'King Kong' Special Effects Wizard Harry Redmond Jr. Dies at 101

Harry Redmond Portrait 2011

Harry Redmond

In addition to the original "Kong," his credits include such fabled movies as "Last Days of Pompeii," "Lost Horizon" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

Harry Redmond Jr., a special effects artist and producer whose career reached back more than 80 years to the dawn of talking pictures, died May 23 in the Hollywood Hills home that he and his wife had designed and built more than six decades ago. He was 101.

Redmond’s father, film and special effects pioneer Harry Redmond Sr., ran Metropolitan Studios on Long Island. In 1926, the family — as well as the movie industry — moved to California, and the younger Redmond soon followed his dad into the “picture business.”

Starting in the prop department at First National Pictures, Redmond moved to RKO Radio Pictures, where he transitioned into the special effects field and worked on many of RKO’s fabled films of the late 1920s and ’30s, including King Kong (1933), The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), She (1935) and Top Hat (1935).

After a four-year stint at RKO, Redmond went independent and created effects for a such classics as Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), Howard HawksOnly Angels Have Wings (1939), Howard HughesThe Outlaw (1943), Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944) and Orson WellesThe Stranger (1946).

Redmond would often work one-on-one with the director to provide a specific effect. In The Woman in the Window, he and Lang collaborated on the striking transition shot of Edward G. Robinson at the film’s end, doing it all in real time, in camera, with no cuts and no postproduction work.

While working on The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) for David O. Selznick, Redmond met Dorothea Holt, a pioneering production illustrator who was designing the interiors for Gone With the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940). They were married in 1940.

When World War II began, Redmond left Hollywood for Fort Monmouth, N.J., where he designed and built a studio for the Army Film Training Lab.

After the war, he resumed his effects career in Hollywood with such films as the Marx Brothers’ A Night in Casablanca (1946), Angel on My Shoulder (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and A Song Is Born (1948).

In the early 1950s, Redmond’s work on Storm Over Tibet (1952) began what would become a long association with writer-producer Ivan Tors, spanning not only Tors’ early science-fiction features such as The Magnetic Monster (1953) and Gog (1954) but also his succession of popular TV shows like Science Fiction Theater, Sea Hunt and Daktari.

Having assumed the role of Tors’ associate producer for the films Flipper (1963), Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) and Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), Redmond increasingly began to chafe at the industry’s skyrocketing “above the line” costs and retired from films in the late 1960s, said his daughter, Lynne Jackson. His last credits came in 1964 with the series The Outer Limits and the TV movie The Unknown.

Redmond was never nominated for an Oscar or an Emmy, not did he receive any industry awards.

Holt, who helped design the Seattle Space Needle, the restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport and much of Main Street at Disneyland following her career in films, died in 2009 at age 98.

In addition to his daughter, Redmond’s survivors include his son Lee Redmond, three granddaughters and three great-grandsons. A memorial service will be held June 21 at 1:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn in Glendale.