EXCEEDINGLY RARE ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, OF KING KONG, 1932, INSCRIBED BY FAY WRAY—THE LEGENDARY ACTRESS WHOSE "BEAUTY KILLED THE BEAST"
(WRAY, Fay) WALLACE, Edgar) (COOPER, Merien C.) LOVELACE, Delos W. King Kong. Conceived by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper. Illustrated with Scenes from the Radio Picture. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, (1932). Octavo, original green cloth, pictorial endpapers, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $17,000.
First edition, first issue, of the novelization of King Kong, a stunning association copy boldly inscribed and presented on the half title by the actress who made film history, "For Pete Begaslawski, Fay Wray." Her performance in the film has become "the stuff of movie legend," and the film reigns as "the classic monster movie… one of the great mythopoeic works of the 20th century." Published months before the film's premiere, an exceptional copy in colorful first issue dust jacket.
King Kong introduced "one of the best-known characters ever produced by the Hollywood cinema… Like James Bond, Scarlett O'Hara, Batman, and the Star Trek characters, King Kong has become a cultural phenomenon" (Erb, Tracking King Kong, 1, 22). "The story of the giant ape from Skull Island… has never been rivaled for sheer excitement, originality and, even by today's standards, stunning special effects" (Broecker, 162). The original RKO film, "one of the great mythopoeic works of the 20th century" (Clute & Nicholls, 668), went into production before a script was in place and was in production for over a year. Throughout co-director Merian C. Cooper urged his screenwriters, Ruth Rose and James A. Creelman, "to add more and more sensational plot elements and effects to the story—a directive that eventually led writer James A. Creelman to resign in protest." After the sudden death of Edgar Wallace, "Cooper hired Delos W. Lovelace to write the novel version of King Kong. On the novel's cover, Lovelace's name was overshadowed by the phrase, 'conceived by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper'. At a later moment in the promotional campaign, someone in RKO's publicity department hired a writer named Walter Ripperger to write a two-part version of King Kong for Mystery magazine."
This first edition of Lovelace's King Kong was published December 27, 1932, just over three months before the film made its premiere in March 1933 at the RKO Roxy and Radio City Music Hall, "then the largest movie house in the world" (Erb, 23-38). "Before adapting King Kong, Lovelace had written a biography of football coach Knute Rockne, Rockne of Notre Dame (1931). He subsequently wrote about two dozen books, of which the best known are the three co-authored with his wife, "Maud Hart Lovelace, creator of the popular "Besty-Tracy" children's novels (M.J. Simpson). First issue dust jacket with "by" twice on front panel; verso with publisher's printed list of titles. The stunning dust jacket was painted by prolific pulp and movie publicity artist Glenn Cravath. Scenes from the movie, including the iconic image of Kong towering over the New York skyline with Fay Wray in his grip, illustrate the endpapers. Anatomy of Wonder II-681. Fantasy and Horror 5-190. Robinson, Science Fiction in the 20th Century, 187. Fay Wray's now-iconic performance in the film led to many other roles for the actress, "but she was always aware that she would be remembered for the culmination of King Kong, in which the giant ape from Skull Island carries her to the top of the Empire State Building, gently places her on a ledge, lunges furiously at fighter planes peppering him with bullets and falls to his death from the 102-story skyscraper, his strength and power neutralized by love" (New York Times). "Wray was lured into the film by the co-director Merian Cooper's promise that she would star opposite 'the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.' Her performance became the stuff of movie legend" (Guardian). "Over the years, Wray said, she came to feel that Kong had 'become a spiritual thing to many people, including me'" (New York Times).
Book fine, inscription bold and crisp; expert archival restoration to very colorful dust jacket.