K. Gordon Murray
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
K. Gordon Murray (1922–1979) was an American producer, most notable for his redubbing and re-releasing of foreign fairy tale films for U.S. audiences. He is often cited as the "King of the Kiddie Matinee". Murray also marketed many of the Mexploitation Lucha Libre films such as Santo films popular in Mexico, changing Santo's name to Samson and dubbing them in English.
Among his more famous contributions are Little Red Riding Hood (1960), Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (1962), Rumpelstiltskin (1955), The Golden Goose (1964) and Santa Claus (1959), which he also narrated under the pseudonym "Ken Smith".
Born in Bloomington, Illinois, where many of the leading circus performers of the time spent their winter seasons, Kenneth 'Kagey' Gordon Murray, son of an Irish-American funeral home director, occasionally spent his boyhood in the company of those struggling artists. By his teenage years, Kagey had set up a 'corn game,' what would today be known as a bingo parlor, in one of his father's cemetery tents. He then took that corn game out on the road with West's World Wonder Shows Carnival, eventually rising to the position of manager.
During the winter season at Bloomington, Murray set up a network of quasi-legal slot machines. In that capacity, he had a talent for smooth-talking the authorities. By the late 1930s, Murray was using his circus friends' various connections to aid a casting director to hire little people to act as Munchkins in the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz. Shortly afterward, Murray married his longtime sweetheart, Irene, a college graduate from Illinois State University. In 1949, Ken and Irene settled in Hollywood, where none other than Cecil B. DeMille himself hired Murray to help promote his circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth.
Ultimately, the Murrays moved to Miami, where Ken launched K. Gordon Murray Productions, making several deals with such top pioneers in exploitation filmmaking as Kroger Babb. He often changed the titles of his movies, giving them more sensational, more emotionally charged monikers, in order to sell them in a better way. The movie Santa Claus made so much money, that it is the only film in U.S. history (with the possible exception of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) to be released profitably in theaters every few years for three decades. When Murray saw this, he started to dub more children's fairy tale films into English, and by the end of the 1960s, he had been hailed by film critics as the "King of the Kiddie Matinee". To promote these films, he hired a local costume shop to create costumes for his two leading mascots: Stinky the Skunk and the Ferocious Wolf, both of whom appeared in a series of films based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
In all, Murray would release over 60 movies in only 15 years. Towards the end of his life, Murray ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service, which seized his films and took them out of circulation. But on December 30, 1979, before he could take the IRS to court to reclaim his movies, K. Gordon Murray suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 57. Coincidentally, he had died on the same date, and at the same age, as his own father.