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|“||It wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty, killed the beast.||„|
In King Kong, Denham is a famous maker of "moving pictures" known for filming wild animals in exotic places. Many question his sanity due to his dedication to film. Denham's role in the film begins when a movie producer boards the S.S. Venture to inform Denham that he has not found an actress to be in Denham's new film. This prompts Denham to go into New York City to find a girl for the role. Denham finds Ann Darrow in the grip of an angry shopkeeper who believed that she intended to steal fruit from his stand. Denham buys Darrow dinner and hires her for the film. While aboard The Venture, Denham films some scenes of Darrow. Denham disproves of the burgeoning romance between Ann Darrow and Jack Driscoll while filming. On Skull Island, Denham tries to film the native sacrifice ceremony, only to be found by the native chief. Darrow is later kidnapped and given to Kong. Denham and a group of others track Kong through the jungle in an attempt to rescue Darrow, leading to the deaths of every party member but Jack Driscoll and Denham himself. Denham returns to alert Captain Englehorn of the situation, and is seen again when Driscoll and Darrow have escaped. Denham, the Venture's crew and a brace of natives try to keep Kong inside the ancient wall, but Kong still escapes. As everyone fled toward the shore, Denham threw a gas bomb at Kong, subduing him for the time being. Months later, Denham has a show in New York City with Kong as the star, but on opening night, Kong mistakes cameras for weapons (and an attack on Ann Darrow), and escapes. Denham and Driscoll go to the local police to think of a way to subdue Kong. Denham is seen again at the end of the film pushing through crowds to get to Kong's body.
In Son of Kong, Denham is shown to be hiding out at a friend's house from lawsuits against him for the destruction of New York City. Denham reveals that he is full of regret for what he did to Kong. He is summoned back to the Venture by the ship's cook Charlie (credited as Chinese Chef). on board the ship, Denham is made aware that he has been given the option to testify in his defense in the United States Supreme Court. At this time, Denham decides to travel with the Venture. The Venture takes to port on an island called Dakang about a thousand miles away from Kong's Island. On Dakang, Denham goes to see a show where he meets the ex-ballet dancer Hilda, who is now working in her father's small sideshow. After departing from Dakang, it is discovered that Hilda had stowed away on board. Later on in the voyage, a mutiny is staged, sending Denham, Captain Englehorn, Charlie, and Hilda to Skull Island in a lifeboat. On the Island, He almost immediately discovers Kiko and recognizes that he is the son of King Kong. Kiko gets into a few predicaments, and Denham and Hilda aid him, thus earning the juvenile Kong's trust. when Denham opens the temple that the party had set up camp near, and takes the necklace with large diamonds that was inside, the Island begins to sink into the ocean. Kiko lifts Denham up above the water, saving Denham's life. After Denham and the rest of the party, Denham questions weather Kiko knew he was saving his life. Hilda assures Denham that he did, they discuss their plans for when they return to the city and the film ends.
Carl Denham is a failing film producer and mild conman. Shortly after he is introduced onscreen, he is shown to be unscrupulous, Drinking alcohol during prohibition, lying to actors, stealing equipment, and writing checks for money he does not have. He cares for nothing but making a profit. When he suffers losses of friends and co-workers during the film, he simply drinks and claims that the proceeds of the film they were shooting would go to the deceased's family, but as he said this twice about two different people, it is clear that he had no intention of giving any proceeds away. After his camera breaks, and all hope of making millions of dollars seems lost, he becomes determined to capture Kong alive. He seems to care nothing for human losses sustained to do so. It is Denham that smashes the last bottle of chloroform onto Kong's face, subduing him and allowing him to be captured. When Denham returns to New York, he puts Kong into a stage show as "The Eighth Wonder of the World". He seems to not be affected at all by what he saw on Skull Island. He edited the story of their adventure to put Bruce Baxter into the central role. He only becomes concerned with Kong when he escapes and wrecks the theater. After Kong is killed, Denham approaches the body, claims that "It was beauty, killed the beast" and walked away into the crowd.