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Volume 4591

Denny shares anecdotes from his long career in show business
1. Mac the Nice
2. I'm A Tenderfoot
3. Gator Aid

Denny and Nancy

"Denny Miller Flashbacks" is an ongoing feature in ERBzine
in which Denny will share a different anecdote each week.
Readers are reminded to join us each Friday for a new Miller flashback.

 We thought it might be fun for our readers 
to write anecdotes about the first time they met Denny 
- either via the screen or in  person.
We'd love hear your stories.
Send them to our ERBzine e-mail account:
Fan Anecdotes


The Hollywood Hackers were a group of men, mostley actors and a few producers, a couple of directors and one or two stunt men. We got together once a month to play gold. We'd play at a different course each time and sometimes those among us that had a talent -- singing, joke telling -- would put on a little show for the locals. The money raised would go to a local charity.

It was at one of these events that I first met Mac Davis. Mac was one of the most talented guys in Hollywood. For that matter the most talented guy anywhere. He wrote songs. He acted. He starred in "North Dallas 40" with Nick Nolte. Sang, danced, played the spoons and was a huge hit playing Will Rogers in the musical of the same name on Broadway. Mac had his own TV variety show and on top of that was, still is, a funny, friendly, full-of-fun character.

Three of us Hollywood hackers were standing on the first tee at the Cottonwood golf course. The Hackers were divided into groups according to their golfing ability. I was in the clown group. I was an eighteen handicap. Still am. I prided myself as being a better than average athlete. But when it came to golf I was, and still am, a motor moron. I couldn't remember what I did right when I hit a good shot. So good shots didn't happen very often. 

Anyway we were about to tee off when we heard laughter from the direction of the clubhouse. Here comes Mac lugging his clubs and laughing. I don't mean giggling. I don't mean chuckling. I don't mean snickering. I mean gut wrenching, ot of breath, inner aerobics, out-of-control laughing.

We shook hands, introductions all around and in no time, all four of us were bubbling over -- laughter's like that, contagious.

When Mac finally caught his breath he told us why he was in the condition he was in. He told us he'd been sitting in a booth in the men's room in the clubhouse. He heard a hand slapping metal and looked down and there it was. The guy in the next stall was reaching down and curling his hand up on Mac's side of the partition. A voice joined the slapping "Got any paper over there?" "No," Mac replied, "but I got five ones for a five!"

I hit my drive into the lake.

Johnny in the rough
Tarzan Johnny also ran into trouble on the links
Mac the golferMac with Mike Douglas and the World's Tallest ManMac's Star on Hollywood Boulevard




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.

Maureen O'Sullvian ~ Elmo Lincoln ~ Johnny Weissmuller



Tarzan films are not known for their "love scenes." Maybe the chimps hold hands or the hippos do a little water nuzzling, but that's about it.

The love scene was scheduled for after lunch. Good. The MGM commissary had great spaghetti on Tuesdays. I'd have a big plate. That's because I know the love scene goes like this in the script: "Tarzan climbs out of the river and grabs Jane by the ankle and tickles her foot." That's it.

Then they cut to the baby elephant and I go over to the elephant. Cut. Then the prop man tapes a hose to the back of my hand and it looks like I am squirting Jane using the elephant's trunk.

No one ever confused Tarzan with any character Errol Flynn or Cary Grant played. You couldn't pay them enough.

I'm very full of nice Italian lunch and they give me the news there has been a slight change. The alligator fight scene is next. Oh boy! They're using a twenty-five year old mechanized gator. It is twenty-five feet long and looks believable. One catch: it hasn't been used in a quarter of a century and the motor doesn't work. So they tie a wire to its snout and pull it across the river.

The prop man floats it back so they can pull it right toward the camera. I'll swim in from camera right and meet it midstream and the fight begins.

I put the rubber knife in my mouth, wade to my mark -- a lily pad they've anchored in place -- and the director directs. I haven't gone four strokes when my lunch tells me it's not going along for the ride. So I slow down, let the gator pass. I swim around the bend and feed the fish.

Everyone is yelling at me. They think I hadn't seen the gator go by. When the assistant director runs around the bushes on the shore, he can see I'm not feeling too good and lets the others know. 

I'm ready now. Let's go right away; the gator is back, I'm back, take two.

Just before we meet, I dive to the bottom. It's only four feet deep. I grab the knife and push off the bottom with both feet. I surface like a skinny whale and land on top of the gator's head. . . splish, splash and a stab here and there. I give it all I have, which isn't much. But I don't want to do it again so I keep going until I'm all tuckered out.

When I stand up and look to the shore the whole cast and crew are on laughing gas. They're staggering around slapping each other on the back Some are falling down from laughing so hard. Wading to the camera I ask to be let in on the joke.

It seems that when I came down on the gator's head he was so old and stiff his tail came up out of the water and he sank like a leather submarine.

They used stock footage of a gator fight that Johnny Weissmuller did twenty-five years earlier with the same alligator, when the darn gator's machinery was working It was a terrific fight scene, realistic. It was in black and white. No sweat. They tinted it green. It matched the green of my face.

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