His sensational stunt vehicles had created
As already stated, famous author Edgar Rice Burroughs
had already made Merrill his choice for Tarzan, about seven years before,
immediately he noticed him.
Soon after this, announcements appeared around the middle
of 1928 in the movie magazines, and one reviewer wrote: "I thought that
film serials were quite dead by now, but Universal have decided otherwise.
They had brought to life again our dear old friend "Tarzan," and are making
"Tarzan the Mighty" in serial form, with Frank Merrill, famous American
athlete, in the title role."
There was one great quality about Merrill, he looked equally
at home in well-cut city clothes, tux or evening dress clothes as he did
in a leopard skin, or athletic singlet, and the boxing ring.
We might say that Merrill was BORN to be Tarzan. Everything
he did in his life, every move he made led him nearer, step by step to
the ultimate goal, the gigantic Tarzan serials.
Yes. . . When Merrill was born he was destined
to play Tarzan.
Merrill was expert in everything which made Tarzan.
There was absolutely no flaw in Merrill, anywhere.
Not just one sport, but everything. He was the perfect Tarzan on every
count, not just looks and appearance, but qualifications. It is not what
I say, but FACTS. Facial characteristics, height, muscle-balance,
agility, ability, handsome, genuine STRENGTH, all-round athlete and gymnast,
At that time -- in 1928 -- it was quite obvious that Frank
Merrill was the only man in the world to take on this dangerous assignment
with the exception of Joe Bonono, or perhaps Tom Tyler, who possessed an
amazing physique, was tall, and had the perfect countenance for Tarzan
-- the lean face, and with longer hair and leopard skin headband, with
off shoulder leopard skin he would have proved a good Tarzan.
Merrill was expert in everything which made Tarzan: rope-climbing,
Roman rings, trapeze, high bars, weightlifting, etc.
Let us make a quick appraisal of his assets. He was a
champion on the Roman rings and had never been defeated.
Merrill prior to "Tarzan the Mighty" set up a new rope
climbing record by going forty-five feet, hand over hand in 15 seconds
from a sitting position on the floor, the use of the feet being barred
As we have said Merrill was especially proficient on the
Roman rings and trapeze and it was his great ability with them that enabled
him to swing thru' the branches of the trees. . . climbing with lightning-like
speed up and down the tangled vines of the jungle and pull himself rapidly
out of bear traps and elephant pits which were laid by his enemies in these
And so "Tarzan the Mighty" went into production around
spring 1928 and concluded shooting around the middle of October, 1928.
It was stated by Universal to be based on ERB's great
book "The Jungle Tales of Tarzan" and was originally accorded the tentative
title of the "Jungle Tales of Tarzan" and was scheduled for 12 episodes.
By the time this picture reached the cinema screens its
title-head became "Tarzan the Mighty."
Jack Nelson directed the picture under the supervision
of William Lord Wright. The screen adaptation and screen continuity were
written by Ian McCloskey Heath.
Yes, a combination of the two experts Merrill and Nelson
specialists in their respective fields.
"Mighty" proved such great box-office that Universal were
compelled to extend it to 15 episodes by public demand.
Universal put out some quite colourful publicity on "Mighty"
6-sheet, 12-sheet, and 48-sheet posters, banners, 11 x 14 coloured lobby
cards and stills
The cast of "Tarzan the Mighty" was as follows:
Frank Merrill . . . Tarzan
Natalie Kingston . . . feminine lead of Mary Trevor
Al Ferguson . . . as Black John, the beachcomber and
leader of a lost pirate village
Bobby Nelson . . . as Bobby Trevor, the girl's little
Lorimer Johnson . . . as Lord Greystoke
"Mighty" proved such a tremendous success that Universal
produced a sequel "Tarzan the Tiger" which was based fairly faithfully
on ERB's "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar." This went for 15 episodes, and
was released around October, 1929. For his second great serial Henry McRae
was in charge of the direction side with the continuity and adaptation
again in t he hands of Ian McCloskey Heath.
The cast of "Tarzan the Tiger" as supplied by Universal
Pictures was as follows:
Tarzan, Lord Greystoke . . . Frank Merrill
Jane, Lady Greystoke . . . Natalie Kingston
Werper . . . Al Ferguson
Achment Zek . . . Sheldon Lewis
Queen La . . . Kithnou
Mohammed Bey . . . Paul Panzer
Al Ferguson proved such a good villain that he was again
retained for "Tiger" as an adventure, posing as a scientist and minus his
beard but sporting a wicked looking mustache.
Natalie Kingston was again retained as the feminine lead
but in the capacity of Lady Jane, and of course there was no doubt that
all who would continue to play Tarzan -- Frank Merrill.
Of course, I witnessed both "Mighty" and "Tiger" at two
separate cinemas, following on from one to the other for 15 episodes each.
Although they were for unsophisticated, probably, they
afforded me some of the greatest continuous pleasure of any movies I have
see, and I could hardly wait for the next week's episode.
Here is a reviewer's account of "Mighty" in the trade
"Both Frank Merrill and Natalie Kingston are admirably
suited for their star parts. Being endowed with grace and strength and
beauty, and in a film of this type these are indispensable qualifications.
Plot: A female ape mourns the death of her young one and
mothers a helpless human babe.
Grown to magnificent manhood he acquires knowledge from
books left by his parents. Understands the speech of the animals around
him and they love and obey him.
He saves a beautiful shipwrecked girl while bathing in
a jungle pool, from a shoal of crocodiles and afterwards protects her from
the descendants of a pirate crew settled on the island.
There is considerable charm and even poetry in these adventures
-- and the most prosaic individual cannot fail to be delighted by the portrayal
of primitive simplicity. . . . the wonders of the tropical jungle . . .
the physical feats of the agile Tarzan . . . the desperate struggles and
nick-of-time rescues. . . "