I'M A TENDERFOOT
I have big feet. I wear size fourteen B shoes. Dad
said I have a "good understanding."
Back in the fifties, there was a professional wrestler
named Antonio Rocca. He was really agile. He wrestled barefoot. The soles
of his feet were tougher than leather. He was born in Sicily and didn't
have shoes until he was about twenty. I bet he could walk on broken glass.
On the other foot, I wore shoes at the beach and everywhere
else. When I got a grain of sand in my shoe I had to stop, take off my
shoe and my sock and get rid of that sand. You've heard of the play, "The
Princess and the Pea?" When I got the role of Tarzan, I turned into "The
King of the Jungle and The Grain of Sand."
The sound stage is not a good place for bare "poodies!"
Some of the trees are made of cement. The wooden floor is torn up from
so many nail holes it looks like shredded wheat and there are double-headed
nails all over the place. They are left there by the crew that took down
the last set.
You've never seen a Tarzan with Hush Puppies on. Not
even sneakers or thongs or slippers. They just don't fit the part. There
was one Tarzan who always wore knee-length suede boots. He looked more
like Frank Buck than Tarzan.
To cut down on my, "OW - EEE - OOS," the make-up
department made some rubber soles to glue on. They took a mold of my feet,
filled the mold with a gooey rubber or plastic mix and there they were
-- my footprints, kinda like those clowns that make molds of "Bigfoot's"
prints in the snow.
They trimmed off the ragged edges and they looked like
skin-coloured "Odor Eaters." They glued them on the bottom of my feet and
they felt great. When I was standing you couldn't see them, and they even
put a little bounce in my walk.
For the very first shot of the filming, one of the
prop men set up a ten-foot ladder right in back of the camera. I was to
swing off the ladder, over the camera and let go of the vine (the vines
were rope covered with moss and a leaf or two). When I let go of the vine,
I'd drop to the ground right in front of the camera, while the camera shot
the scene over my shoulder. Jane and her father were to run straight at
me, and the camera.
It was Tarzan to the rescue. I was going to save them
from a stampede. The stampede was film from another movie., I think they
used footage from "King Solomon's Mines," starring Stewart Granger.
That's the way Hollywood film producers save money.
To shoot a stampede would be very expensive. Why not call a film library
and rent a stampede that's already been shot?
"Hello, can I rent one Gazelle stampede, fifty feet
of film of birds taking flight from a jungle, preferably pink flamingos
and three minutes of underwater shots of crocodiles? All in colour."
They call it, "stock footage." At least twenty percent
of this Tarzan film would turn out to be stock shots. They even rented
black and white film and tinted it green to match their colour film. After
taking great pains and almost no money to match it up with their colour
film, it turned out to look like black and white film, tinted green.
Spirits were high on the first day. The first shot,
and everyone was ready. Jane's blouse was appropriately ripped. Her father,
played by Robert Douglas, had just the right amount of make-up sweat and
dirt on his clothes and face.,
I had been covered with "Negro #1" pancake make-up
-- a glorious colour. It had taken one hour and a half to put on. Then
they rubbed a layer of VO-5 hair oil on top of the make-up to make me glisten,.,
It took another hour and a half to wash it all off each night.
"Camera -- Action!"
Jane and her father run toward the camera and I swing
from the top of the ladder over the camera and drop from the sky right
on my marks. My momentum makes me hop forward about two feet, like those
vaulters do in gymnastics when they fly off the pommel horse.
One small hop for Tarzan,.
No great leap for man's soles.
Footprints in the sand. My custom odour eaters were
right back where I had first landed. That was the first and the last time
they were used.