Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Mighty Joe Young (1949)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

In director Ernest B. Schoedsack's spectacular fantasy-adventure drama, involving the exploitation of a giant African gorilla in Hollywood, with Oscar-winning stop-motion special effects of the expressive 'Mr. Joseph Young' by King Kong's Willis O'Brien assisted by Ray Harryhausen (and remade by Disney as Mighty Joe Young (1998) starring Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron):

  • the opening Africa sequence in which precocious Jill Young (Lora Lee Michel) trade-exchanged her widowed father John Young's (Regis Toomey) giant flashlight to two natives for a cute orphaned baby gorilla in a basket
  • the transition of the gorilla to full size (an 800 lb., 10 foot tall animal) - and its entrance from the jungle to taunt a captured lion in a wagon cage - but completely obedient to teenaged Jill (Terry Moore, the long-time mistress of billionaire Howard Hughes)
  • the reprised role of Robert Armstrong (from King Kong (1933) as an entrepreneurial film-maker) as ambitious New York showbiz impresario Max O'Hara, who was assisted by Oklahoma rodeo cowboy roper Gregg Johnson (Ben Johnson in his first major role) in an exciting sequence attempting to wrangle and lasso Joe
  • the luring and tempting (with promises of fame and glamour) of ingenue Jill to sign a contract, to allow Joe to be the star of Max O'Hara's new Hollywood nightclub show titled Golden Safari
  • the sequences of Joe's starring (but degrading and exploitative) floorshow act for dinner patrons, with fancy-dressed Jill (as The Jungle Queen) playing Joe's favorite song "Beautiful Dreamer" on the piano, and Joe's raising up the circular stage platform on which she played, his tug-of-war with a group of champion strong-men wrestlers (including Tor Johnson, Man Mountain Dean, Phil Olafsson, and Primo Carnera) who were all dumped into a pool of water
Joe's Floor-Show Act with Jill Playing the Piano
"Beautiful Dreamer"
Tug of War
Coins Aimed at Joe's Cap
  • also the sequence of Jill playing a hurdy-gurdy (organ-grinder) while Joe begged for money with his cap (while audience members, who were given large frisbee-sized coins by waiters ("Big money for the big monkey!")), as coins were aimed at the cap in order to win free champagne - and one thoughtless and drunk audience member pelted a liquor bottle at the ape's head; Jill yelled "Stop!" at the audience and Gregg ordered the curtain lowered
  • Jill's concerns that Joe was becoming despondent in a cramped basement cell-cage after 17 weeks of performances, and homesick for the wide open African jungles
  • the scene of three obnoxious, antagonistic and cruel drunks teasing and supplying Joe with liquor from bottles offered through his caged bars, causing him to become enraged, inebriated and beserk-acting when one of the abusive men burned Joe with a cigarette lighter, and the ape battered his way out of his cage
  • the fantastic scene of Joe's rampaging destruction of the African-styled nightclub sets, including fighting off exotic lions who broke out of their glass-enclosed exhibits, and the collapse of huge backdrops, thatched huts and props
  • the lengthy, thrilling and exciting jail-break escape sequence to release Joe before police arrived with a court order to shoot him; and the complex chase sequence to take Joe to a chartered boat to return to Africa, involving Joe's transport in the back of two different trucks; and the subtle comical elements of Joe on the tailgate of one truck spitting and making faces at the pursuers
  • the bravura sequence of Joe's heroic assistance to rescue Jill and orphaned children trapped in the upper floors of a crumbling and burning building (tinted orangish-red and available in some versions) - one of the greatest stop-motion sequences in cinematic history - after Joe saved the final endangered child, Max assured Jill: "It's alright, kid. There's nobody in the world gonna shoot Joe now"
  • the very happy conclusion two months later - a filmed message to Max from Jill, Gregg, and Joe contentedly back in Africa - waving - and the last on-screen title: "Goodbye from Joe Young"

Jill With Father

Baby Gorilla Traded For Flashlight

Mighty Joe Young's Full-Sized Entrance

Joe's Obedience to Jill

Drunks Supplying Joe With Liquor

Breaking Out of Cage Before Rampage

Joe's Saving of Jill and Orphaned Children

Ending: Filmed Message From Africa


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