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Volume 6394

ERB of the Silver Screen
A Resource Guide to the Movies of Edgar Rice Burroughs
An ongoing ERBzine and ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. ENCYCLOPEDIA project

From TARZAN ON FILM by Scott Tracy Griffin


Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #121
The 12-chapter serial “Tarzan the Fearless” (1933) featured a stock plot of avaricious safari bosses scheming to loot a lost city, with Tarzan and his love interest caught up in the proceedings.

Mary Brooks (Jacqueline Wells) and her boyfriend Bob Hall (Eddie Woods) trek through the jungle in search of Mary’s father Dr. Brooks (E. Alyn Warren), led by their duplicitous safari guides, Jeff Herbert (Philo Mccullough) and Nick Moran (Matthew Betz).

Tarzan (Buster Crabbe) saves Mary from a crocodile and delivers a note with directions from her father, who has left his camp to seek the lost city of Zar. Upon arriving at Dr. Brooks’ hut, they discover the map to the lost city, and Herbert and Moran plot to loot the city’s jewels; their plans are disrupted when Mary is kidnapped by the Arab Abdul (Frank Lackteen) and his henchmen. Tarzan rescues Mary and takes her to his cave.

Meanwhile, in Zar, Dr. Brooks has been scheduled for human sacrifice, when Herbert and Bob arrive and are captured. Tarzan rescues the trio, but Herbert steals a jewel from the Zarians’ idol, bringing the wrath (and pursuit) of the lost tribe, led by their High Priest Eltar (Mischa Auer).

A series of narrow escapes and cliffhanger endings ensues as Tarzan seeks to placate the angry Zarians and bring justice to Herbert.

Producer Sol Lesser implemented a novel distribution strategy, releasing the first four chapters as a feature film, to be followed by the remaining eight weekly chapters, but the low-budget production was unable to compete with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s A-list offerings; the studio was already planning to reunite Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan in a sequel to their 1932 hit “Tarzan the Ape Man.”

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #122
Carlotta Monti played the High Priestess of the lost civilization of Zar opposite lead Buster Crabbe in the 1933 serial “Tarzan, the Fearless.” A former Miss Hollywood, Monti was a dancer and singer who played a few small roles on-camera, often uncredited.

Born Carlotta Montijo in Los Angeles on January 25, 1907, the Latina beauty’s sultry looks garnered her exotic roles until she was discovered on the Paramount lot by W.C. Fields in 1932, while she was working in a photo shoot as a hula girl. She became Fields’ live-in secretary, bartender, and lover for 14 years until his death in 1946 at age 67. Fields remained married to his estranged wife Harriet, with whom he had a son; Hollywood lore has it that Fields would smuggle Monti into his room in the Hollywood Athletic Club rolled up in a rug. Monti appeared in small roles in two Fields films, “Man on the Flying Trapeze” (1935) and “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break” (1941).

Following Fields’ death at Encinas Sanitarium, Monti lost a lawsuit to inherit his estate, valued at $770,000 (in an earlier fit of pique, he had written her out of his will, and his wife seized his estate), and had to settle for his Cadillac and a small $50 a week stipend that ran out in 1954. She spent two decades working as a film technician at Technicolor from 1952 to 1972. Monti’s 1971 autobiography “W.C. Fields and Me” was adapted into a film of the same name in 1976, starring Rod Steiger as Fields and Valerie Perrine as Monti. Fields’ heirs sued the producers for the unauthorized use of his likeness, and settled out of court.

In 1980, Monti announced the auction of Fields’ burgundy 16-cylinder 1938 Cadillac for $70,000, but withdrew it when bids did not meet her expectations. She sold it to the Las Vegas Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino’s automobile collection in 1984 for an undisclosed sum.

Monti died at the Motion Picture and Television Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills on December 8, 1993 of Alzheimers after a long illness. She was survived by her sister and brother.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #123

In the 1933 serial “Tarzan the Fearless,” Tarzan (Buster Crabbe) is too much for Mary Brooks’ (Jacqueline Wells) civilized boyfriend, Bob Hall (Edward Woods) to handle.

Woods had recently attained stardom as Jimmy Cagney’s best friend in the 1931 underworld drama “The Public Enemy.” Woods was originally cast as lead Tom Powers, with Cagney playing the friend, Matt Doyle, until director William Wellman decided Cagney was the better lead and switched their roles—a decision that launched Cagney’s career.

After a few more films, Woods relinquished his acting aspirations to move to New York and manage stage productions for the Schuberts. A Los Angeles native, born July 5, 1903, Woods began his entertainment vocation as a manager and student at the Los Angeles Playhouse Theater following his graduation from USC, where he played tennis and golf.

Woods finished his career doing promotional work for 20th Century Fox before retiring to Salt Lake City in 1975. He died there on October 8, 1980, after a brief illness, survived by his wife Gabrielle Margery Morris and a daughter. He is buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #124
With the runaway success of “Tarzan the Ape Man,” MGM tendered $45,000 to Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs for a sequel, with options for two more pictures. In mid-June 1932, Bud Barsky was announced to script, assisted by MGM staffers R.L. Johnson and Arthur S. Hyman who would polish the story; African locations were being considered. Barsky was a former independent producer considered a specialist in apes; his troupe of chimps appeared onscreen in “Ape Man.” One early story idea was to have the safari menaced by a forest fire; this plotline was scrapped.

Born Isador J. Barsky on June 19, 1891 in Odessa, Ukraine, Barsky moved to the U.S. in his youth and began working in the film industry in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After World War I service, he set up shop on Poverty Row in Hollywood producing low-budget Westerns starring Al Hoxie and funny animal shorts with his chimps. Barsky died in Hollywood on December 18, 1967; his family later donated his papers to the Margaret Herrick Motion Picture Library in Beverly Hills. His involvement the Tarzan franchise was uncredited and largely overlooked in the decades since.

On October 18, 1932, the “Los Angeles Times” announced Frank R. Adams was scripting “Tarzan and His Mate” for MGM. Other writers who contributed were Leon Gordon, C. Gardner Sullivan, and Oliver H.P. Garrett. Howard Emmett Rogers eventually received credit. In the wake of RKO’s smash it “King Kong” (1933), MGM realized that the bar had been raised for jungle adventure pictures, and it fully intended to meet the challenge with the “Ape Man” sequel.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #125
Rod La Rocque     ::     Murray Kinnell

On August 2, 1933, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer began principal photography on “Tarzan and His Mate, the sequel to the 1932 hit, “Tarzan the Ape Man.” Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan reprised their roles as Tarzan and his mate, Jane Parker, with Neil Hamilton returning as Harry Holt, a romantic rival who hoped to lure Jane into returning to civilization with him after looting the priceless ivory in the elephants’ graveyard.

The cast also included Rod La Rocque as Holt’s lascivious partner Martin Arlington, who has his own designs on Jane, and Murray Kinnell (as Tom Pierce) and Frank Reicher (as Henry Van Ness), two rivals in the race to the ivory wonderland.

After 3½ weeks of filming, production shut down the first unit, reconvening in early September with silent screen idol La Rocque replaced by Paul Cavanagh, and Kinnell and Reicher replaced by William Stack and Desmond Roberts, respectively. The trade paper “Hollywood Reporter” attributed the shutdown to “miscasting”.

Silent screen idol Rod La Rocque was initially cast in the role of the lascivious Martin Arlington, who has designs on Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) in MGM’s “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934), but was replaced by actor Paul Cavanagh after 3½ weeks of filming, with now reason given. The trade paper “Hollywood Reporter” attributed it to “miscasting.”

Roderick Ross LaRocque was born November 29, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois. He began appearing in stock productions in his teens, followed by vaudeville, then film roles after producer Samuel Goldwyn discovered him on the Broadway stage. The role of Dan McTavish in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (1923) launched his career as a silent era matinee idol. In 1927, La Rocque married silent film leading lady Vilma Banky, with DeMille serving as his best man. After retiring from film, La Rocque worked in real estate. He died at home in Beverly Hills on October 15, 1969, survived by Banky, his wife of 42 years

Murray Kinnell was originally cast in the role of Tom Pierce, one of a pair of ivory hunters racing Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) and Martin Arlington (originally Rod La Rocque, replaced with Paul Cavanagh) to the elephants' graveyard, in “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934). After 3½ weeks of filming, the production shut down; when production resumed, Kinnell had been replaced with William Stack, with no reason given for the change. The trade paper “Hollywood Reporter” attributed it to “miscasting.”

Born July 24, 1889 in London, Kinnell appeared in more than 70 films. His best-known role was “Putty Nose” in “The Public Enemy” (1931), starring James Cagney. Kinnell passed away on August 11 1954 in Santa Barbara, California, survived by his wife Henrietta, and is buried at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

Frank Reicher almost followed his role as Captain Englehorn in "King Kong" (1933) and “The Son of Kong” (1933) with another role in an iconic adventure film, "Tarzan and His Mate" (1934), but after 3½ weeks of shooting, the production shut down and Reicher was replaced in the role of Henry Van Ness by actor Desmond Roberts, as one of a pair of ivory hunters racing Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) and Martin Arlington (originally Rod La Rocque, replaced with Paul Cavanagh) to the elephants' graveyard.

Reicher was born to a stage family in Munich, Germany on December 2, 1875. After studying drama, he emigrated to New York in 1899 to appear on Broadway, eventually transitioning into a film actor in Hollywood and appearing, usually as a supporting character, in more than 200 films. Reicher also worked as a producer, director, and drama teacher. He died January 19, 1965, survived by a sister and brother, and is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery.

Frank Reicher (Captain Englehorn), Bruce Cabot (John Driscoll), Fay Wray (Ann Darrow) 
and Robert Armstrong (Carl Denham) in a scene from RKO's "King Kong" (1933).
Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #126
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer art director Cedric Gibbons made his directorial debut on “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934), but was removed from the production a few weeks into filming, with Jack Conway finishing the direction. It was Gibbons’ only credited film as a director; no reason for his removal has been found in MGM records.

Gibbons was born March 23, 1893 in Dublin, Ireland, studied at the Art Students League of New York, and began his career drafting for his father, an architect. After World War I service, he joined Goldwyn Studios as an art director, and remained throughout the merger and formation of Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Gibbons’ 1,500 credits in his 50-year career (1917-1956) are considered a Hollywood record; although his staff did the work on these films, his contract gave him credit for the department. Gibbons was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), and designed the Oscar statue. He was nominated for Academy Awards 39 times, winning 11.

His three wives were all actresses: Gwendolyn Alice Weller, Dolores del Rio, and Hazel Brooks. Gibbons died July 26, 1960 in Los Angeles, and is buried at the Cavalry Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #127
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producers decided that a rampaging rhinoceros would be a draw for their second apeman picture, “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934), but there were none available on the West Coast of the USA. When the studio failed to reach an agreement with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, it purchased Mary the rhino from the Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, German, expressly to appear in the Tarzan film.

The studio paid $10,000 for the 2,980-pound beast, who was shipped around the world in fall, 1933. When she failed to thrive, MGM sent for Barnes Circus trainer George Emerson, who accepted a position as an animal handler with the studio after Mary’s vigor improved. Trained by Emerson and Volney Phifer, Mary learned to lie down, roll over, and allow riders on her back. She was a black rhino, smaller and more skittish than the white rhino; however, all rhinos can be fairly docile in captivity, once they become accustomed to their keepers.

To stage the sequence where Mary charges Cheeta, she was trained to follow the same trail from her quarters back and forth to the set each day. To achieve the shot, she was spooked and ran down the trail to return to her pen, providing the proper footage in thousands of feet of film. The back-projected footage was reused in subsequent MGM films like “Tarzan Finds a Son!” and “Tarzan’s Secret Treasure.” Weissmuller also rode Mary and “stabbed” her with a collapsible trick knife.

When the film was ready to open, Mary was sent ahead in a special truck trailer, accompanied by Volney and Eloise Phifer to do local promotions, where curious fans could view her before entering the theater (the Phifers had previously taken Leo the MGM lion on tour). Her mission accomplished, the studio sold Mary to Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, with the Phifers delivering her to the circus’s winter quarters in Sarasota, Florida at the completion of their tour on October 17, 1934.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #128
Another of the innovative action scenes in MGM’s “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934) was the underwater crocodile battle. Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) must fight a giant saurian with only his knife. The mechanical crocodile was created especially for the film, with the struggle shot in an 18-foot deep tank on the studio lot. The crocodile’s throat was filled with sacks of Nigrosine black dye, which spurted into the water to resemble blood as Weissmuller stabbed the artificial reptile. The scene proved so effective that it was recycled in future MGM Tarzan pictures.

In 1959, the crocodile was retrieved from storage for the “Tarzan the Ape Man” remake starring Denny Miller and Joanna Barnes, but the aging prop had grown stiff and inflexible with age, and was unusable. Miller recalled that when he exploded out of the water to attack the bogus beast, it tipped up on its end and sank like the “Titanic.” Producers had to settle for tinting the old Weissmuller footage to insert into the remake—with Weissmuller’s face clearly visible in close-ups.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #129

A clothed McKim in athletic form
MGM’s “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934) didn’t just push the envelope on action sequences. The film contained a nude swimming scene, which was choreographed similar to an underwater ballet between Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan).

1932 Olympic swim champion Josephine McKim doubled for O’Sullivan in the sequence; McKim was a bronze medalist in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics in the 400 meter freestyle event, and won gold in 1932 in Los Angeles as part of the 4x100 relay team.

Of the nude swimming, Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote to his son Hulbert, “It shows Jacqueline McKim doubling for Maureen O’Sullivan and Johnnie [sic] Weissmuller swimming nude underwater. It is a very beautiful and artistic shot. The motion of the water partially veils the figures. Their movements under water are naturally slow and extremely graceful. I saw nothing objectionable in it . . .” he commented that it “may get by the censors and may not.”

The Production Code Administration, headed by Joseph I. Breen, censored the picture, but MGM sent out three versions anyway: clothed, topless, and fully nude, depending on the individual market’s restrictions. The Code Office had the scene omitted from succeeding prints, but Ted Turner restored it in the 1990s.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #130
“Tarzan and His Mate” (1934), MGM’s first sequel to the hit “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932), reunited three of the principals in the cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane Parker), and Neil Hamilton (Harry Holt).

Hoping to claim the fortune in ivory at the elephants’ graveyard, and still pining for Jane, Holt enlists his friend Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh) to join him in the trek to Tarzan’s domain, the remote Mutia Escarpment. Finding the couple living in idyllic bliss, Arlington is just as smitten with Jane as Holt—and unwilling to let scruples deter him in his plot to bring Jane and the ivory back to civilization. The pair plot to raid the graveyard, but Tarzan is having none of it . . .

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Tarzan of the Apes in film with



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