The Unfamous of Hollywood — Murray Spivack — The Noisiest Man Alive (1934) 🇺🇸
Making a noise like a canary, an Airedale or a South African Dick-Dick is a comparatively simple procedure; but when you tackle thirty-ton monsters of seven million years ago you can take it from me you’re delving into the realm of difficult bedlam!
by Hale Horton
The chances are you’d be hard put to imitate the growl of a Brontosaurus, the squeal of a Tryannosaurus or the lisp of a twenty-ton lizard. But not so Murray Spivack. If it weren’t for him the world would be a quieter place today. He considers it his mission in life to create auditory mesalliances, which cause brave men to break down and sob.
Spivack even went so far as to renounce a successful career as trap-drummer when he discovered he could make louder and funnier noises at the expense of RKO. He rates as chief trickster of their sound department. Up to date he has created and recorded over seven thousand distinct and equally undesirable rackets. This includes the sound effects of a ghost. As a result his.hair went prematurely gray, and still is. (At least it was at the beginning of RKO’s sequel to “Kong.” By now it’s probably as white as the virtue of the Three Little Pigs!)
White or gray, Spivack it is — dear old Spivack! — who created all the ghastly, blood-curdling, hideous, nerve-racking roars, groans, screeches, hisses and howls belched by the monsters of the Jurassic Age when they love, scrap, squabble and frolic in “Kiko, the Son of King Kong.”
Gentlemen: I give you Spivack!
“The paramount problem,” says Mr. Spivack, as though he had forgotten his allegiance to RKO, “was how to give voices to prehistoric beasts when we were just about certain their vocal chords were so undeveloped they were totally unable to make any sound at all. With the possible exception of a faint hiss or a plaintive ‘psst!’ On giving the matter some thought it seemed inadvisable allowing such gargantuan beasts to appear on the screen, fighting, lashing about and glaring at the audience with no auditory manifestation of their wrath other than the aforementioned ‘Pssst!’ A trifle quaint, as it were. Besides that our present generation of film fans would feel cheated. They know modern monsters roar. They expect them to roar. Hence the prehistoric monsters either thunder out blood-curdling roars, or else. Thus we were forced to modernize the Tryannosauri, Brontosauri and prehistoric lizards. A little matter,” he continues lightly, “of bringing the Jurassic Age up to date.”
This being disposed of, Spivack was faced with the problem of giving a voice to Kiko, the Son of King Kong. Kiko is a mere chick of a gorilla, barely twenty feet tall, whose fur is the delicate, colorless fuzz of babyhood. And being a baby his voice must embody that squealing, whimpering note common to the voices of all animal kids. Furthermore since Kong’s voice was deeper than the deepest pipe-organ note, Kiko’s voice must be proportionately deep and yet possess that tenor-like quality typical of infants. In other words, all Spivack had to do was to give a tenor tinge to a deep, bass voice. Difficult even in Hollywood. But Spivack, regrettably enough, proved worthy of his trust.
With the glitter of true genius in his eye this dauntless fellow explains how “the creation of weird sound efor Kiko’s voice was simplified by his ability to record sounds and voices upside down. “For example,” says he, “we take the sound track of a human voice and run it through the projection machine backwards and record the result. If I should say ‘Bang!’ and then run the recording backwards, the word would emerge as ‘gnaB’, each letter also being backwards: ‘G-e-e-e,’ for example, emerging as ‘e-e-e-j.’ And by retarding the speed of the sound track able to re-record sounds of seemingly impossible depth.
“Now for Kiko’s voice: Occasionally I created his chatter simply by squealing- and grunting into the mike myself, reversing and retarding the result. But for the most part his voice is composed of a human voice turned upside down and lowered in volume, the actual voice of a gorilla scientifically modified, and a few bird squeals. The combination,” Spivack assures one happily, “gave me precisely the noise I sought.”
He then was faced with the fact that while, like his dad, Old King Kong, Kiko was a merry old soul, he also was handy with his dukes. And when he scrapped, he roared. “Naturally,” Spivack explains, “Kiko’s roar had to resemble Kong’s and yet be proportionately infantile. It had to be a sound never before heard by human ear. So I took the roar of a tiger and the roar of an elephant reversed and recorded them together, with, I might add, gratifying results.”
And as though Spivack already hadn’t contributed his share to the modern bedlam of seven million years ago, he deliberately and with malice aforethought invented the battle hiss of the prehistoric lizard by gargling into a mike, recording it backwards and adding a few old-fashioned “razzberries” for good measure. The resulting effect is recorded at high speed until the hiss of our prehistoric pal attains an ungodly sort of shriek. And incidentally when you hear the death scream of the Brontosaurus don’t let your heart go swish, for it’s simply Spivack’s gargle again combined with a few “Shhhhh’s” — the sort of noise one makes to babies. On the other hand the battle cry of the thirty-ton Triceratops is derived from the trumpeting of an infuriated elephant turned hind-side-to and exaggerated in volume.
Having read this much about the fellow, you can imagine with what glee he created the terrific, soul-stirring, nerve-ripping racket attendant on the destruction of Skull Island by earthquake! He hurled huge boulders down the side of a rock quarry and recorded their descent! He simulated the noise of a landslide by hiring a steam shovel to pour dirt down a steep incline! By madly ingenious methods he reproduced thunder and lightning storms and the crashing of trees! And last but not least, with joy tingling in his ears he discovered that by simply wiggling a sheet of tin he could reproduce the deep, ominous, subterranean rumble of an earthquake... and so realistically that we Hollywoodians feel right at home!
Gentlemen — But I’ve already given you Spivack!
Source: New Movie Magazine, February 1934
This article is part of our Unfamous of Hollywood series: Gilmor Brown, Natalie Bucknell, Bebe Daniels & Pauline Gallagher, Howard Dietz, Elmer Dyer, George Hurrell, Billy Hill, Sally Rand, Murray Spivack, George E. Stone