Julie London’s Dream Ended

When Nabonga Roared

 
 

    From running an elevator in a department store to portraying the part of a gorilla's daughter in her first motion picture was the dramatic step taken by Julie London, pretty young film aspirant who makes her debut in PRCs "Nabonga."

    She absorbed the lore of greasepaint from her mother who used to be on the stage. Julie's portrayal shows the strength that her burning ambition has when it festers within the soul of an ambitious girl.

     As Julie strolled through tropical setting she mumbled inadvertently, “it’s all a dream.” Her role calls for her to play the mysterious ruler of an African jungle, an area feared by the natives because of the presence of huge gorillas. She is the “white witch” whose realm is shunned by superstitious natives.

    Since the exacting part calls for her to play with her “protector” a huge gorilla, and cut capers with monkeys and tropical birds, Julie’s first day on the set was a series of startling experiences.

    First, she was introduced to Nabonga the gorilla, who has an important part in the picture as the human actors. Then, she became acquainted with the monkeys who perched on her shoulder and toyed with her long auburn hair.

    Then, she met the colorful tropical birds which were the other jungle denizens.

    Cameras started to grind as director Sam Newfield called ‘action.’ She strode through the jungle with a monkey perched on her shoulder. Then Nabonga lurched into camera view and the monkey screamed, jumped for the nearest tree, and fled, chattering and gibbering. It was some time before the monkey was calmed and shooting resumed.

    “I can’t believe it’s not all a dream,” Julie said, “It’s just like a dream though.”

    Nabonga grunted and roared and beat his chest.

    Julie was so startled that she hollered to the director without thinking---“this is not a dream, it’s a nightmare.”

    Note: Nabonga was Julie London’s first movie, released in 1944 when she was 18-years old. The following article was one component in a studio publicity kit released to theater owners to help them promote the film. The incredible thing is, that the studio honestly tried to sell the public the fact that the film used a real, trained gorilla, as opposed to a guy in a monkey suit.

    The cast listing in the publicity kit names the actors and their roles but when you reach the title character it reads: Gorilla.......Nabonga.

    Some time later when the suspension of belief tactic appeared to fail, it was learned that Ray “Crash” Corrigan played Nabonga. The name of the actor in the second gorilla suit has been lost to the ages. For your amusement, I submit the following excerpt from another prepared article in the same publicity kit.

       THERE’S PLENTY OF REAL DANGER

IN JUNGLE FILMS

    Making jungle pictures is not the easiest way to make a living and is fraught with danger, as all those who worked in and on the PRC’s thriller “Nabonga,” now playing at the . . . . . . Theater, can testify. In the first place , working with animals is always difficult, but working with two gorillas, including the huge Nabonga who has the title role, is something else again.

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