Cooper Connection

I recently visited the Modern Art gallery in Edinburgh to see the Ray Harryhausen exhibition. He was an animator and creator of special effects for films such as One Million Years BC and Jason and the Argonauts. It turns out that he was inspired by the film King Kong (1933) made by Merian Cooper. You may remember that Cooper features in Stranger In My Heart, as during the Second World War he was made Chief of Staff to Gen. Claire Chennault of the USAF in China.

Cooper was a forward thinker and supported Chennault in creating a plan to defeat the Japanese using air power. Part of this plan involved retaking Hong Kong and thereby liberating the PoWs there, which was Dad’s ambition. Dad realised that rescuing troops unfit to fight would not be a strategic priority but, as part of a wider plan with the support of the Americans, it might have worked. Dad and Cooper had several meetings to build the plan in November 1942 and it was presented to the Heads of Government at the Washington Conference in May 1943. Although the plan was approved it never achieved the necessary resources to deliver it and the PoWs continued to suffer till the end of the war.

Post-war, Cooper made many films with his directing partner, John Ford, including Mighty Joe Young (1949) with Ray Harryhausen’s animated special effects.

advertising poster for Mighty Joe Young (1949)

It was interesting to see Harryhausen’s work and to discover the connection with Merian Cooper. There were some amazing models featured in the exhibition, see below. It’s on till Feb 2022 so if you’re in Edinburgh, go and see it!