The classic film King Kong premiered in 1933 and was a monster hit. The film’s script took a twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, and offered thrills, chills, romance, and horror to audiences sitting in darkened theaters around the world.
The Hollywood cast included the beautiful Fay Wray as Ann Darrow, the woman Kong would, literally, go ape for, handsome Bruce Cabot as first mate John Driscoll on the ship Venture; and Robert Armstrong as the ambitions filmmaker and impresario, Carl Denham.
King Kong became a groundbreaking film and a huge hit for the RKO Studio. Although it failed to receive even one nomination for the Academy Awards, King Kong was praised by nearly all of the press. The Chicago Tribune reviewer raved, “One of the most original, thrilling and mammoth novelties to emerge from a movie studio.”
While the tale of a film crew discovering a lost civilization where human sacrifices were made to appease a gigantic ape seemed fantastical – in reality, King Kong was filmed at a few locations within greater Los Angeles.
The exotic Skull Island where Kong first sets his eyes on the alluring platinum blonde Ann Darrow was filmed in the rather seedy docks in San Pedro. Much of the filming on Skull Island was done in the Hollywood Hills near Griffith Park. To save money, RKO resurrected several sets from previous films including the native village set from 1927’s Bird of Paradise, and a towering wall from 1927’s King of Kings. Sets originally constructed for The Most Dangerous Game easily fit the bill for many of the jungle scenes on Skull Island. Aside from some location shots of the skyline, harbor, and the Empire State Building in NYC, the rest of the movie was primarily shot on set at the Culver City Studios.
One of the film’s most iconic scenes is when Carl Denham presents Kong to the public as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. In the script, Kong’s debut takes place at the famed Hippodrome Theater in New York City. In reality, the stage and the audience shots were filmed at the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
The Shrine Auditorium, adjacent to the campus of the University of Southern California, is located at 665 West Jefferson Boulevard. Constructed in 1926, the Shrine Auditorium was designed in an impressive Moorish style and can welcome 6,700 guests in its beautiful and expansive theater.
The Shrine Auditorium also serves as the Al Malaikah Shrine Temple. The Shrine complex has been used for location filming for many favorite Hollywood movies and TV shows including the 1954 version of A Star is Born starring Judy Garland, The Body Guard with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, The Turning Point with Shirley MacLaine, Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, and many more.
Today, the Shrine Auditorium is one of Southern California’s most sought after venues. It has hosted countless concerts and performances including the Bolshoi Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, pianist Liberace, Julio Iglesias, and California’s perennial surf rock band, The Beach Boys.
In addition, the Shrine Auditorium has been host to the Academy Awards, the Grammy’s, the Soul Train Awards, American Music Awards, and countless other prestigious events.
In January of 2020, the Shrine also became home to the Grace Dee May Museum & Library. The Mission of the Grace Dee May is to present the art and history of the American West – along with sharing the unique contributions of Freemasonry from the era of the Lewis & Clark Expedition to the present day.
To commemorate King Kong’s being filmed at the Shrine Auditorium, the GDM has commissioned a special collector’s item which we know film fans will enjoy wearing. The premium T-shirt features King Kong on the stage of the Shrine Auditorium is available exclusively from the Grace Dee May Museum Gift Shop.