"Pilot of the Plane that Killed King Kong"
King Kong 1933 - Merian C. Cooper (uncredited)

Merian Caldwell Cooper – born October 24, 1893, Jacksonville, Florida. Cooper was an American movie actor, director, screenwriter and producer. His most famous work was the 1933 movie King Kong.

Cooper entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1915 but left in his senior year. In 1916 he joined the Georgia National Guard to help chase Pancho Villa in Mexico. Cooper became a bomber pilot during World War I. He was shot down and captured by Germans, serving out the remainder of the war in a POW camp.

Polish Independence - From late 1919 until the 1921 Treaty of Riga, he was a member of a volunteer American squadron in the Kosciuszko Squadron of the Polish Air Force supporting the Polish Army against the Soviets along with his friend Cedric Fauntlroy (photo right). On July 26, 1920, his plane was shot down, and he spent nine months in a Soviet prisoner of war camp. He escaped just before the war was over and made it to Latvia. He was decorated for valor by Polish commander-in-chief Józef Pilsudski with the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari.

Film Career - Hugely innovative, Cooper became the #2 man at RKO Studios before and after WWII. He continued his innovation with breakthroughs like color and the wide screen. Cooper was John Ford's favorite producer with whom to work.

Though too old, he went anyway to fight in WWII and was assigned to the US Army Air Force in Asia taking over General Chenault’s Flying Tigers. Going on many missions and carefully planning them to have no loss of life, he was famous for his hard working, relentless planning. Lt. Col. Cooper became the Executive Officer of the squadron and at the war's end, he was promoted to Brigadier General.

Cooper was a pioneer in aviation, creative in the use of airplanes in the movies and a member of the board of directors for TWA. Cooper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame where his name is misspelled "Meriam C. Cooper". He was honored by NBC Radio's "This Is Your Life" in April of 1949). Guests included Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Fay Wray, and wife Dorothy Jordan.

The pilot of the plane that shot and toppled King Kong from atop the Empire State Building

Cooper had a bizarre dream about a giant ape that was destroying New York City and made notes about the dream when he woke up. This was the basis for his classic 1933 movie King Kong. The film King Kong, which Cooper co-wrote, co-directed and produced, was a spectacular breakthrough in motion picture technical innovation.

Director Schoedsack donated $100 to the Officers' Mess fund at Floyd Bennit Field to secure the pilots and their craft. He gave each of the pilots $10 under the table. They were so pleased with Schoedsack's generosity that they decided to do something special to show how much they appreciated it. As Schoedsack shot the planes approaching him, he realized that they were actually linked together by lines decorated by colorful flags. Needless to say that scene had to be re-shot.

The movie (made in time-laps photography with an 11-inch animatronic, rabbit fur-covered ape) took much longer to make than anticipated. Cooper jokingly remarked (referring to the budget over-run of the production), "I’d like to shoot that ape myself." And ironically he did.

The planes used to topple King Kong from the top of the Empire State Building were four basic Navy training models, Curtiss 02C-2 from Navy NY. Interlaced scenes were shot using these real planes, miniatures and a full-scale mock-up.

In a studio close-up shot featuring a Vickers-style gun on a swivel mount, Cooper and Schoedsack took the part of pilot actors flying one of the planes attacking King Kong. They made the final straffing run that fatally wounded the giant ape.

Cooper died April 21, 1973 in San Diego, California, of cancer. He and friend Robert Armstrong, who played Carl Denham in King Kong, died within 16 hours of each other.

Filmography - Cinerama (1952) (producer); The Quiet Man (1952) (producer); Rio Grande (1950) (producer) aka John Ford and Merian C. Cooper's Rio Grande (USA: complete title); Wagon Master (1950) (executive producer); She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) (executive producer); Mighty Joe Young (1949) (producer) aka Mr. Joseph Young of Africa; 3 Godfathers (1948) (producer); Fort Apache (1948) (executive producer) aka War Party; The Fugitive (1947) (producer) aka Fugitivo, El (Mexico); Dr. Cyclops (1940) (producer); aka Doctor Cyclops (USA: poster title); The Toy Wife (1938) (producer) aka Frou Frou (UK); Dancing Pirate (1936) (executive producer); The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) (producer); She (1935) (producer); Finishing School (1934) (executive producer); Success at Any Price (1934) (executive producer); Kentuck Kernels (1934) (executive producer) (uncredited); aka Triple Trouble (UK); Spitfire (1934) (executive producer); This Man Is Mine (1934) (executive producer); Keep 'Em Rolling (1934) (executive producer); The Lost Patrol (1934) (executive producer); Hips, Hips, Hooray (1934) (executive producer); Two Alone (1934) (executive producer); Long Lost Father (1934) (executive producer); The Meanest Gal in Town (1934) (executive producer); Flying Down to Rio (1933) (executive producer); The Son of Kong (1933) (executive producer); If I Were Free (1933) (executive producer) aka Behold We Live (UK); The Right to Romance (1933) (executive producer); Little Women (1933) (executive producer); Chance at Heaven (1933) (executive producer); After Tonight (1933) (executive producer) aka Sealed Lips (UK); Ace of Aces (1933) (executive producer); Headline Shooter (1933) (executive producer) aka Evidence in Camera (UK); Aggie Appleby Maker of Men (1933) (executive producer) aka Cupid in the Rough (UK); Flaming Gold (1933) (executive producer); Ann Vickers (1933) (executive producer); One Man's Journey (1933) (executive producer); Rafter Romance (1933) (executive producer); Blind Adventure (1933) (executive producer); Morning Glory (1933) (executive producer); No Marriage Ties (1933) (executive producer) aka The Public Be Sold; Before Dawn (1933) (executive producer); Flying Devils (1933) (executive producer) aka The Flying Circus (UK); Double Harness (1933) (executive producer); Cross Fire (1933) (executive producer); Bed of Roses (1933) (executive producer); Emergency Call (1933) (executive producer); Melody Cruise (1933) (executive producer); Professional Sweetheart (1933) (executive producer) aka Imaginary Sweetheart; The Monkey's Paw (1933) (producer); The Silver Cord (1933) (executive producer); Diplomaniacs (1933) (executive producer); King Kong (1933) (producer) aka The Eighth Wonder of the World.

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