Erbzine.com Homepage
The First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Issue 0610
Presents
TARZAN  MEMORIES II
by
William Armstrong
TARZAN THE APE MAN
starring
Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan

For excellent background information on the making of this classic MGM Tarzan movie and the sequel TARZAN AND HIS MATE, I recommend American Cinematographer magazine issues dated January and February 1987 (these issues are sold on ebay from time to time). Negotiations between ERB and MGM began in March 1931 and were completed on April 15, 1931.  Burroughs was to receive $20,000 and $1000 a week for the 5 week shooting schedule.  The contract stated that  "Burroughs grants rights to Metro to write an 'original story', using character of Tarzan and any other character used in stories heretofore written by author."  Burroughs had the right to read the scripts and make sure they were not based in part or in whole on any of his own works.

Cyril Hume, who had turned the filming of "Trader Horn" in Africa into a suitable story outline, was given the assignment of writing the script for TARZAN THE APE MAN.  Hume's original script had Trader Horn leading an expedition to Africa to search for a lost tribe.  En route, they discover Tarzan, who kidnaps the woman scientist member of the safari.  She eventually returns to the safari and they are captured by the tribe they seek (who worships the moon), and  are to be human sacrifices to a sacred gorilla.  Tarzan, leading a pack of elephants, arrives in time to save the safari.  The woman scientist decides to stay with Tarzan while Trader Horn and his party return to the trading post.

The script evolved after several meetings between Irving Thalberg and his associates; they decided to have the woman scientist be named Jane, who accompanies her father in search for the elephant's graveyard.  This myth was borrowed from the Trader Horn book; the Mutia escarpment was an MGM concoction not based on any myth, and named after Mutia Omoolu, the native who played Trader Horn's gun-bearer.

The search for the actors for Tarzan and Jane began.  Herman Brix was considered, but was injured while filming the movie "Touchdown", and continued until Weissmuller was spotted, tested, and signed.  Maureen O'Sullivan was chosen as Jane (although she was not director Van Dyke's first choice).  Filming began on October 31, 1931 and was completed in December, a modest 78 week schedule.

Filming took place on the MGM lot; Lake Sherwood was where the hippo scenes were filmed, and one hippo was reported missing after filming that scene.  It turned up later.  Alfredo Cardona doubled on the trapeze for all of Weissmuller's aerial scenes.  Elephants from India were made up with fake ears and extended trunks were used to double for African elephants.  Bert Nelson, the animal trainer, doubled for Weissmuller for the lion fight.  A chimpanzee was found to play "Cheetah".

Footage left over from the movie "TRADER HORN", which was filmed in Africa, was to be incorporated in the film to make it look more realistic.  Because of the sophistication of today's audience, the stock footage stands out like a sore thumb but back in 1932, audiences didn't seem to notice or care.  The process shots were very well done for its day.  Since Johnny Weissmuller was an olympic gold medal winning swimmer with many world records to his credit, it was a no-brainer to have him do a lot of swimming in the movies.  Inserts of Weissmuller were added to create the illusion that he had done all of his own stunts.  MGM was not going to allow Johnny to be hurt doing them.

In reality, the first Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan film is really about Jane Parker, superbly played by Maureen O'Sullivan.  It is more about her adventures in Africa and accompanying her father in his search for the Elephant's graveyard and meeting Tarzan than it is about the Ape Man.  Tarzan doesn't even make his first appearance until half way into the movie.  MGM made no mention of his origins, only showed that he is seen living with the apes.  I always found it interesting that MGM wanted us to think that Tarzan had never seen a white woman before in his life. He surely had seen the black women who populated the jungle.  The fact her skin was "white" (or tanned like his) surely caught his attention.  Some black critics have wondered why it was never established that Tarzan had no contact with black women while growing up.  It is something we can ponder but I will not go into it at this time.

The plot itself is simple enough.  Jane comes to the jungle to accompany her father in his search for the legendary Elephant's graveyard.  On her trip as a member of her father's  safari to the Mutia Escarpment, she encounters Tarzan, who kidnaps her and they come to fall in love with each other, to Harry Holt's dismay for he loves her too.  They are attacked and captured by native pygmies; Tarzan has been wounded by the jealous Mr. Holt, and the Ape Man enlists the aid of his friends, the elephants, to rescue everyone.  Jane decides to stay with Tarzan.

The movie, with MGM's clout and support behind it, was a big success.  "APE MAN," followed by "AND HIS MATE," were both surprisingly adult in tone, unlike many of the others that followed.  A lot of the revenue from Tarzan movies came from Asia and other European countries.  There is a colorized version but it looks washed out and not very well done.  You'd think they could have done a better job.  Unlike others who think colorization is the worst thing that could happen to the old movies, I happen to like the idea....as long as the original version is also preserved and we have the choice to be able to watch either version.  DVD's have the ability to present both versions and let us pick which one we would prefer watching.

Unlike most critics, I liked this film better than TARZAN AND HIS MATE.  The beginning of "MATE" is practically a rehash of the beginning of "APE MAN", and the crocodile fight many enjoy, looks totally unrealistic to me.   I also thought Tarzan and Jane should have been married at the end.  It would have prevented a lot of hassles later on.  All in all, the first of Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan films is still a very good film and highly recommended.

(Interesting footnote:  one executive thought it would be a kiddie film before production even began, while another said it would be a film for everyone.)

William with actress Monique Gabrielle

OTHER WILLIAM ARMSTRONG SITES

William Armstrong's 
GORDON SCOTT TARZAN PHOTO ALBUM 
http://www.angelfire.com/apes/tarzanscott/index.html
DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH TARZAN
http://www.angelfire.com/blog/moviejungle/dmlsitemap.html
Other Tarzan Actors & ERB info are also featured in these sites:
ME TARZAN...YOU JANE 
Lex Barker TARZAN Comic Book Covers 
Lex Barker TARZAN Photo Gallery 
JUNGLE GIRLS The FEMALE TARZANS 
TARZAN Movie and TV Lists 
HERMAN BRIX as TARZAN 
The TARZAN NOVELS 
RON ELY as TARZAN 
TARZAN Links
TARZAN MEMORIES I
ERBzine 0579

William Armstrong's
TarzanCinema
Want to discuss your favorite 
Tarzan actor or movie?
Join
TarzanCinema@yahoogroups.com
if you are interested 
or notify 
William Armstrong at 
baronlibra@yahoo.com

Tarzan the Ape Man Compendium Pt. II
is continued in
ERBzine 0611
Reviews ~ Photo Gallery
See our Weissmuller sites at:
ERBzine 0393
and
ERBzine 0394
References
ERBzine Silver Screen Series
alt
www.ERBzine.com/movies
American Cinematographer magazine stories by Rudy Behlmer
Jan. 1987 issue vol 68 # 11 (Weissmuller-O'Sullivan cover)
Feb. 1987 issue vol 68 # 2  (Battle of the Alamo cover)
Colour Adaptations of the
MGM Tarzan Films
1373: Tarzan
The Ape Man
1374: Tarzan 
And His Mate
1375: Tarzan 
Escapes
1376: Tarzan 
Finds A Son!
1377: Tarzan's 
Secret Treasure
1378: Tarzan's 
New York Adventure
.
1379: Tarzan
Triumphs
1380: Tarzan's
Desert Mystery
1381: Tarzan
and the Amazons
1382: Tarzan and the
Leopard Woman
.
TARZAN, THE APE MAN
ERBzine SILVER SCREEN Series: MOVIE COMPENDIUM
I: Intro Tarzan the Ape Man Memories II by W. Armstrong
II: Tarzan the Ape Man: Notes ~ Credits ~ Photos
III: Big Little Book Illustrated Summary I
IV: Big Little Book Illustrated Summary II
V. Tarzan, The Ape Man: Film Log Notes & Study Guide
VI. Tarzan the Ape Man Lobby Gallery I
VII. Lobby Gallery II: Tarzan Make Love
VIII. Lobby Gallery III: Tarzan and Jungle Friends
IX: Lobby Gallery IV
X: Lobby Gallery V

MAUREEN O'SULLIVAN TRIBUTE
Hundreds of Photos

CONTENTS
INTRO/BIO
PHOTOS I
PHOTOS II
JANE I
JANE II
JANE III
JANE IV
JANE V
UNUSUAL
.

Volume 0610

BILL HILLMAN
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.
All Original Work ©1996-2006/2014 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.