Robert Armstrong

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Robert William Armstrong
Los Angeles, Westwood Village Memorial Park

Robert Armstrong (November 20, 1890 – April 20, 1973) was an American film actor remembered for his role as Carl Denham in the 1933 version of King Kong by RKO Pictures. He uttered the famous exit quote, "'Twas beauty killed the beast," at the film's end. Months later, he starred as Carl Denham again in the sequel, Son of Kong, released the same year. Sixteen years later, in 1949, Armstrong played a similar role as showman Max O'Hara in another giant ape movie, Mighty Joe Young. 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. The Most Dangerous Game was filmed at night on the same jungle sets as King Kong, which was being shot during the day, with Armstrong and Fay Wray simultaneously starring in both pictures.

In the 1950s, Armstrong appeared as Sheriff Andy Anderson on Rod Cameron's syndicated western-themed television series, State Trooper. Cameron played the role of Rod Blake, chief investigator for the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Armstrong made four guest appearances on Perry Mason during its nine-year run on CBS: in 1961 he played the title character and murder victim Capt. 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 murderer Phil Jenks in "The Case of the Accousted Accountant."


Born Robert William Armstrong in Saginaw, Michigan, lived in Bay City, Michigan until about 1902 and moved to Seattle, Washington. Armstrong studied to be a lawyer but gave it up to manage his uncle's touring companies. He attended the University of Washington where he became a member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity. In his spare time he wrote plays, which eventually led to him appearing in one of them when it was produced. Armstrong served in the United States Army in World War I, and upon his return home after the war, Armstrong discovered his uncle had died while he was away. In 1926 he went to London and appeared for a season on the British stage. Armstrong's silver screen career began in 1927 when he appeared in Pathé's silent drama The Main Event.

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 (they coincidentally died sixteen hours apart). 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 the early 1940s, Universal Pictures released Enemy Agent, about a plot to thwart the Nazis. In the film, Armstrong co-starred with Helen Vinson, Richard Cromwell and Jack La Rue. Later, in 1942, he played again opposite Cromwell in Baby Face Morgan, a notable "B" effort 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 yet another stop-motion animation giant gorilla fantasy, made by the same King Kong team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.


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


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.

Source: wikipedia.org

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