Merian C. Cooper

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Merian C. Cooper
Merian C. Cooper
Born October 24, 1893
Jacksonville, Florida
Died April 21, 1973
Occupation Producer, director
First work Grass: A Nation's
Battle for Life
Notable work King Kong (1933)
I was a little timid boy, put that on your tape if you want, and made myself be a champion boxer and wrestler, and fought three successful wars. I’m King Kong!

— From historical interview with Cooper[1]

Merian Caldwell Cooper was an American film director and producer, as well as a military officer and adventurer. Cooper's exploits took him around the world, as he both served in the American and Polish armed forces during several conflicts and traveled the globe to document his adventures as part of the Explorers Club. While Cooper was a member of the board of directors for Pan American Airways, he was most passionate about filmmaking and worked for several studios as a producer and director. He is credited as a co-inventor of the Cinerama film projection process. His most famous work was his collaboration with his friend Ernest Schoedsack on the groundbreaking King Kong, which he produced, wrote, and directed based on his own idea. Cooper was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Cooper died from cancer in 1973 at the age of 79, but his son Richard was later awarded the rights to the King Kong character in a lengthy court battle between several studios after a federal judge found that Cooper was the rightful owner of the character and scenario. Cooper's estate continues to collaborate with DeVito ArtWorks on the King Kong of Skull Island media property to this day. He is also posthumously credited for creating the original story on the 1976 and 2005 remakes of King Kong.


Cooper became enamored with the world and the prospect of exploring it at an early age after reading stories of adventures had in equatorial Africa. After a prestigious education, Cooper had a brief stint as a reporter in 1916 and served in several branches of the United States Military and fought in numerous conflicts. Returning home in 1921, Cooper worked for the New York Times and Asia magazine. On his travels, Cooper and his friend Ernest Schoedsack gathered information that they would turn into their first motion picture, Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life, a documentary about life of rural tribes in Persia. The duo were then commissioned for a second film, further cementing their partnership. After having a dream in which a giant gorilla attacked New York City and wondering what would happen if a komodo dragon fought a gorilla, he spent 1929 and 30 crafting the story that would become King Kong.

Selected filmography



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  1. Limbrick, Peter (22 December 2009). "Playing Empire: Settler Masculinities, Adventure, and Merian C. Cooper's The Four Feathers (US 1929)". Screening the Past.