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ERB of the Silver Screen
A Resource Guide to the Movies of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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FILM CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
PART VIII
From TARZAN ON FILM by Scott Tracy Griffin


  .


Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #71
The 15-chapter 1920 National Film Corporation serial “The Son of Tarzan” is one of the most faithful adaptations of a Tarzan novel, probably due to author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ involvement in the production. The serial is currently available on DVD.

A brief synopsis (concluded):

Chapter 14:

Meriem (Manilla Martan) escapes Malbihn’s (Ray Thompson) clutches. Baynes, the Swedes, and the Sheik (Frank Merrill) pursue her through the jungle, with the Sheik recapturing her, intent on selling her into slavery. Tarzan (P. Dempsey Tabler) and Korak (Kamuela Searle) race to the rescue . . .

Chapter 15:

Korak frees Meriem, but is captured the Sheik’s men and tied to a stake to be burned alive. He calls Tantor the elephant, who rescues him, but chases Meriem away when she attempts to help. Tarzan arrives to calm Tantor and save the day, finally reunited with his lost son Jack, now Korak the Killer. Back at the ranch, they are reunited with Meriem’s father Capt. Jacot and Jane (Karla Schramm), and all sail for England to live happily ever after.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #72
Film lore has it that silent film star Kamuela Searle (“Korak” in the 1920 serial “The Son of Tarzan”) was killed when an elephant dropped a stake to which he was bound. This rumor was probably inadvertently started by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs himself, who wrote the following in his article “Tarzan’s Seven Lives” in the May 1934 “Screen Play Magazine” (the seven lives refer to the first seven actors to play the role in the 10 films and serials released 1918-34).

“The making of this picture (“The Son of Tarzan”) was a hectic experience for all concerned,” wrote Burroughs.

“In one sequence the son of Tarzan was tied to a stake by natives and a fire lighted around him. Tantor, the elephant, rushes in and effects a rescue by picking up a stake and man with his trunk and rushing off through the forest. Searles was securely bound to the stake, which was really a fair-sized tree trunk, and why he was not killed as the elephant bolted among the trees is just one of those things.

“He was, however, badly injured a few moments later. The elephant was supposed to lay him down upon the ground gently, but Tantor must have gotten his cues mixed up for he whammed him down so hard that the tree trunk was broken and Searles hospitalized.”

The film was finished by a body double filmed from behind. Searle survived and left the film industry to pursue his passions of painting and sculpture, later dying of cancer in Los Angeles on February 14, 1924, at the untimely age of 33.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #73
Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs was a regular fixture on the set of First National Film Corp.’s 1920 15-chapter serial, “The Son of Tarzan,” and “seldom allows a day to go by without visiting the Hollywood, Cal., plant of the National to watch the progress on the film of his story,” according to an August 21, 1920 article in “Exhibitor’s Trade Review.”

“‘Both Director Harry J. Revier and Roy Somerville, who adapted my book for the screen, have my absolute confidence,’ stated Mr. Burroughs after his first visit and conference with the film producers. ‘Mr. Revier has grasped my point of view very well, and I’m sure that he will handle the story in keeping with the general idea of the printed book. I am particularly gratified to find in this director a man who doesn’t think he knows it all, and is willing to take suggestions from the author of the work he is placing before the public,’” the article continued.

“The handsome and interesting home of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author, will be the setting of a large number of scenes for ‘The Son of Tarzan.’ Mr. Burroughs lives in Tarzana, a bit of jungle Africa situated in the wonderful San Fernando Valley, only a short distance from the National studios,” concluded the piece. Burroughs purchased the home and 540-acre ranch from General Harrison Gray Otis the previous year, on March 1, 1919, renaming the property Tarzana Ranch after his famous creation. The large ranch-style adobe home sat on a 20-acre knoll above the Valley, surrounded by exotic trees from Africa and Asia planted by General Otis.

Below, author Burroughs (far right in the straw boater hat) confers with starlet Karla Schramm (Jane) while director Revier talks to actor Eugene Burr (Paulovich) modeling an early incarnation of the "Gilligan hat" (Paulovich was a castaway, after all) and Tabler (Tarzan) talks with an unidentified man, probably either scripter Somerville or National Film Corp. head Harry Rubey.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #74

On February 10, 1921, “Wid’s Film Daily” announced the serial “The Adventures of Tarzan” would star wrestler Bull Montana as “the chief of the ape clan.” Montana, stood 5’8” and weighed 200 pounds, with a 6¼ hat-sized head over an 18½-inch neck. He was renowned for the horrific facial expressions he made in the ring to terrify his opponents, and had prior experience as an ape-man in the 1920 silent film “Go and Get It.”

Born Luigi Montagna in Vogliera, Italy on May 16, 1887, to poor parents, he worked during childhood as a shoemaker’s apprentice for three cents a day; after a year, when his pay was raised to four cents a day, he decided to return to the family farm. Montana came to America at age 17, finding work in a Connecticut stone quarry, but he was released when the owner replaced him with a mule. He moved to Pennsylvania and became a miner, until one fateful day, when visiting the county fair, he answered a wrestler’s challenge to take on any audience member. By 1912, Montana was touring the East Coast county fair wrestling circuit. In 1917, Montana was discovered by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., who brought him to Hollywood to serve as “a bodyguard, a trainer, and a court jester.”

Montana considered himself a ladies man (for his personality, not his looks); his first wife disagreed, suing for divorce on the claim that his terrifying facial expressions gave her a nervous breakdown. Montana’s most famous turn as an ape-man came in the 1925 silent film “The Lost World.” Perhaps rankling at once being replaced by a mule, he commented, "Why should I be an ape and maybe spoil things for myself? Some guy may get an ape cheaper to do my parts!"

Montana, whose talkie films were limited by his heavy Italian accent, died in Los Angeles on January 24, 1950 of coronary thrombosis (a heart ailment) in the French Hospital, where he had checked in December 30, 1949.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #75
With the re-titled “The Revenge of Tarzan” (1920) a commercial success, the Weiss Brothers (Adolph, Max, and Louis) took a page from National Film Corp. of America producer William Parson’s playbook and decided to make a second film from the optioned novel “The Return of Tarzan.”

The brothers’ Numa Pictures Corp. chose Great Western Producing Co., run by Julius Stern and Oscar and Louis Jacobs, to film the a 15-chapter serial titled “The Adventures of Tarzan” (author Edgar Rice Burroughs wanted to title it “The Exploits of Tarzan,” but was overruled), based on the second half of the novel. Stern and his brother Abe were brothers-in-law to Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle, and had founded their own low-budget affair, Century Studios, located on Poverty Row at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, just two blocks from First National’s plant. Century Studios was completely destroyed by a fire in 1926.

Century was best known for animal comedies and Baby Peggy shorts. Unwilling to pay expensive rental fees to animal trainers, Stern accrued his own menagerie of cast-off animals, including lions, Charlie the elephant, and Joe Martin the ape (who was embodied by a succession of chimpanzees and orangutans), all supervised by animal trainer Algernon “Curly” Steckler in their “Adventures of Tarzan” appearances.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #76
With the disenfranchised Gene Pollar returned to New York City and his firefighting career, the Great Western Producing Company had to look no further for an “Adventures of Tarzan” lead than their own contractee, Elmo Lincoln, the original screen Tarzan, who had just finished shooting three serials and a feature for the company.

Elmo suited up in the loincloth for a third time, accompanied by Louise Lorraine, his romantic lead from the 1920 serials “Elmo the Fearless” and “The Flaming Disk.” A Century contractee, the tiny (5’1”, 107-pound) Lorraine began work on two-reel comedies for the Stern brothers billed as Louise Fortune, at a salary of $50 per week. Following her three serials with Lincoln, Lorraine went on to star in eight more serials for a total of 154 chapters, and several dozen features, with her salary rising to $500 per week.

In 1922, she was selected as a charter member of the Baby Wampas Stars, an honorary group of up-and-coming starlets chosen by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers; silent stars Colleen Moore and Bessie Love were also in her class. Future Tarzan leads who were selected as Baby Wampas Stars included Natalie Kingston (1927), Eleanor Holm (1932), and Jacqueline Wells (1934). Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a humorous poem titled “The Wampas” for the Wampas group attending a November 20, 1925 meeting of the Breakfast Club, of which he was a member.

Lorraine was born Mary Louise Escovar in San Francisco, but moved to Encino with her family as a child. As with many actresses of the era, she shaved several years off her age, in order to bolster her claim that she celebrated her 16th birthday on the set of “The Adventures of Tarzan.”

She was married three times, to salesman Joseph C. Bray, cowboy star Art Acord (a co-star in several films), and Los Angeles businessman Chester Jones Hubbard. She retired from her film career during her second pregnancy with Hubbard to focus on her family, a decision she never regretted. Lorraine died in Sacramento, California on February 2, 1981, after a lengthy illness and is buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills with Chester, who preceded her in death in 1962.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #77
The 1921 Great Western serial “The Adventures of Tarzan” offered the first cinematic incarnation of La of Opar, a recurrent femme fatale and fan favorite in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The lost city of Opar was a former outpost of Atlantis, peopled by a tribe of bestial men and beautiful women, practicing a religion of human sacrifice. High priestess La and her ancient civilization debuted in the second novel, “The Return of Tarzan,” and reappeared in 4 of the 24 Tarzan novels.

As in the novels, Opar is the site of a fabulous treasure in gold in “Adventures,” and is the target of the villainous Rokoff (Frank Whitson) and his allies, Gernot (George Monberg) and Sheik Ben-Ali (lion trainer Charles Gay). As in the novels, the savage Oparians are able to hold their own against the civilized invaders.

La was portrayed by blonde Lillian Worth, a former stage actress who began appearing under her married name Lillian Wiggins in Westerns for Pathé in 1913, later traveling to Florida and Europe for film work. Born Lillian Burgher Murphy on June 24, 1884 in Brooklyn, New York, her career declined in the talkie era, with her final appearances in the mid-1930s uncredited.

Married and divorced twice, Worth died on February 23, 1952 in Los Angeles and is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #78
Perhaps it was appropriate that lions ran riot in “The Adventures of Tarzan” (1921), a 15-chapter serial produced by Numa Pictures Corporation, named for the felines in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels.

The lions were the charges of trainer Charles Gay, a former European circus performer who opened Gay’s Lion Farm in unzoned El Monte in 1925 to provide big cats for Hollywood productions. The $100,000 facility, which housed 178 lions, charged 25 cents for admission and was served by the Pacific Electric Railway, ferrying crowds out from Los Angeles for weekend lion-training exhibitions. The farm was shuttered during World War II (horse meat was in short supply), and Gay never reopened it. Perhaps it was just as well; his body was covered in scars from four lion attacks he’d received over the years. After a lifetime tempting fang and claw, Gay died at his Newport Beach home of a heart attack on February 23, 1950.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #79
The 15-chapters serial “The Adventures of Tarzan,” continued the adaptation of the second Tarzan novel, “The Return of Tarzan,” from the previous 1920 film, “The Revenge of Tarzan.”

The plot sees Jane (Louise Lorraine), Clayton (Percy Pembrooke), and the villainous Nicholas Rokoff (Frank Whitson) stranded in Africa when their yacht capsizes. Jane and Rokoff are kidnapped for human sacrifice by the sun-worshipping Oparians, led by Queen La (Lillian Worth). Tarzan (Elmo Lincoln) arrives to save Jane and a series of adventures follows, as Rokoff and his lieutenants Gernot (George Monberg) and the Arab slaver Sheik Ben-Ali (lion tamer Charles Gay) try to recapture Jane to obtain a map to the Oparian treasure that Rokoff scratched onto her back.

Producer Louis Weiss was so pleased with the serial that he screened all 15 chapters for exhibitors and critics, to show that the production maintained its quality throughout (buyers often purchased a serial based on the viewing the first few chapters).

The serial, edited to 10 chapters, was re-released by Weiss Brothers Artclass in 1928, and a variant of this version is available on DVD from Serial Squadron.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #80
With the release of the 15-chapter serial “The Adventures of Tarzan” (1921), Elmo Lincoln had arrived. It was his third silver-screen appearance as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ apeman in as many years, and, for moviegoers across the country, he WAS Tarzan.

To capitalize on Lincoln’s growing popularity, producer Louis Weiss sent Elmo on a 10-city promotional tour (his first ever), launched in Philadelphia on January 16, 1922, accompanied by publicist and intertitle-writer Bert Ennis in an automobile driven by a leopard-skin clad chauffeur. The Pennsylvania/Ohio/New Jersey tour included theaters around Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati; Elmo proved so popular the tour was extended two weeks into Kentucky and Tennessee. Elmo was at the height of his fame and popularity—but it would not last.



click for full-size promo collage

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Tarzan of the Apes in film with
SCOTT TRACY GRIFFIN and his TARZAN ON FILM
PART I :: PART II :: PART III :: PART IV :: PART V :: PART VI :: PART VII :: PART VIII :: PART IX :: PART X


ERBzine SILVER SCREEN SERIES
www.ERBzine.com/movies

BACK TO OUR INTRO PAGES FOR
TARZAN OF THE APES (1918)
www.erbzine.com/mag5/0503.html
THE ROMANCE OF TARZAN
www.erbzine.com/mag5/0504.html
THE SON OF TARZAN: SERIAL and FEATURE FILM
www.erbzine.com/mag5/0589.html
THE ADVENTURES OF TARZAN
http://www.erbzine.com/mag5/0590.html




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