Robert Armstrong (actor)

Robert William Armstrong[note 1][2][3][4][5] (November 20, 1890 – April 20, 1973) was an American film and television actor remembered for his role as Carl Denham in the 1933 version of King Kong by RKO Pictures. He delivered the film's famous final line: "It wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast."[6]

Robert Armstrong
Armstrong in The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)
Born(1890-11-20)November 20, 1890
DiedApril 20, 1973(1973-04-20) (aged 82)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California
Years active1919–1966
(m. 1920; div. 1925)
Ethel Virah Smith
(m. 1926; div. 1931)
Gladys Dubois
(m. 1936; div. 1939)
Claire Louise Frisbie Armstrong
(m. 1940)

Early years Edit

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Armstrong lived in Bay City, Michigan until about 1902 and moved to Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, where he studied law,[5] and became a member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity.[7]

Career Edit

In Public Enemy's Wife (1936)

Armstrong first started acting in the stage in 1919 with the production of Boys Will Be Boys. Armstrong's silver screen career began in 1927 when he appeared in Pathé's silent drama The Main Event.[8] He appeared in 127 films between 1927 and 1964; very prolific in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he made nine movies in 1928 alone. He is best known for his role as filmmaker Carl Denham in King Kong. Months later, he starred as Denham again in the sequel, Son of Kong, released the same year. Armstrong resembled King Kong producer and adventurer Merian C. Cooper, and Cooper used him in several films as more or less a version of himself. The Most Dangerous Game was filmed at night on the same jungle sets as King Kong, which was shot during the day, with Armstrong and Fay Wray simultaneously starring in both pictures. In 1937, Armstrong starred in With Words and Music (also referred to as The Girl Said No), released by Grand National Films Inc. He also worked throughout the 1930s and 1940s for many film studios. Prior to World War II, in 1940, Universal Pictures released Enemy Agent, about countering a Nazi spy ring. In the film, Armstrong co-starred with Helen Vinson, Richard Cromwell and Jack La Rue. In 1942, he was reteamed with Cromwell in Baby Face Morgan, a notable B movie for PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation). Later in that decade, Armstrong played another Carl Denham-like leading character role as "Max O'Hara" in 1949's Mighty Joe Young. This film was another stop-motion animation giant gorilla fantasy, made by the same King Kong team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

In the 1950s, he appeared as Sheriff Andy Anderson on Rod Cameron's syndicated western-themed television series, State Trooper. Armstrong made four guest appearances on Perry Mason during its nine-year run on CBS: in 1958 he played as Walter Haskell in "The Case of the Sardonic Sergeant"; in 1961 he played the title character and murder victim Captain Bancroft in "The Case of the Malicious Mariner"; in 1962 he played defendant Jimmy West in "The Case of the Playboy Pugilist"; and in 1964 he played Phil Jenks in "The Case of the Accosted Accountant."

Marriages Edit

  • Peggy Allenby (August 1920 - April 17, 1925; divorced) (died 1966)[9]
  • Ethel Virah Smith (June 12, 1926 - July 27, 1931; divorced) (died 1950)[citation needed]
  • Gladys Dubois (January 10, 1936 - December 31, 1939; divorced)[10] (died 1971)
  • Claire Louise Frisbie (January 1, 1940 - April 20, 1973; his death)[10] (died 1990)

Death Edit

Armstrong died of cancer in Santa Monica, California. He and King Kong's co-producer, Merian C. Cooper, died within sixteen hours of each other.[11]

Filmography Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ^ The reference book Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965 gives Armstrong's birth name as Donald Robert Smith, as do the Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. and Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931–1939. Clarke in his 1977 Pseudonyms gave "Donald R. Smith".

References Edit

  1. ^ "Robert Armstrong, Actor, Dies; Played Director in 'King Kong'". The New York Times. April 22, 1973.
  2. ^ Clarke, Joseph Francis (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 11.
  3. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-5578-3551-2. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  4. ^ Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). McFarland. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7864-5763-2. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Senn, Bryan (2006). Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931–1939. McFarland. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-4766-1089-4. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Raw, Laurence (2012). Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930–1960. McFarland. pp. 18–20. ISBN 978-0-7864-9049-3. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  7. ^ "Famous Delts". Delta Tau Delta. Retrieved 2012-02-19. Archived February 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Mayer, Geoff (2017). Encyclopedia of American Film Serials. McFarland. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-4766-2719-9. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  9. ^ "Peggy Allenby, 65, of 'Edge of Night'". The New York Times. March 25, 1966. p. 41. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Robert Armstrong, Actor, Divorces Mate to Remarry". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 31, 1939. p. 5. Retrieved April 22, 2015 – via
  11. ^ "Merian C. Cooper Dies; Creator of 'King Kong'". The Bridgeport Post. April 23, 1973. p. 26. Retrieved April 22, 2015 – via

External links Edit