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The man behind Tarzan:
The true story of Edgar Rice Burroughs
With a full-throated scream, chiselled abs and a wild mane of hair
The Legend Of Tarzan, a £136million blockbuster
Express.co.uk ~ July 4, 2016
Alexander Skarsgård is starring in The Legend of Tarzan, based on the story written by Burroughs
Starring True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård as the Lord of the Jungle and blonde beauty Margot Robbie as his mate Jane, it is the latest in more than 50 Tarzan movies since the ape man first hit the big screen in 1918.
The story of British aristocrat Lord Greystoke’s infant son abandoned in the African forest after his parents’ death, raised by apes before reclaiming his blue-blood heritage, has also spawned TV and radio series, comics, cartoons, animated features, and merchandise from Tarzan knives to lunch-boxes and loincloths. Tarzan was the original superhero, inspiring the creators of Superman and Batman, and his tale of noble humanity in savage equatorial depths continues to grip popular imaginations, with a brand now worth millions.
Yet few today remember the remarkable story of Tarzan’s progenitor, author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who amazingly never set foot in Africa in his entire life.
A youthful drifter and US Army reject, snake oil salesman and failed businessman who began writing in desperation to pay his bills, Burroughs sold more than 100 million books, but despite worldwide success never appreciated his own achievements. “I don’t think my work is literature,” he said. “I’m in the same class with the serial artist, the tap dancer and the clown.”
But Burroughs, who penned 24 Tarzan novels translated into 30 languages, and bestselling science fiction tales – including A Princess of Mars, which later became the 2012 movie John Carter – was among the most widely-read authors of the first half of the 20th century. “If you write one story, it may be bad,” he explained. “If you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favour.”
Burroughs’ prodigious output was driven not by artistic aspirations, however. “I have often been asked how I came to write,” he said. “The best answer is that I needed the money. When I started I was 35, and had failed in every enterprise I had ever attempted.”
Born in Chicago in 1875, the son of a whisky distiller descended from America’s earliest English Puritan settlers, he was sent to his brothers’ Idaho cattle ranch as a child to avoid an influenza epidemic, learning how to ride a horse and shoot, befriending killers and thieves. He longed for adventure, but seemed doomed never to find it.
A rebellious troublemaker, he was dismissed by the prestigious Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, tried deserting military school, was rejected by the famed Rough Riders, failed his entry exam for West Point, and finally joined the US Army in General Custer’s former regiment, the Seventh US Cavalry, based in Arizona Territory. “I chased Apaches but never caught up with them,” he lamented, catching only dysentery, and ultimately discharged with a heart murmur.
A succession of desultory jobs followed: gold dredger, railroad policeman, accountant, office manager, and door-to-door salesman hawking lightbulbs, candy, and a quack cure for baldness and alcoholism. “I was a total failure,” Burroughs confessed.
He wed childhood sweetheart Emma Hulbert in 1900 but by the time their first two children were born, he recalled: “I had no job, and no money. I had to pawn Mrs Burroughs’ jewellery and my watch in order to buy food. I loathed poverty. I got writer’s cramp answering blind ads, and wore out my shoes chasing after others.”
He eventually found a job selling pencil sharpeners and while reading pulp magazines Burroughs realised: “Although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining.” His first yarn Under The Moons Of Mars, later retitled A Princess Of Mars, was snapped up by The All-Story magazine for the princely sum of $400, and though the rag rejected Burroughs’ second story, it published his third: Tarzan of the Apes.
“I wrote it long-hand on the backs of old letterheads and odd pieces of paper,” said Burroughs. “I did not think it was a very good story, and I doubted if it would sell.” He was paid $700 in 1912 – about £12,850 today – but despite its magazine appearance every major publisher refused to release Tarzan in book form, and it was two more years before the jungle adventurer finally landed on bookshelves.
When Tarzan Of The Apes debuted in cinemas in 1918, it became the first film ever to earn $1million. But while crafting a macho hero, Burroughs lamented his own sedentary profession. “I was sort of ashamed of it as an occupation for a big, strong, healthy man,” he admitted.
The author tried several jobs including gold dredger, railroad policeman, and door-to-door salesman
Finally wealthy, he moved to California in 1919 and bought a large ranch north of Los Angeles, naming it Tarzana. What he lacked in literary prowess he made up for in business acumen.
Burroughs was one of the earliest writers to incorporate in 1923, and in 1931 launched his own imprint, publishing his own books and striking film and radio deals. But his passion for horses, cocktails, fast cars and women left the author perpetually cash poor.
In some years he wrote four books, struggling to support his three children along with alcoholic ex-wife Emma after their 1934 divorce, his daughter’s deadbeat actor-husband Jim Pierce, his trusted aide Ralph Rothmund, his high-living second wife and her two children.
Herman Brix in the 1935 hit The New Adventures of Tarzan
In the midst of his messy divorce from Emma, Burroughs had wooed silent movie star Florence Gilbert, whose husband, Ashton Dearholt, produced the 1935 hit The New Adventures of Tarzan. Burroughs married Florence later that year, even though at 60 he was 28 years her senior, but quickly exhausted himself trying to keep up with his bride’s Hollywood lifestyle.
As war raged across Europe in 1940 Burroughs moved with Florence and her two children to Hawaii, where he spent as much time partying as he did writing. But on December 7, 1941, while playing tennis in Honolulu, Burroughs watched in horror as Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbour. Florence, weary of living in hotel rooms and chauffeuring her drunk husband around, returned to California and filed for divorce citing “mental cruelty.” Burroughs’ attempts to act youthful only made her feel old, she complained.
At 66 Burroughs became a war correspondent
Too old at 66 for active duty, the adventure-seeking author became a war correspondent, making three trips to Pacific combat zones. After the war Burroughs returned to California where his beloved Tarzana ranch was sub-divided to pay his bills. Curmudgeonly, he developed Parkinson’s disease before dying of a heart attack in 1950.
Tarzana today is a middle class Los Angeles suburb replete with manicured country clubs, shopping malls and drive-in restaurants – the antithesis of the primitive nobility Burroughs evoked in Tarzan.
Daily News ~ New York, NY ~ April 28, 1992
Tarzan's Margot Robbie:
I had 'sex' with Alexander Skarsgard in tree
and unleashed the beast
"THE LEGEND OF TARZAN unleashes the beast" says Alexander Skarsgard
as he talks about his steamy sex scenes with Margot Robbie up a tree and beyond.
Express.co.uk ~ Jan 13, 2017
The actor says: "It's almost if the novel (Tarzan of the Apes) and all the adaptations are about taming the beast. "This is about releasing the beast." Skarsgard is talking specifically about his new-look steamier Tarzan and the sizzling scenes he shares with his Jane, Margot Robbie. And yes, one of them happens up a tree.
The beautiful pair talk about their racy romance and Robbie is clearly loving every second. The Aussie actress says: "A chance to kiss Alexander Skarsgard… We just did that scene in a tree - our first kiss scene."
Skarsgard cuts in: "Having sex in a tree, as you do."
Robbie adds: "As you do. Casual. How do you think it went?"
Her hunky co-star bends down to show a large rip in her delicate costume and says: "This is how it went. This is what passion looks like."
The Aussie actress is certainly no blushing damsel in distress. The director revealed that Margot Robbie actually brusied Skarsgard during one of their passionate scenes in The Legend of Tarzan. Their on-screen chemistry is evident, as is the fun they had while making the film.
Skarsgard reveals: "I was excited to work with animals and Margot Robbie"
His co-star is not impressed and replies: "I love the order that you put that in. Animals, Margot Robbie..."
Skarsgard soon rectifies his faux pas, praising the beautiful Margot Robbie, who recently stripped for a raunch remake of the shower scene from American Psycho. He says: "I think it's difficult with someone like Margot to not have great chemistry, because she's the most lovely, warm personality. It didn't take long. We had so much fun together."
The new film picks up the famous story after Tarzan has returned to civilisation. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent and Christoph Waltz.
It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan left the jungles of Africa behind for a privileged life as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane, at his side. He is invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary for the British Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly game of greed and revenge, masterminded by the King of Belgium’s envoy, Leon Rom (Waltz). But when Tarzan's enemies try to use Jane against him, they have no idea what they are about to unleash.
Click for full-size collage
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Alexander Skarsgård explains why he took the role of Tarzan
Argentinian artist Carlos Nine's poetic tribute to Tarzan,
presented at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris during their great "Tarzan" exhibition in 2009.
In watercolor and graphite.
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