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c. 1967 - 1975

Behind the Planet of the Apes

Some off-camera scenes from the infinitely extendable film franchise

While the rest of the country is bracing for winter, Roddy McDowall (ape with sunglasses) shades himself from hot Malibu, CA sun at 20th Century Fox TV's ranch where he is starring in "Planet of the Apes" for CBS.

Why is it that so many science-fiction writers dislike their work being described as “science-fiction”? That was certainly the case for French author Pierre Boulle – he preferred to describe his 1963 novel La Planète des Singes as social fantasy. 

In any case, you are more likely to know it by its US English name, Planet of the Apes. (Just be thankful the title of the British version fell by the wayside – Monkey Planet).

He was certainly not a genre writer, and used his experience in a labour camp during WWII to write ‘The Bridge Over the River Kwai’

Perhaps Boulle had more cause to object to the sci-fi label than most – he was certainly not a genre writer, and used his experience in a labour camp during WWII to write The Bridge Over the River Kwai which was adapted into the renowned film. 

La Planète des Singes was his response to observations he made of gorillas in Paris’ zoo.

Boulle regarded his ‘ape’ novel as a minor work. Not so Hollywood. The resulting film, starring cinematic legend Charlton Heston, was a veritable blockbuster, making four times its budget of $5.8m.

And generating a seemingly never-ending sequence of Ape spin-offs on the big and small screen – including a regular half-hour Saturday morning cartoon series. 

At its peak in 1973, when the original film was first broadcast on network TV, the media wrote feverishly of ‘Apemania’.

You could even buy Ape action figures.

As of today, Boulle’s minor work has generated $2 billion.
These pictures show some off-camera scenes from the infinitely extendable film franchise.

1967
Actor Maurice Evans is made up for his role as the simian heavy in the motion picture Planet of the Apes.
John Bryson / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
1967
Actor Maurice Evans is made up for his role as the simian heavy in the motion picture Planet of the Apes.
John Bryson / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
1967
Actor Maurice Evans is made up for his role as the simian heavy in the motion picture Planet of the Apes.
John Bryson / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
1967
Actor Maurice Evans is made up for his role as the simian heavy in the motion picture Planet of the Apes.
John Bryson / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
1967
Actor Maurice Evans is made up for his role as the simian heavy in the motion picture Planet of the Apes.
John Bryson / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
1967
Roddy McDowall in the preparation for the mask of Cornelius
AFP / Getty Images
1968
Roddy McDowall shades himself from Malibu sun at 20th Century Fox TV’s ranch where he is starring in “Planet of the Apes”
Getty Images
1974
American makeup artist Fred Blau (right) works on English-American actor Roddy McDowall to transform him into character (as Galen) backstage for an episode of the television show ‘Planet of the Apes,’ 1974.
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
1974
Roddy McDowall as Galen and James Naughton as Pete Burke take a break on the set of science fiction television series ‘Planet of the Apes’
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
1975
Hairdresser Paul Kelly tends to ‘Planet of the Apes’ character Galen, who is one of the attractions in the children’s department of an Oxford Street store leading up to Christmas.
PA Images / Getty Images

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