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Volume 2876

Ref: Research material adapted from Ed Stephan's retired Tarzan of the Internet site
IMDB Reference

Three Village Herald - January 3, 1958

The First Film Tarzan


The Babylon Beacon - Aug 1980



Stellan Windrow - The First Movie Tarzan
Elmo Lincoln is generally thought to be the first movie Tarzan because he starred in the earliest of the Tarzan movies, Tarzan of the Apes, released in 1918. An argument could also be made that the honor should go to Gordon Griffith, the twelve-year-old boy who played Tarzan as a youth, for approximately the first third of the movie. It is not generally known, however, that the man first contracted to play the movie role of Tarzan, and the first to actually be filmed in the part, was Stellan Sven Windrow of Chicago.

Stellan Windrow was born on September 2, 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Sven Vindruvva, was a physician in Sweden. His mother, Anna Malmqvist Holm, was also a physician, in an age when women rarely pursued such a calling. She obtained a post as an obstetrician with Chicago's Memorial Hospital, gave birth to Stellan, then divorced Sven in absentia.

Stellan attended the University of Chicago, receiving the Associate in Philosophy in 1915. While there he excelled in athletics, winning events in swimming and track and field, medalling in discus and shotput in both 1915 and 1916. He was photographer for the Cap and Gown in 1916; he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega, the Society of Tiger Head and the Blackfriars Drama Society. He worked summer jobs at Chicago's Essanay Studio and there became friends with Wallace Beery, Ruth Stonehouse and Francis X. Bushman.

Tarzan - From Magazine to Movie *
* the source for most of the Edgar Rice Burroughs information is Bill Hillman's ERB Lifelines BIO: 1910-1919

Edgar Rice Burroughs began writing Tarzan of the Apes at 8 pm, December 1, 1911. The work was completed at 10:25 pm, May 14 of the following year. On June 11 he submitted the manuscript to All-Story magazine; June 26 he received $700 for it. Tarzan was published complete in the October issue with illustrations by Clinton Pettee.

On October 5, Burroughs submitted the story to A. C. McClurg & Co. for publication as a book; they declined. November 3 he submitted it to The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Reilly & Britton, and Dodd, Mead and Co. -- none would accept it. Between January 6 and February 27 of 1913 the Evening World Daily Magazine published an extremely popular serialization of the novel. May 23 Rand McNally turned it down. The following year, May 1, 1914, A. C. McClurg & Co. asked for the publication rights. It was released June 17 with the famous silhouette by Fred J. Arting on the dustjacket, $1.30 for the first edition with later reprints at 50 cents.

Burroughs had been exploring film production for Tarzan of the Apes ever since 1913 when a New York play broker had suggested it. After many rejections, he signed a personal contract with Chicago insurance salesman Bill Parsons, June 6, 1916, granting him the film rights for $5,000 in advance on royalties, plus $50,000 in common stock in the company Parsons would form to raise the money needed for production. By the end of the year Burroughs was Director General of Parsons' National Film Corporation of America.

When Stellan Windrow met "Smiling Bill" Parsons, his six-foot, four-inch, 200-pound frame led Parsons to exclaim "If we had met you three months ago we could have saved some money searching for the right man [to play Tarzan]." He was signed, with filming to wait until graduation that June.

August 4, 1917

On August 11, 1917, Moving Picture World reported that the National Film's Los Angeles studio "is preparing for the production of Tarzan of the Apes and is making ape costumes." Director Scott Sidney started filming "Tarzan of the Apes" on a barren California desert. After only two days of shooting, however, they decided to move the project to Louisiana's Bayou Teche, to match stock jungle footage from Brazil.

A special five-car train hauled Company executives, cast, crew and equipment the four days' journey to Tarzan's "jungle" near Morgan City, Louisiana. On the way Stellan (often called "Steamship" Windrow due to his use of the name S. S. Windrow - and as "Ukulele Swede" because he accompanied his multi-lingual singing with that instrument) trained with the professional acrobatic team of DeGarro and DeComa.

Shooting began August 14, 1917. The troupe arose at 4:30 am, had breakfast, then took a small steamboat to nearby Bayou Teche to begin filming at 6:00. They worked until 9:30, breaking for lunch and because of the intense heat not returning to filming until 3:00 pm, continuing then until 6:00.

The heat meant that those performing as apes could only work for a minute, then snatch off their masks to gasp for breath. In addition to the heat there were chiggers, red bugs, wasps, aligators, snakes, lizards, flies and mosquitoes. Stellan used a ground level trampoline to make fourteen foot leaps into the trees, there to execute death-defying swings in the tree tops over sharp boulders on slippery hemp hawsers constructed to resemble natural vines.

Stellan leaves Tarzan, joins the Navy

After five weeks of shooting, the treetop work nearly completed, his country called Stellan Windrow to World War I, in which he served as an ensign in the Navy. National Film paid him $1000 for his film rights, meaning he would not be credited in the film. A frantic search began for his replacement, ending a few weeks later when D.W. Griffith discovery Elmo Lincoln arrived from Los Angeles. His stocky five-foot, eleven-inch, 200-pound frame, together with his fear of heights, kept Lincoln from doing any tree-work. As a result the final movie shows two Tarzans the limber, athletic Stellan-Tarzan flying through the jungle canopy, barrel-chested Elmo-Tarzan fighting lions and other hostiles on the ground.

On December 2, dissatisfied with the motion picture industry and the progress made on adapting his writings, Edgar Rice Burroughs dumped his shares of capital stock in National Film. January 16, 1919, the Company invited Burroughs to the January 27 premiere of Tarzan of the Apes, but he declined. Stellan attended the Broadway opening, sitting in William Parsons' box. The eight-reel movie became one of the first movies to gross over one million dollars.

The New York Times, February 3, 1918, reported that the production had used 60 ape suits, 1100 native extras, 40 aerial acrobats, four lions, six tigers, several elephants, and 18 apes.

Stellan after Tarzan

Later in 1918, in London, Stellan married Marjorie Desborough (born May 7, 1895 in London). They returned to the United States prior to 1920 when their daughter Marjorie Ann (Midge) Windrow was born. They returned to Europe as a result of a job offer from Wahl-Eversharp (fountain pen company). Their second daughter Patricia was born in London in 1923. He left Eversharp to work for Paramount Pictures, Swedish Division (dubbing, as well as playing bit parts in numerous movies), moving in 1923 to LeVesinet, a suburb of Paris, working at the film studio in another suburb, Joinville. They remained through the 1930s, both girls educated in French schools.

Toward the end of the decade Stellan returned to the United States where he did some work as a freelance newspaper/magazine photographer and became a partner in the firm of Underwood & Underwood Studios (NYC). After some delay, hoping to be able to remain in Paris but mindful of the changes taking place in Europe, Marjorie and their daughters also returned to the U.S. During World War II he served in North Africa with the American Red Cross, staying with the ARC as a photographer after the war. Stellan died of "hardening of the arteries" November 25, 1958 in New York.

Stellan's wife died at the Babylon, New York, home of her daughter Marjorie, October of 1967. Marjorie, born January 6, 1920, passed away January 13, 1999. Her sons are Robin (Bob) Stephens, Paul Wormser and Peter Wormser. Stellan's second daughter Patricia Windrow-Klein, born September 12, 1923, is the mother of Kenneth (Ken) Perez, Adam Klein, and Lawrence (Moondi) Klein.


IMDB Biography for Stellan Windrow
Birth name: Stellan Sven Windrow
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Spouse: Marjorie Desborough (1918 - 1959) (his death)
Mini biography
Stellan Windrow's parents were both Swedish physicians. His mother Anna Malmqvist Holm emigrated to Chicago were she gave birth to Stellan, then divorced his father Sven Vindruvva in absentia. At the University of Chicago Stellan was an outstanding athlete (swimming, shotput, discus), took an Associate in Philosophy (1915) and was a member of Alpha Tau Omega, the Society of Tiger Head and the Blackfriars Drama Society. He worked summer jobs at Chicago's Essanay Studio and there became friends with Wallace Beery, Ruth Stonehouse and Francis X. Bushman. In 1917 he was hired by producer 'Bill Parsons' to play the part of Tarzan, becoming the first actor ever contracted for the part. After several weeks of shooting, on Bayou Teche LA, the tree-work all but completed, the United States entered World War I and Stellan became an ensign in the navy. He attended the premiere of Tarzan of the Apes (1918) as a guest of Parsons, but was uncredited in the film even though all the shown tree-work was his. Following marriage and the birth of daughters Marjorie and Patricia, the Windrows moved to a suburb of Paris, working for the Swedish division of Paramount Pictures. Near the end of the 1930s they returned to New York where he worked as a free-lance newspaper/magazine photographer. He served in the American Red Cross during World War II, in north Africa. Stellan died of "hardening of the arteries" November 25, 1959 in New York.

Trivia: He never used the stage name 'Winslow Wilson' - that was a mistake which occured early in the press and has continued ever since.

Bio from
Stellan Windrow (born Vindruva) became film history's first Tarzan when hired by independent producer William "Smiling Bill" Parsons to play the famous jungle man in Tarzan of the Apes (1918). Windrow, however, had only finished a few tree-swinging tests when he defected to join the navy; Elmo Lincoln replaced him. A college athlete, the tall Swedish-American later worked for Paramount at Joinville outside of Paris and, later still, appeared in a couple of Swedish films, Hjärtats Röst (1930) and Den Farliga Leken (1930). He served in the American Red Cross during World War II and later worked as a magazine photographer.

Filmography IMDB
Tarzan of the Apes (1918) (uncredited) .... Tarzan, tree-swinging
Hjärtats röst (1930) .... Wells
Den farliga leken (1930) .... Bob Dugan
Halvvägs till himlen (1932)
Production Manager:
Trådlöst och kärleksfullt (1931) (production manager)
... aka Television: Swedish Version

Morgan City and Bayou Teche, LA

Photos from Stellan Windrow's photo album
Morgan City and Bayou Teche LA, Summer 1917
Reference: Ed Stephan's retired Tarzan of the Internet site

Stellan riding on the outside of the boat, 
dragging his feet in the water.

The "special train of five cars, two of which contained properties used in the picture"
ready for unloading onto the boat moored at the right.

The boat used to haul cast, crew and equipment around on Bayou Teche.


Unknown young man
riding on the outside of the boat

Bayou Teche filmed from the boat.

Apparently the crew who worked on Tarzan of the Apes at Bayou Teche.
Note the sign at the left advertising beds at twenty-five cents.
Behind the crew is what looks to be a map showing various canals.

These three pictures are certainly the acrobats brought along to Morgan City
both to act and to train Stellan Windrow.
They would have included Eddie DeComa and Harold DeGarro.

The acrobats swimming in Bayou Teche.

Headquarters for National Film Corporation's filming of Tarzan of the Apes.

Producer Bill Parsons in the garden just outside the studio.

Producer Bill Parsons returning to his studio from the garden.

The reverse of this photo contains some writing in Swedish (see below) which could translate:
Part of the garden used/rented/filmed/developed by the studio.
Mr. P [the film's producer, Bill Parsons] in (a) robe of flowers [?]

The reverse of this picture contains some writing in Swedish (see below); it translates:
Two of the guys/fellows who are constructing/developing/making up the head for
our production. This head is (the) "Roly-Poly man who lives in Slumberland."

Mystery Man


An unidentified man sitting at a desk (the photo is among Stellan's Bayou Teche pictures).
A large blow-up of the poster behind the man's head advertizes the 1916 movie Joan the Woman starring Geraldine Farrar and directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
The two pictures of DeMille shown below bear a resemblance to the man shown here; what his connection with Tarzan may have been I do not know.
On the other hand, maybe it's Edgar Rice Burroughs.
He "was on hand during the shooting to make sure that his novel wasn't distorted." (Gabe Essoe, "Tarzan of the Movies," p. 14)

from The Films of Cecil B. DeMille by Gene Ringgold and DeWitt Bodeen (1969)

Elmo Lincoln and Edgar Rice Burroughs during the filming of "Tarzan of the Apes" (1918)

Scenes from the movie "Tarzan of the Apes" (1918)

31 minutes, 30 seconds into the film,
Tarzan (Elmo Lincoln) finds his ape mother Kala dead

after raising his arms in a scream of vengeance
Tarzan (Stellan Windrow) leaps* up into the vine-laden trees
* assisted by a ground-level trampoline

Stellan in World War I Ensign in the United States Navy

Stellan in World War II (Sept 28, 1943, somewhere in North Africa)
American Red Cross workers William Forst, Bernard S. Cogan, and Stellan S. Windrow
haggling over the price of a small piece of glassware

Click for full-size promo collage

Steve Ashworth's film clip from "Tarzan of the Apes" (1722k)
(50m 30s into the 1918 movie; Stellan does the tree-work; Elmo on the ground)
ERBzine Silver Screen: Tarzan of the Apes 1918
The Burroughs Bibliophiles Newsletter: Gridley Wave
Morgan City Tarzan Festival - Return to the Film Site

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