Recapturing Mighty Joe Young: The Raymond Durgnat Bequest

The Raymond Durgnat Bequest

The exhibition Recapturing Mighty Joe Young would not have been possible without the bequest made to Aberystwyth University by the British film historian Raymond Durgnat (1932–2002). Early in his career, Durgnat was a staff writer for Associated British Pictures. He worked on a number of films, few of which he thought worth remembering.

As a film historian, Durgnat wrote on subjects ranging from Bunuel and Hitchcock to Garbo and the Marx Brothers. In Films and Feelings (1971), he touched upon ‘the least serious of cinematic genres – the monster fantasy.’ Singling out King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms – for which Ray Harryhausen created the special effects – Durgnat acknowledged that fantasy and horror movies ‘often have a rich vein of poetry.’

Recapturing Mighty Joe Young: installation view

Durgnat also left us several hundred books from his collection. They include volumes on Gothic horror, Cubist cinema, screwball comedy, film and television melodrama, homosexuality in the movies, video art, animation, as well as pre-cinematic moving images.

‘It wouldn’t break my heart if all the movies in the world were destroyed tomorrow,’ Durgnat once said in an interview. He was no sentimentalist. ‘Knowing how the … system worked,’ he remarked, ‘I’ve no nostalgias for Hollywood.’ Durgnat, who was a teenager when Mighty Joe Young was released, nonetheless preserved the album in the centre of this gallery. What did it – or Joe – mean to him?

Displayed alongside books from the Durgnat bequest was a nineteenth-century stereoscopic viewer. Contraptions like these brought home exotic images from around the world in three dimensions.

Navigating the Display

Recapturing Mighty Joe Young: Introduction

Ray Harryhausen: Influence and Inspiration

Mighty Joe Young: The Album

Mighty Joe Young: Cast and Crew

Mighty Joe Young: Promotion and Propaganda

1940s Animation

Drawing and Animation Workshops

The Raymond Durgnat Bequest

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