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Mighty Joe Young

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Mighty Joe Young (1949), starring Terry Moore, Robert Armstrong
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Mighty Joe Young (1949), starring Terry Moore, Robert Armstrong

On an expedition to Africa, show business promoter Max O’Hara meets Jill Young. She has raised her pet gorilla, Joe, since she was a child. And the promoter wants to use Mighty Joe Young to promote his nightclub. What could possibly go wrong?


I have a lot of respect for Mighty Joe Young. At its heart, its the story of a young woman and her giant gorilla, that she’s raised from infancy. Or, the story of a gorilla and his beloved owner. Seriously.


  • Terry Moore (The Great Rupert) … Jill Young. The young lady, who adopted Joe as a “baby”. And raised him in their home in Africa. She thinks of him more as a younger brother than a pet.
  • Ben Johnson (Red Dawn) … Gregg. Max’s assistant, who falls in love with Jill. Over time, he becomes protective of Joe as well.
  • Robert Armstrong (King Kong) … Max O’Hara. The promoter, who convinces Jill to bring Joe to America, where he’ll become a media sensation. Not really a bad man, as he proves at the end, when he helps Joe escape. But, he’s willing to stretch the truth to keep Joe performing just a little longer …
  • Mr. Joseph Young … Self. The giant gorilla, one of the nicest “people” you’d ever want to meet. Incredibly lifelike animation by the great Willis O’Brien.
  • Frank McHugh (High Pressure, Elmer the Great) … Windy
  • Douglas Fowley (Singin’ in the Rain, Cat-Women of the Moon) … Jones
  • Denis Green (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941) … Crawford
  • Paul Guilfoyle (The Seventh Cross) … Smith
  • Nestor Paiva (Creature from the Black Lagoon) … Brown
  • Regis Toomey (The Big Sleep) … John Young. Jill’s father. He passes away by the time she reaches adulthood.
  • Lora Lee Michel … Jill Young, as a Girl
  • James Flavin (Anchors Away) … Schultz

Uncredited performances with dialogue:

  • Irene Ryan (Beverly Hillbillies) as Southern belle at the bar
  • William Schallert (The Man from Planet X, The Patty Duke Show) as gas station attendant
  • Ellen Corby (Sabrina, The Waltons) as nurse at the burning orphanage

Editorial review of Mighty Joe Young courtesy of

Mighty Joe Young breaks out of his cage while the drunks flee

A slick nightclub owner (King Kong veteran Robert Armstrong) discovers the giant ape frolicking in Africa as the beloved pet of a young girl (Terry Moore). He brings both to Hollywood as a floor-show sensation, until some no-goods ply Joe with booze and the blitzed behemoth goes bonkers. Highlights such as Armstrong’s henchmen trying to lasso Joe cowpoke style, Joe playing tug-of-war with musclemen and plenty of Joe-to-the-rescue action make Mighty Joe Young mighty fine entertainment.

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