American author Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), famous as the creator of characters like Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, and heralded by Ray Bradbury as the most influential writer, bar none, of our century, had numerous connections to Southern California’s beachside city of Santa Monica.
After wintering in Southern California twice, Chicago native Burroughs moved there permanently in 1919, buying General Harrison Gray Otis’s San Fernando Valley ranch, Mil Flores, and renaming it "Tarzana" for his famous creation, the royalties from which paid for his move. Burroughs would rise before dawn every morning to ride horseback from Tarzana south past Mulholland Drive, over the Santa Monica Mountains, down Santa Monica Canyon to the beach. The rugged trails he traversed, including the Temescal Ridge Trail and the Will Rogers Trail (now the lower end of the National Parks Service Backbone Trail), remain popular with contemporary adventurers. Burroughs was friends with humorist Rogers, whose house, ranch and polo field have been preserved as Will Rogers State Historic Park. Today, Burroughs' route can be accessed from the San Fernando Valley via Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park.
Burroughs' literary hero Julian 20th, the Red Hawk, reverses Burroughs' route in 1925's post-apocalyptic novella, “The Red Hawk” (the final part of The Moon Maid trilogy), set in the year 2430 A.D. After being captured by enemy Moon Men in the Battle of Pasadena, Julian is imprisoned in a skyscraper in ruined downtown Los Angeles. He escapes and rides his horse west down the old Wilshire Boulevard route to the cliffs of Palisades Park above the sea. Finding his way down to the ocean (probably along the California Incline), he heads north to Santa Monica Canyon, which he follows inland to Rustic Canyon and then Tarzana, for a final, climatic battle with the Moon Men in the ruins of Burroughs’ old homestead. Burroughs’ former residence in Oak Park, Illinois, figures in the second part of the trilogy, “The Moon Men,” with Julian 20th’s ancestor Julian 9th fighting the lunar invaders in the Chicago area.
The Santa Monica-to-Tarzana route also influenced Burroughs’ contemporary novel The Girl from Hollywood, an indictment of the Hollywood film industry and the drug trade. The storyline features prohibition-era liquor drug-runners who offload their illicit Mexican cargo on the beach, then transport it by mules over the mountains to hide it on the protagonists’ Rancho del Ganado (which Burroughs fashioned after his own Tarzana ranch).
Burroughs was a member of The Uplifters, a men’s association with a clubhouse in Rustic Canyon, on the northern ridge of Santa Monica Canyon in Pacific Palisades (the site is now Rustic Canyon Park). He was sponsored into the group, which was an offshoot of the downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club, by fellow author and former Chicago resident L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz Books. The first Tarzan film, Tarzan of the Apes (1918), was headquartered at the former Oz studios on Gower Street in Hollywood, filming scenes on location in Louisiana and in Griffith Park.
Burroughs' fictional hero Bowen Tyler’s family shipyards (The Land That Time Forgot), pioneering submarine builders, were based in Santa Monica. Tyler later put his knowledge of submarines to good use when he and some captured British sailors overthrew their World War I German captors and sailed a U-Boat into the lost continent of Caprona, populated by all manner of dinosaurs.
According to Hollywood lore, the first screen Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln, was discovered in 1913 by a film scout at what was to become known as Santa Monica’s historic Muscle Beach—many silent-era film aspirants would perform athletic feats there, hoping to be discovered. Lincoln was cast as an extra in D.W. Griffith’s silent Western, “The Battle of Elderbrush Gulch”, where his shirt was torn off in a fight scene. When Griffith saw his mighty, 52-inch chest, he began casting the actor in more prominent roles in films, such as Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Lincoln played the ape man in Tarzan of the Apes (1918), the sequel The Romance of Tarzan (1920) and the serial The Adventures of Tarzan (1921). While Lincoln was showing off his chest at the beach, silent film star Enid Markey, who would play Jane in his first two Tarzan pictures, was performing in movies shot at nearby Inceville, a sprawling film village at the mouth of the Santa Ynez Canyon, where, today, Sunset Boulevard reaches the sea.
Former Olympic swimming champions and screen Tarzans Johnny Weissmuller, who starred in 12 films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and RKO, and his rival Buster Crabbe (Tarzan the Fearless, 1933) trained Santa Monica lifeguards (and were themselves honorary lifeguards). Maureen O'Sullivan, who played Johnny’s on-screen mate Jane, married screenwriter and director John Farrow (Tarzan Escapes, 1936) in Saint Monica’s Church on September 12, 1936.
PRESENTATION PHOTO GALLERY
Photos from Scott Tracy Griffin and the Hillman ERBzine Archive
Author Scott Tracy Griffin opened his discussion of
"Tarzan and the Santa Monica Connection"
with a review of Tarzan's pulp magazine origins.
was discovered by D.W. Griffith's film scout at
Santa Monica's historic Muscle Beach.
to saddle up and ride the trails of
the Santa Monica Mountains from his Tarzana Ranch
to the beaches of Santa Monica Canyon.
More on the area:
"Tracy Griffin's 2014.01.26 Santa Monica talk"
Listen HERE via Dropbox
The above film and book titles are all featured in
ERBzine Silver Screen Series
ERBzine Illustrated Bibliography
The Wizards of California: Burroughs and Baum
Edgar Rice Burroughs
1917 Winter: Ed strikes up a friendship with L. Frank Baum,
a former Chicagoan and author of the Oz books.
Baum invited him to join the Uplifters,
a prestigious men's club he had founded.
ERB Bio Timeline
Scott Tracy Griffin Features in ERBzine
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration
Tarzan Sunday Pages by Scott Tracy Griffin and Gray Morrow
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration I
Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration II
Tarzan Centennial Celebrations
Just one of a long line of positive reviews on Griffin's Centennial Tarzan book
Featured in ERBzine 4852a
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.-
All Rights Reserved. ERB quotes ©ERB Inc.
All Original Work ©1996-2014 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.