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ERB of the Silver Screen
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FILM CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
PART XXIII
From TARZAN ON FILM by Scott Tracy Griffin
Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #221
“Tarzan’s Savage Fury” (1952) was directed by Cyril Endfield, a Renaissance man who worked as a film and theater director, screenwriter, author, magician, and inventor. Endfield is best remembered for co-writing, producing, and directing “Zulu” (1964), an epic war story of the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British and Zulu; in 1979, he wrote the non-fiction book “Zulu Dawn” (1979), which he scripted for the film of the same name helmed by director Douglas Hickox.

Born Cyril Raker Endfield in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on November 10, 1914, Endfield attended Yale University, where his interest in drama was nurtured. Hitchhiking to New York City, he became involved in art-house theater, while pursuing his childhood passion for card tricks and parlor magic, an interest he incorporated into “Tarzan’s Savage Fury.”

He moved to Hollywood, where his prestidigital prowess impressed Orson Welles, who hired him into the Mercury Theatre company. After apprenticing with Welles, Endfield filmed the short “Inflation” in 1942, for the Office of War Information, but the U.S. Chamber of commerce suppressed the film for its perceived anti-capitalist perspective, and it wasn’t screened until the 1991 Telluride Film Festival.

Endfield served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps for World War II (where he shot more short films), then made his feature film directorial debut with “Gentleman Joe Palooka” (1946) for Monogram Pictures. More low-budget pictures followed, but when he was blacklisted as a Communist sympathizer, he moved to England in 1951 and worked under a pseudonym until 1957.

Endfield died of cerebral vascular disease at his home in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, England, on April 16, 1995, survived by his second wife Maureen and his daughters.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #222

Hume and his first wife, Jane Barbara Alexander, in 1923.
“Tarzan’s Savage Fury” (1952) marked writer Cyril Hume’s final ape man script in a stint spanning 20 years, including MGM’s “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932), “Tarzan Escapes” (1936), “Tarzan Finds a Son!” (1939) and an unproduced script, “Tarzan and America’s No. One Glamour Girl”, which was replaced by “Tarzan’s Secret Treasure” (1941).

Hume was born in New York City on March 16, 1900; after short stints in the U.S. Army engineers and at Yale University, he published his first novel, “Wife of the Centaur” in 1923, and sold a film option on it to MGM Studios for a then-record sum of $25,000. Hume married and moved to Italy to write “Cruel Fellowship” (1925), followed by more novels (and more marriages).

In 1930, Hume relocated to Hollywood and accepted a contract offer from MGM, where he was tasked with salvaging the film “Trader Horn.” Director Woody Van Dyke and his crew had shot two million feet of film on their nine-month African safari, but it took Hume to craft a storyline out of the abundance of footage. Among Hume’s other film credits are “Flying Down to Rio” (1933), “Tokyo Joe” (1949), “The Great Gatsby” (1949), and Forbidden Planet” (1956). His 1954 telefilm “Fearful Decision” for “The United States Steel Hour” was remade twice into the film “Ransom!” in 1956 and 1996.

Hume suffered a series of strokes over the course of a year before dying at age 66 at his home at in Palos Verdes, California on March 26, 1966, survived by his fifth wife, former silent film actress Dorothy Wallace, two sons, and a daughter. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #223
The role of Rokov, the villainous Russian agent in “Tarzan’s Savage Fury” (1952) was played by Charles Korvin. Screenwriter Cyril Hume may have chosen the name as a nod to by Nikolas Rokoff, Tarzan’s nemesis in the novels “The Return of Tarzan” and “The Beasts” of Tarzan. Another film reference from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ source material is the native tribe the Wazuri, spelled differently in the press material from the “Waziri” of the Tarzan books.

Geza Korvin Karpathy was born on November 21, 1907 in Piestany, Hungary (now Slovakia), and raised in Budapest. As a young man, he moved to Paris to work as a photographer and study at the Sorbonne. Relocating to the U.S., he began studying drama alongside Gregory Peck at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon Virginia. Korvin made his Broadway debut as Geza Korvin in “Dark Eyes” (1943).

He was signed to a contract by Universal Pictures and cast as the titular French jewel thief in “Enter Arsene Lupin” (1944), changing his stage name to Charles Korvin. After a few more film roles, often playing handsome cads, he was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1951 when he refused to testify before Congress. Korvin rebounded by returning to stage acting and appearing on television, notably as “The Eagle” in six episodes of Walt Disney’s “Zorro” series.

Korvin died on June 18, 1998 in Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital, age 90, survived by his second wife Natasha, son, daughter, and three grandchildren.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #224
“Tarzan and the She-Devil” (1953), Lex Barker’s fifth and final Tarzan film, saw the fifth actress cast opposite him as Jane. Joyce MacKenzie played Tarzan’s mate with spirit and fire, but retired from show business the following year.

Born October 13, 1929 in Redwood City, California, MacKenzie was the captain of her high school tennis team and honor student. During World War II, she relocated to San Francisco with her mother, earning the sobriquet “Joycie the Joiner” as an assistant carpenter in the shipyards.

She also worked as a model, waitress, and retail clerk before relocating to Southern California and enrolling at the Pasadena Playhouse to study drama. Discovered by agent Ivan Kahn while working the ticket booth, she made her film debut in “Tomorrow Is Forever” (1946). After contracting with 20th Century Fox, she appeared with Gregory Peck in “Twelve O’Clock High” (1949) and portrayed a dancehall girl (alongside Marilyn Monroe) in “A Ticket to Tomahawk” (1949). Her first lead came as Laura Mansfield in “Destination Murder” (1950).

After “She-Devil,” MacKenzie appeared in “The French Line” (1954) and “Rails into Laramie” (1954) and made a few television appearances before retiring to focus on her family with husband Tim Leimert, Jr. Mackenzie later moved to Laguna Niguel, where she taught at Niguel Hills Middle School and married her third husband, fellow teacher Victor Benedict Hassing. She is retired from teaching and resides in Orange County.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #225
Lex Barker’s final ape-man film, RKO’s “Tarzan and the She-Devil” (1953) offered a standard jungle movie menace (evil ivory hunters) with a twist—they are led by a seductive female mastermind who believes she’s more than a match for the jungle lord.

Ivory magnate Lyra (Monique Van Vooren) arrives in the jungle with her henchmen Vargo (Raymond Burr) and Fidel (Tom Conway), enslaving the Lycopo tribe to act as their bearers.

When Tarzan (Lex Barker) fights back and frees his friends, Lyra recaptures them to set a trap for Tarzan, ordering Fidel to kidnap Jane (Joyce MacKenzie) to force the ape-man’s compliance with the elephant roundup. The injured Jane escapes, and the treehouse is burned down in the fracas.

Believing Jane dead, the grieving Tarzan is captured by the poachers. When Jane is taken hostage and reunited with her mate, Tarzan calls the elephants—with devastating consequences for the poachers.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #226
Producer Sol Lesser debuted another of his discoveries as the titular villainess Lyra in RKO’s “Tarzan and the She-Devil” (1953)—“Belgian Bombshell” Monique Van Vooren.

The daughter of a wealthy textile mill owner, Van Vooren was born March 25, 1927 in Brussels. She was educated in private convent schools and won Junior Figure Skating Champion honors for three years in a row as a child. Fluent in several languages, Van Vooren enrolled in the University of Belgium to study law, but dropped out to pursue acting after studying drama with Max Peral. She toured Europe with the USO in 1946 and made her film debut in Vittorio DeSica’s 1950 Italian production, “Domani è troppo tardi” (aka “Tomorrow Is Too Late”).

Van Vooren moved to New York, where she was asked to make publicity appearances to promote the American release of “Tomorrow is Too Late." She was spotted by Tarzan producer Sol Lesser on “The Abbott and Costello Show” television program, and flown to Los Angeles for her American film debut as the ivory poaching crime boss in “She-Devil.” Lesser rented $250,000 worth of African and Oriental art, including ceremonial masks, wood sculpture, jade statuary, tapestries, furniture, and ornaments borrowed from museums and private collections to dress Lyra’s headquarters. Costumer Jay Morley designed Van Vooren’s wardrobe.

Van Vooren has since appeared sporadically on Broadway and in television programs and offbeat films like Andy Warhol’s “Flesh for Frankenstein” (1973) as Baroness Frankenstein. In 1981, her novel “Night Sanctuary,” about a defecting Russian ballet star and the women who love him (“inspired” by her friend Rudolph Nureyev), became a “New York Times” bestseller.
 

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #227

Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand and Pierre Brice as Indian chief Winnetou, 
based on the Western stories of Karl May.

RKO’s “Tarzan and the She-Devil” (1953) was the fifth and final ape man film for lead Lex Barker. Producer Sol Lesser offered him a contract for seven more Tarzan pictures, but Barker, hoping to expand his range with other films, asked to be allowed to contract for one film at a time. When Lesser declined Barker’s counter-offer, Barker signed with Universal-International and was given the lead in the Western “Yellow Mountain” (1954).

Hoping to play leads in the Errol Flynn mold, Barker opened negotiations with the late Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs' company for rights to the medieval novel “The Outlaw of Torn,” but the two could not come to terms.

In 1957, Barker moved to Europe to continue his film career, becoming a Swiss Citizen and basing his production company in Geneva. Fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, and German, he shot pictures in Brazil, Germany Spain, Yugoslavia, Italy, Lebanon, and France. He maintained homes in Rome and Barcelona, and on Lake Geneva, where he enjoyed sailing his 50-foot yacht “Peter Pan”.

Barker credited Federico Fellini for resurrecting his film career when the director cast him in “La Dolce Vita” (1960) as Anita Ekberg’s jealous boyfriend. Barker went on to become one of the highest paid stars and one of the biggest box office successes in Europe.

He was a German film hero, and the most popular American actor in that country, from his role as cowboy “Old Shatterhand” in film adaptations of German pulp novelist Karl May’s Westerns. “Winnetou” (released domestically by Columbia as “Treasure of the Silver Lake” in 1965) was a surprise hit and the most profitable German film of 1963. Barker won the German Bambi Award for “Most Popular Foreign Actor.”

Barker’s five wives included Constanze Rhodes Thurlow, actress Arlene Dahl, actress Lana Turner, Irene Labhardt, and Maria del Carmen Cervera, a former Miss Spain. He had two children with Thurlow, and a son with Labhardt.

Barker had returned to the U.S. hoping to mount a Hollywood comeback when he was stricken with a fatal heart attack in New York City on May 11, 1973, and died on the street.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #228

Connors with actress Gloria Grahame in "Sudden Fear" (1952), 
around the time he interviewed for the Tarzan role.
When Lex Barker departed the franchise after “Tarzan and the She Devil” (1953), the hunt was on for a new screen Tarzan. Among the candidates considered was UCLA basketball player Kirk “Touch” Ohanian, who is better remembered today as actor Mike Connors.

Born Krekor Ilevado Ohanian to Armenian immigrants on August 15, 1925 in Fresno, California, Connors served with the Army Air Force in World War II and enrolled in UCLA following the war’s end. There, he played basketball on scholarship for Coach John Wooden. When director William Wellman attended a game and noticed Connors’ deep voice and expressive face during play, he sent word that he’d like to cast the young athlete in the future. Wellman’s interest spurred Connors to change his major to theater and begin appearing in school plays. Though casting director Ruth Burch did not recommend producer Sol Lesser hire him for Tarzan, she encouraged Connors to continue his dramatic pursuit.

Connors made his feature film debut in “Sudden Fear” (1952) with Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, and Bruce Bennett, billed as “Touch” Connors, which incorporated his basketball nickname; he later adopted Mike Connors as his stagename. After a few more films, he began a prolific run on television, guest-starring on popular shows of the era like “Gunsmoke,” “Maverick,” and “Wagon Train,” eventually earning the lead as the titular private eye on the crime drama “Mannix,” which ran 1967-75. He was nominated for four Emmy Awards and six Golden Globes for his lead in the hit series, winning a Globe in 1970. After his 8-year run on “Mannix” ended, Connors resumed guest-starring on shows like “Love Boat,” and reprised his Mannix role on an episode of “Diagnosis Murder.”

Connors died of leukemia in Tarzana, California on January 26, 2017. He was survived by his wife of 68 years, Marylou, with whom he had two children and a granddaughter.

 


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 :: PART XI:: PART XII:: PART XIII:: PART XIV:: PART XV:: PART XVI:: PART XVII
:: PART XVIII :: PART XIX :: PART XX  :: PART XXI:: PART XXII:: PART XXIII::


ERBzine SILVER SCREEN SERIES
www.ERBzine.com/movies

TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL
www.erbzine.com/mag19/1950.html
www.erbzine.com/mag19/1950a.html
TARZAN'S PERIL
www.erbzine.com/mag19/1951.html
TARZAN'S SAVAGE FURY
www.erbzine.com/mag19/1952.html
TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL
www.erbzine.com/mag19/1952.html



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