-Rex: A Dinosaur in Hollywood (BBC1)
HE was, we were told, a combination of shapes and features never seen in one body before.
No, they weren't talking about Frankenstein's monster or even Robbie Coltrane. The subject was Tyrannosaurus Rex, the dinosaur with the fierce reputation - angrier than Michael Parkinson after being attacked by Emu or Tony Blair after being caught voting Conservative.
This humorous documentary about the legend of history who became a movie star was a real oddity. Quite what the point was - apart from filling an hour on TV - escaped me, but it was well enough done.
Dino-hunter Nate Murphy took us to where it all began 100 years ago with the discovery of the existence of T-Rex by palaeontologist Barnum Brown in Hell Creek in the Montana Badlands.
After spending 65 million years beneath the earth, it took some doing to get T-Rex out. This bony specimen became a star attraction at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
He was big box office as people came to gawp at him. "You think Michael Jackson was big, T-Rex blew everyone out of the water, " said Murphy. And the dinosaur didn't have a nose job or change colour. Women passed out it was so horrific, we learnt. Perhaps T-Rex did have something in common with Jackson after all.
Most people agreed he was too skinny.
A portrait artist was brought in to put some flesh on his bones. The look he created set the creature on the road to Hollywood, making his film debut in 1914 in the silent movie Gertie.
The success of Gertie meant the public demanded more dino movies. The extinct creatures came to life on the big screen thanks to people such as stop motion animator Willis O'Brian. A book by Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, provided the material. T-Rex was given a bit part - a very big bit, admittedly - in the movie of The Lost World.
But it wasn't until 1933 that Hollywood struck gold with King Kong who was not, the more observant among you will have noticed, a dinosaur but a big ape.
The programme caught up with the now-retired Kong at his Hollywood mansion. He wasn't entirely welcoming.
"If that's David Attenborough, I'm not at home, " he roared. The truth emerged that his screen fight with T-Rex was fixed as a creature like him could easily have beaten King Kong if the dinosaur hadn't been paid to throw the fight.
With fame came exposure to tabloid speculation. Newspapers began probing T-Rex's past, while making snide comments about his small hands and bird-like body. He should have sued them.
Instead he found himself pushed into Bmovies with monsters like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and aliens from outer space.
It took an extreme makeover to enable a comeback. Thanks to Steven Spielberg and modern technology, T-Rex was back in the movie business in Jurassic Park.
Yes, the programme was extremely silly and prolonged the BBC's love of all things Walking With Dinosaurs, but at least it wasn't another historical documentary.
Named Works: King Kong (Motion picture)
"LAST NIGHT'S TV - The fossil that found fame." Europe Intelligence Wire 6 Oct. 2005. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2009.
Gale Document Number:A137393138
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