Robert Armstrong
Date of Birth
Nov 20, 1890
Birth Place:
Saginaw, MI

Biography

Forever remembered by film buffs as the man who brought King Kong to New York, American actor Robert Armstrong was a law student at the University of Washington in Seattle when he dropped out in favor of a vaudeville tour. Learning by doing, Armstrong worked his way up to "leading man" roles in a New York stock company run by veteran character man Jimmy Gleason. Gleason's play Iz Zat So? led to a film contract for Armstrong, whose first picture was The Main Event (1927). The actor's stage training served him well during Hollywood's switchover to sound, and he appeared with frequency in the early talkie years, at one point costarring with Broadway legend Fanny Brice in My Man (1930). An expert at playing sports and showbiz promoters, Armstrong was a natural for the role of the enthusiastic but foolhardy Carl Denham in King Kong (1933). Armstrong enjoyed some of the best dialogue of his career as he coerced erstwhile actress Fay Wray to go with him to Skull Island to seek out "money, adventure, the thrill of a lifetime", and as he egged on his crew to explore the domain of 50-foot ape Kong. And of course, Armstrong was allowed to speak the final lines of this imperishable classic: "It wasn't the planes...It was beauty killed the beast." Armstrong played Carl Denham again in a sequel, Son of Kong (1933), and later played Denham in everything but name as a shoestring theatrical promoter in Mighty Joe Young (1949), wherein he brought a nice giant gorilla into civilization. Always in demand as a character actor, Armstrong continued to make films in the 1940s; he had the rare distinction of playing an American military officer in Around the World (1943), a Nazi agent in My Favorite Spy (1942), and a Japanese general in Blood on the Sun (1945)! In the 1950s and 1960s, Armstrong was a fixture on TV cop and adventure programs. Perhaps the most characteristic moment in Armstrong's TV career was during a sketch on The Red Skelton Show, in which Red took one look at Armstrong and ad-libbed "Say, did you ever get that monkey off that building?" ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Provided by Rovi