Monday, December 18, 2006

Mighty Joe Old

What happened to Mighty Joe Young after his blockbuster movie in 1949? Thanks to the godlike powers of Google, I was able to locate him and (believe it or not) he is still alive!

Mighty Joe Young was born in 1930, in Ottawa, Ontario. His Canadian heritage does a lot to explain why he was so much nicer than King Kong. Canadians are the nicest people on the planet, with the possible exceptions of Mother Theresa and my second grade teacher, Miss Walkowsky.

His father, Mighty Quinn Young, was a stage director, who was passionate about Eugene O'Neill. His production of Mourning Becomes Electra (with an all chimpanzee cast) stunned the Canadian critics. His mother, Loretta, appeared as an extra, in a number of early Tarzan movies.

With such strong dramatic roots, it was inevitable that Joe would gravitate to the theatrical profession. This talent manifested itself early in his life. Picking up a coconut was transformed into Alas, poor Yorick! A breast beating would be accompanied by a piercing cry of Hey Stella!

Zookeepers recognized his talent and encouraged him to participate in the animal park's theatre productions. Along the way he developed a passion for dancing. His greatest love was the tango, at which he excelled. When performing La Salida Simple, Joe became the very embodiment of fluidity and grace.

But by the time Joe was 18, he recognized that Canada was far too limited a jungle for him to develop his talents. He was drawn to Hollywood like a chimp to bananas. His parents supported his move, and six months later, he attended his first casting call.

Joe quickly discovered his greatest auditioning skill - It's tough to say "No" to a 500 lb. gorilla! Joe won small parts in film noir flicks, typically playing "the heavy" His performances impressed Ernest B. Schoedsack, who directed King Kong.

In 1948, Schoedsack was developing a sequel to King Kong, and realized that Mighty Joe Young was a natural for the part. Merian C. Cooper, who wrote the screenplays for both movies, actually rewrote the script to accent Joe's rugged good looks, and animal magnetism. He even adopted Joe's name for the movie title. The result was, as we all know, box office boffo!

But what happened to Mighty Joe Young after his movie success?

After the movie run finished, and he was no longer invited to A List parties (Hollywood has such a short memory!) Joe became disillusioned with Tinseltown, and realized that his happiest memories involved dancing the tango in the Argentinean nightclubs that Ottawa is so famous for. No one in Hollywood could perform a decent el Paseo, or even a rudimentary la Caminata.

Joe made the most important decision of his life. He turned his back on Hollywood, returned to Ottawa, and opened up a dance school. His movie fame and exceptional dancing skills quickly made it a success! And there he remains, to this day.

In 1992, Joe made one brief return to Hollywood, to be choreographer for Scent of a Woman. Director Martin Brest, credits Mighty Joe Young with propelling Al Pacino to his stellar performance in The Tango Scene.

At 76, Joe can no longer bend with his dance partners like he did in his youth, but he still exudes el Alma del Tango (the Soul of the Tango)! I wish you many more tango years. Joe!

4 comments:

Monkey Bob said...

I am very impressed with this blogger's literary skills! His masterful use of descriptive prose reminds me of the early Hemmingway novels. I see a great future for Monkey Bob!

Monkey Bob said...

I have been following Monkey Bob's development as a writer during the three months that he has been blogging. His work just keeps getting better and better! Mighty Joe Old is a literary tour de force! Kudos to you, Monkey Bob!

Arthur said...

Monkey Bob, thanks for clearing this up! I has always thought that it was Mighty Joe Jung, as Joe always said that people would benefit from integrating spirituality and appreciation of the unconscious realm.

Monkey Bob said...

Hmmm! You may be on to something there! Your Wikipedian wisdom is rock solid in its logic! Perhaps that explains why Joe abandoned the superficial world of Hollywood to pursue an activity (the tango) that certainly must have put him more in touch with his emotional inner self.

You may also want to check out another Monkey Prose post where I discuss how monkeys' love of Marcel Proust is the key to their spiritual fulfillment. You can find it by clicking on Marcel Proust in the labels list on the left of the main blog page. I would be interested to hear your take on this.