the professional world there would be nothing left to discover. In order to document these amazing discoveries, Carl became a film producer. In 1932, one year before his trip to Skull Island, Denham booked the S.S. Venture to the Bafin Islands in pursuit of a mythical giant Orca named "killer". In the icy seas, Denham decided again and again that he would settle for less and less than "killer", even deciding to shift his focus to regular orcas before the vessel's Captain turned the boat back to New York. Along the way, they lay anchor in a rocky outcropping near what they assumed to be an Inuit village, which Denham took his crew to film. However, in between them and the Inuit was a herd of Leopard Seas. Wanting footage of the seals, Denham sent his cameraman across the herd, but as he took the shot, the seals went into attack position, and left him badly wounded. They were able to get him to a hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but his leg had to be amputated. Carl was deeply affected by the close encounter, and made sure that his friend would be well cared for. The damage caused to his friend made Carl seek to get him back to New York by changing the film to reflect locations on the journey there. After arriving in New York, Denham arranged to meet with his friend Jack Driscoll. When they met, Carl revealed to him that his backers were pushing for a rewrite of his film so that it was set in the jungle, and asked the writer to provide a script for his film because he had footage, but no story. Driscoll agreed to write, despite not having much time to do so. He was quickly summoned by his financial backers, who insisted that he start filming on a set, rather than on location. Carl demanded a 15% increase in funds to procure animals for the set, but settled for 10, which he planned to use to pay Captain Englehorn for another voyage to shoot on location.
After the events of King Kong (1932), Carl was ruined by the lawsuits that hit him for the damages Kong had caused to the city, all of which he settled until he was penniless. He reflected that he had given the people what they had wanted, and when it was done they had wanted revenge. Years later, he would often tell his grandson Jack Denham stories of his trip to Skull Island. Jack loved to hear the stories, but his father, Carl's son was less than enthusiastic, so the two would go to the garage and tell stories there. Later in his life, Carl realized that it was not "Beauty" that had killed the Beast, as he had so often quipped, but rather his own human ignorance. In his will, he remarked to Jack that he had been more like a son to him in some ways than his father had been, and expressed deepest regret for his exploitation of Skull Island and its people, and hoped that Jack might return to right the wrongs of his ignorant generation that believed its culture and ways superior to any others it encountered.
While showing the investors his footage, Carl was appalled by their lack of vision, or appreciation for his art. Indignant at his being forced to film on backlots and sound stages when he loved genuine adventures in his adventure films, he informed them he was leaving to shoot in the tropics, and learned by listening through the door at their conversation that they planned to scrap his work for stock footage. Before they could call him back in, Denham and his assistant Preston packed their film cans and prepared to leave aboard the Venture to finish his film. However, Preston informed him that Maureen McKenzie, their lead actress had pulled out, forcing Denham to search for a new star. No casting agency he contacted could provide any actress willing to leave with so little information on such short notice, and so he began to search for pretty faces at burlesque houses when he saw Ann Darrow storming away from a theater and was captivated. He followed her briefly, and paid for an apple she stole before buying her dinner and desperately trying to get her onto the project. She eventually agreed, and he got her to the ship when Preston rushed forth to inform him that police were coming to arrest them. Carl hastily paid Captain Englehorn, and went to meet his writer Jack Driscoll. Carl and Jack had been introduced and reintroduced multiple times since their college years, during which Denham acted as a personal assistant to a film director in Africa, and had become close friends. While the ship cast off, Carl ran a bottle of scotch to Darrow, and inadvertently informed her that Driscoll was aboard, and claimed that he had his heart set on going, and that he couldn't find it in himself to say no. From there forth, filming began, and he revealed to Jack that they were travelling to Skull Island, an undiscovered island to which he had the only map. When word of this spread, the crew tried to dissuade him from going with tales of the dangers awaiting on Skull Island, but Carl paid them no mind, swearing that any "Kong" there was was simply a man-eating animal. However, as he sat after a heated argument over the trip with Preston, he claimed that when the expedition was over he would make up for his mistreatment of him.
At that point, Carl felt the ship turning around, and went to confront the Captain. There he was informed that his check would not be honored by the bank. With everything riding on the completion of the journey, Denham tried to bargain his way out, but Englehorn stood firm. However, the ship's instruments began to go awry just before the lookout Jimmy spotted a wall. In the chaos, Denham summoned Preston to get shots of the island. In the morning, Denham hired sailors to take him and his crew to the coast, where he began filming. However, once again Baxter began improvising again, which made Jack angry and lead to Baxter complaining about his shrinking part. Fed up with this Denham tried to silence them before turning back to film Ann and asking her to scream before something over the wall in the jungle screamed back. Denham then discovered a tunnel to take the crew upland. They made their way up to a shantytown among catacombs, where Denham tried to make peace with a native girl by giving her his chocolate bar, but this simply prompts an attack from the natives, killing Mike and a sailor in the process. Englehorn and Hayes arrived to save them, and ordered all ballast to be thrown overboard to get them off the island. However, Choy scooped up his camera. He barely saved it when the Captain came and ordered him to throw it over. He tried to grab it from him, but Denham punched him in the stomach as the ship floated off the rocks. However, Jack then came up to inform them that Ann had been kidnapped, and Denham was on the first boat to go to rescue her. Denham approached the gate and saw the gigantic gorilla taking her away. Excited by the possibility of filming it, Carl began to gather his film equipment, despite Englehorn's disdain. As they went through the jungle, getting short shots along the way, they were attacked by a 30 foot dinosaur, which he tried to film before the ranks moved on to a clearing where Carl discovered a path of wreckage where Kong had been. Carl soon convinced himself of a scientific duty to film Skull Island, and when the group came upon a narrow valley, he got his chance to film dinosaurs. A herd of Brontosaurus were there grazing. Before they began to stampede, Carl informed Preston that Darrow was no longer the focus of the film, and instead, center stage belonged to the island. However, some Hunter-lizards made the Brontosaurs stampede, and Carl protected the camera with his life but only narrowly avoided getting eaten by a dinosaur when Hayes shot it. The crew scrambled up a small cliff, but Denham was unable to save Herb, whose artificial leg caused him to lose his footing. After that, much of the crew was ready to quit, and Denham was haunted by the loss of his friend, until Preston looked to him for guidance, and he became determined to finish the film in Herb's name. The crew built rafts to float across the swamp on, but halfway across they were attacked by a Piranhadon. After the first raft went down, Carl urged Preston to keep the camera safe, as he and Jack tried to paddle a log to safety. As the monster came back around, Carl shot at it, which drew its attention to him and the others. As it swam under the raft, Carl shot through the timbers, sending them all into the water. When the remaining sailors got to shore, Carl immediately wound up the camera to see if it still worked, and accidentally filmed a sailor being eaten by the Piranhadon before it fled, much to his horror. They continued across a log bridging a deep crevice, but the giant ape Kong attacked, and shook the camera from Denham's hands. He begged Lumpy to save it, but the cook kicked it into the pit just before Kong threw the whole log after it. Dazed at the bottom, Denham examined the film spilling out of the broken camera before being attacked by giant bugs. Denham grew manic and smashed them to bits with a short stick before Baxter and Englehorn arrived to save them. He gave Jack an inspiring word before going to propose to Englehorn that they capture Kong alive. When he heard Jack and Ann approaching with Kong on their tail, he refused to lower the gate until the right moment, but Preston refused to endanger them, and did so anyway. Carl oversaw the operation to capture Kong, and even after the beast escaped he was sure he would capture it, and finally broke the bottle of chloroform gas that knocked the beast out, knowing he would be a millionaire.
in 1935, after the events of the 2005 film, Denham was able to lead one of the only successful return expeditions to Skull Island where he discovered that Kong had been the last of his kind. Various scientific expeditions were then hosted to catalog the life on the island until a massive earthquake sank it in its entirety in 1948.
While asking his studio executives for more money, Denham revealed to them that he had come into possession of a map to the mythic Skull Island, where he planned to shoot the film. The executives failed to see the value of this, and asked Carl to leave the room. He eavesdropped, and when he learned that they planned to scrap the film and sell it for stock footage, he turned and ran with his film cans. In the taxi, his assistant Preston informed him that their lead actress had left the project, forcing Denham to leave the cab in a fury to try to find a replacement in three hours before they had to set sail. While searching, he found Ann Darrow being shouted at by a fruit vendor for trying to steal an apple. Denham paid her way out of the situation and took her to dinner, where he enticed her to join his film. However, when he reached the Venture, the ship taking them to Skull Island, Preston informed him that the police were coming to arrest them. He quickly offered Captain Englehorn another thousand dollars to cast off immediately, and went to confront the writer, Jack Driscoll, who was waiting in his cabin. Denham discovered that Driscoll intended to leave him with only half a script and his notes, but to Carl's benefit, the ship had already set sail. During the voyage, Carl began filming, and at one point during the night, they arrived at Skull Island, narrowly avoiding the dangerous rocks. The following morning, Carl lead a rowboat to the shore to begin filming. After reaching a cliff overlooking a village surrounded by a gigantic wall, the party was attacked by natives. Carl managed to punch a native before Englehorn arrived to rescue them. That night, Driscoll informed everyone that Ann had been kidnapped. Armed with a shotgun, Carl then joined the rest of the sailors in an armed assault on the island in an attempt to rescue her, and as Carl approached the gate of the Wall, he saw a gigantic Ape. Ann had been taken into the jungle, and Carl readied his crew and film equipment for the voyage into the jungle. Later, while stopping to get footage of a valley, Preston suggested they conserve film for Ann's scenes, prompting Carl to reveal to him that it was no longer about her. While attempting to film a herd of Brontosaurus, Carl and his crew became caught in the middle of a stampede, brought on by hunting Venatosaurus. The film crew and the sailors did their best to run, and while trying to pull his cameraman to higher ground, Carl watched him be torn away from him by the carnivores. After fighting through the jungles, the crew arrived at a fallen tree bridging a deep chasm, however, as they began to cross, Kong, the ape, arrived and shook them off. During the turmoil the ship's cook Lumpy kicked Carl's camera into the ravine. When they hit the bottom, they were immediately attacked by the horrors below. Luckily, Englehorn and a few other sailors came to rescue them, and to pull them out of the chasm. Englehorn bitterly added that he wished Carl had died instead of the others that were lost on the voyage, and likened himself to an un-killable cockroach. Englehorn insisted that Ann was dead, but Jack continued into the jungle, and in private, Carl suggested to Englehorn, that when Jack and Ann came back, with Kong hot on their tail, that they capture the beast alive.
When this actually came to pass, early the next morning, Carl and the sailors were ready. Although Kong broke through their net, and was unfazed by their chloroform gas, and they fled for the ship. Carl, however, threw one last bottle, which was enough to sedate the weary beast. Back in New York, Denham put Kong up on Broadway, and had nearly cemented his fortune when, in the middle of his exhibition, Kong broke free. a]It was not until the monster had been shot to death by Navy airplanes and lay dead at the foot of the Empire State Building that Carl saw it again. His only sentiment to the crowd being that Beauty had killed the Beast.
Denham in King Kong (1933)
Denham in Son of Kong
C.B. Denham in The Mighty Kong
Denham in King Kong (2005)
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