The short shot sequence that I am discussing is from King Kong, (Cooper, Schoedsack) which was filmed on black and white film stock and released in 1933. This sequence begins with a long shot of King Kong sitting in profile on his cliff holding the unconscious Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in his giant hairy hand. Ann is an American actress who was kidnapped off of Carl Denham’s (Robert Armstrong) ship by the natives of Skull Island and given as a gift to Kong. Through out the film the black native people of the island are compared to King Kong, beastlike and savage, and King Kong is similar to them because he is given human personality traits. This static shot sequence brings out Kong’s fetishistic and sexual traits with regard to the blonde actress Ann.
King Kong’s dark body is camouflaged and hard to distinguish against the dark cliff in the low key lighting, but Ann’s white skin and white dress immediately make her stand out as the center of attention. The placement of the two characters also places Ann the center of attention because she is being held in the center on the shot, while King Kong is off to the right. Ann’s body hangs limply like a rag doll from Kong’s hand as he gazes at her.
King Kong then peels a piece of Ann’s dress off of her; Ann remains limp. Kong then takes the white pieces of fabric up to his nose and smells it before placing the fabric on the ground. The dress is thus fetishized as a part of the object of Kong’s sexual desire. This shot sequence seems to be a sexual experience for King Kong because of the way that he not only gazes at Ann, but also because of the way he fetishizes her dress.
The next piece of white fabric that Kong peels from Ann’s dress reveals her slender white legs. This is not your classic leg shot, but it is reminiscent of one. Ann’s legs dangle limply from Kong’s hand, on display not only for King Kong, but also for the viewers who are invited to look at her legs by their white presence against Kong’s dark hairy hand. This sequence, like much of the rest of the film, objectifies Anne and makes her seem like nothing more than a beautiful blonde to be gazed at by men and Kong.
Next there is a clean cut to a medium shot on Ann in the giant dark hand of King Kong as she comes to. The shot is in soft focus, which is a classic element of the glamour shot. Ann is well lit, and her white skin, blonde hair and white dress stand out from the dark hand of Kong, and from the dark background. Ann is also backlit in this shot, which creates a glow around her hair, another classic element of the glamour shot.
As Ann awakes she looks up at King Kong in fear and she begins to kick her bare legs. However, Ann does not kick her legs in a struggling sort of way, she kicks them in a more dancerly type of way, with her toes pointed. Ann’s legs move smoothly and because they are so exposed they once again bring the fetishized leg shot to mind. It seems like Ann is posing for King Kong as opposed to struggling to get out of his grasp. Kong then pokes at Ann, which makes Ann squeal. It is indiscernible whether it is a squeal of fear or one of delight. Ann continues to put on a charade of struggle as she throws her head back and arches her back. As Ann arches her back over the side of King Kong’s hand Kong looks at her and she squeals again as he pokes her. The way that Ann arches her back in Kong’s hand makes her a sexual spectacle for Kong and the viewers to witness. Ann’s motions lead to the idea that this scene is more of a glamour shot than a struggle sequence.
Throughout this short shot sequence Ann’s skin looks immaculate due to the makeup and the soft focus. Ann’s makeup is relatively light and natural looking, which adds to her presence as a classic blonde beauty. Ann’s clean, light completion also adds to the feeling that this is a glamour shot instead of a struggle sequence. Carl Denham later reiterates Ann’s position as a classic blonde beauty when her refers to her and King Kong as “Beauty and the Beast.”
While Ann Darrow is objectified and fetishized by King Kong and by the other men throughout the film her objectification is particularly present in this short shot sequence. Furthermore, race relations are also brought into this section because King Kong is a symbol for the native black people and he is having a sexual type of experience with the white actress. This sexual and racial twist is very interesting when one thinks of this short shot sequence in comparison to the racial problems that were taking place in the United States in the 1930’s when King Kong was originally released.