His sensational stunt vehicles had created a sensation.
As already stated, famous author Edgar Rice Burroughs had already made
Merrill his choice for Tarzan, about seven years before, immediately he
Soon after this, announcements appeared around the middle of 1928 in
the movie magazines, and one reviewer wrote: "I thought that film serials
were quite dead by now, but Universal have decided otherwise. They had
brought to life again our dear old friend "Tarzan," and are making "Tarzan
the Mighty" in serial form, with Frank Merrill, famous American athlete,
in the title role."
There was one great quality about Merrill, he looked equally at home
in well-cut city clothes, tux or evening dress clothes as he did in a leopard
skin, or athletic singlet, and the boxing ring.
We might say that Merrill was BORN to be Tarzan. Everything he did in
his life, every move he made led him nearer, step by step to the ultimate
goal, the gigantic Tarzan serials.
Yes. . . When Merrill was born he was destined to play Tarzan.
Merrill was expert in everything which made Tarzan.
There was absolutely no flaw in Merrill, anywhere. Not just one
sport, but everything. He was the perfect Tarzan on every count, not just
looks and appearance, but qualifications. It is not what I say, but FACTS.
Facial characteristics, height, muscle-balance, agility, ability, handsome,
genuine STRENGTH, all-round athlete and gymnast, etc., etc.
At that time -- in 1928 -- it was quite obvious that Frank Merrill was
the only man in the world to take on this dangerous assignment with the
exception of Joe Bonono, or perhaps Tom Tyler, who possessed an amazing
physique, was tall, and had the perfect countenance for Tarzan -- the lean
face, and with longer hair and leopard skin headband, with off shoulder
leopard skin he would have proved a good Tarzan.
Merrill was expert in everything which made Tarzan: rope-climbing, Roman
rings, trapeze, high bars, weightlifting, etc.
Let us make a quick appraisal of his assets. He was a champion on the
Roman rings and had never been defeated.
Merrill prior to "Tarzan the Mighty" set up a new rope climbing record
by going forty-five feet, hand over hand in 15 seconds from a sitting
position on the floor, the use of the feet being barred throughout.
As we have said Merrill was especially proficient on the Roman rings
and trapeze and it was his great ability with them that enabled him to
swing thru' the branches of the trees. . . climbing with lightning-like
speed up and down the tangled vines of the jungle and pull himself rapidly
out of bear traps and elephant pits which were laid by his enemies in these
And so "Tarzan the Mighty" went into production around spring 1928 and
concluded shooting around the middle of October, 1928.
It was stated by Universal to be based on ERB's great book "The Jungle
Tales of Tarzan" and was originally accorded the tentative title of the
"Jungle Tales of Tarzan" and was scheduled for 12 episodes.
By the time this picture reached the cinema screens its title-head became
"Tarzan the Mighty."
Jack Nelson directed the picture under the supervision of William Lord
Wright. The screen adaptation and screen continuity were written by Ian
Yes, a combination of the two experts Merrill and Nelson specialists
in their respective fields.
"Mighty" proved such great box-office that Universal were compelled
to extend it to 15 episodes by public demand.
Universal put out some quite colourful publicity on "Mighty" 6-sheet,
12-sheet, and 48-sheet posters, banners, 11 x 14 coloured lobby cards and
The cast of "Tarzan the Mighty" was as follows:
Frank Merrill . . . Tarzan
Natalie Kingston . . . feminine lead of Mary Trevor
Al Ferguson . . . as Black John, the beachcomber and leader of a lost
Bobby Nelson . . . as Bobby Trevor, the girl's little brother
Lorimer Johnson . . . as Lord Greystoke
"Mighty" proved such a tremendous success that Universal produced a
sequel "Tarzan the Tiger" which was based fairly faithfully on ERB's "Tarzan
and the Jewels of Opar." This went for 15 episodes, and was released around
October, 1929. For his second great serial Henry McRae was in charge of
the direction side with the continuity and adaptation again in t he hands
of Ian McCloskey Heath.
The cast of "Tarzan the Tiger" as supplied by Universal Pictures
was as follows:
Tarzan, Lord Greystoke . . . Frank Merrill
Jane, Lady Greystoke . . . Natalie Kingston
Werper . . . Al Ferguson
Achment Zek . . . Sheldon Lewis
Queen La . . . Kithnou
Mohammed Bey . . . Paul Panzer
Al Ferguson proved such a good villain that he was again retained for
"Tiger" as an adventure, posing as a scientist and minus his beard but
sporting a wicked looking mustache.
Natalie Kingston was again retained as the feminine lead but in the
capacity of Lady Jane, and of course there was no doubt that all who would
continue to play Tarzan -- Frank Merrill.
Of course, I witnessed both "Mighty" and "Tiger" at two separate cinemas,
following on from one to the other for 15 episodes each.
Although they were for unsophisticated, probably, they afforded me some
of the greatest continuous pleasure of any movies I have see, and I could
hardly wait for the next week's episode.
Here is a reviewer's account of "Mighty" in the trade press:
"Both Frank Merrill and Natalie Kingston are admirably suited for their
star parts. Being endowed with grace and strength and beauty, and in a
film of this type these are indispensable qualifications.
Plot: A female ape mourns the death of her young one and mothers a helpless
Grown to magnificent manhood he acquires knowledge from books left by
his parents. Understands the speech of the animals around him and they
love and obey him.
He saves a beautiful shipwrecked girl while bathing in a jungle pool,
from a shoal of crocodiles and afterwards protects her from the descendants
of a pirate crew settled on the island.
There is considerable charm and even poetry in these adventures -- and
the most prosaic individual cannot fail to be delighted by the portrayal
of primitive simplicity. . . . the wonders of the tropical jungle . . .
the physical feats of the agile Tarzan . . . the desperate struggles and
nick-of-time rescues. . . "