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Issue 0588

ERBzine Silver Screen Series
A Resource Guide to the Movies of Edgar Rice Burroughs
An ongoing ERBzine and ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. ENCYCLOPEDIA project

The Revenge of Tarzan (1920)
aka The Return of Tarzan
 “As an actor, Gene was a great fireman.”
Burroughs' comment on the performance of fireman-turned-actor Pollar:

Important News for Tarzan Film Buffs from ERB Scholar Ron de Laat

US Library of Congress is having a chance to restore old movies.
Each year you can vote for 50 films which are on a list they supply.
On this list there are 6 Tarzan movies:
Tarzan of the Apes 1918
The Return of Tarzan 1920 (yes, the lost one).
Tarzan the Apeman 1932
Tarzan Escapes 1936
Tarzan finds a Son (1939)
Tarzan (1999)
Even George of the Jungle is listed.

To stimulate people to vote for our lost Tarzan movie, I am sharing this link and image:

From the Brian Bohnett Collection
After the release of The Romance of Tarzan, Bill Parsons' option on the Tarzan property was exhausted -- in fact, Parsons died in 1919.  ERB was now free to negotiate elsewhere. Eventually the contract was purchased by the Weiss brothers who set up a new company, Numa Pictures Corporation, for the sole purpose of producing Tarzan films. The Weisses had a reputation for low budget "quickies," but  promised to stick closely to the details of the Burroughs book, The Return of Tarzan. Things looked very promising as Numa Pictures had connections with the powerful Goldwyn Distribution company.. Disappointingly, the script that Numa produced for The Return of Tarzan had little resemblance to ERB's novel but Burroughs objections went unheeded.

Elmo Lincoln was now under contract to Universal Studios so a talent search was instigated to find a new Tarzan. The winning candidate was Joseph Pohler, a New York City fireman with no acting experience. The 6'2" and 215 pound Pollar apparently had the physique that Numa expected of the Lord of the Jungle. Another reason for the choice was that he looked comfortable in dress clothes than Lincoln, as much of the film would take Tarzan from the jungle out of the jungle and back to civilization. He was given a stage name, Gene Pollar, and was offered $100 a week plus expenses. It is rumoured that Evelyn Fariss was hired for the role of Jane but. when she discovered that she would have to work with actual lions, apes, and elephants, she suddenly took ill and was hurriedly replaced by Karla Schramm. Lincoln had caused quite a sensation in his loin cloth and bare chest but Numa was now being pressured by new industry moral standards regarding nudity. In response to these restrictions they designed an over-the-shoulder animal skin to hide most of Pollar's torso, as well as leggings that covered his thighs.

The film crew were impressed with Pollar's willingness to tackle any dangerous action scene -- especially the scenes in the lion enclosures. Pollar at one time had to face four lions alone and do battle with them. He admits that nothing but his anxiety to nourish his own reputation on the screen prevented him from turning tail when he found that one of the lionesses had been torn from her  cubs for the shooting of the scene. Pollar later said, "It was only because I remembered that my future with Numa was at stake that I didn't turn turtle and climb for dear life."

The screen play called for a great variety of locales: Paris, ocean liner, Algerian desert with a camel race, jungles, and mansions. The film locations chosen were at:  New York's Yonkers studios and a palatial home at Lakewood ~  Florida's jungle and water locales  ~ California's Balboa coast, studio jungles, and Weiss Brothers' Los Angeles Zoo. Location scenes shot on the Balboa coast included scenes on a liner, yacht, lifeboat, and of a ship explosion and sinking. They actually made a full-sized ship replica for this scene. When one of the lifeboats capsized Karla Schramm and Walter Miller swam to safety but Armand Cortez almost drowned in the rough seas and pounding surf. He was rescued when director Harry Revier noticed his plight and sent the cameraman to his rescue. The real-life adventure proved to be good advance publicity for the film.

Animals used in the production included L-K.O. lion star, Vendredi, along with seven other lions, Joe Martin the orangutan, Charley the elephant, 50 white horses, two tigers, two camels, five old mules and several apes and gorillas.

When the film was released in 1920, another major change was the renaming of the film to "The Revenge of Tarzan". This was in response to Goldwyn's suggestion that something be done to counter rumours that the film was actually just a re-release of the first Lincoln picture. The title change was made despite the fact that trade papers had carried advertisements using the original name and had reviewed the film under that title and that more than forty columns of publicity had been obtained in the New York City papers and had been carried all over the country by the Associated Press dispatches.

Burroughs was given a special screening of the film on March 5, 1920 at the Superba Theatre in Lose Angeles just previous to the Numa film party returned to New York. There were about 900 people in the audience for whom full orchestral accompaniment was provided. Burroughs reaction was quoted in the April 3rd edition of The Moving Picture World: "You have given my story a remarkable production and what pleases me most is the faithfulness with which you have followed the original narrative. I have no criticism, and am very proud to be identified with the offering."  The official release was May 30th.

The main criticism offered by audiences was of the film's over reliance on non-jungle scenes and with the inappropriateness of Lincoln's replacement in the lead  film, although many seemed to be very impressed with Pollar's athletic abilities. Despite these criticisms and very mixed reviews, the film was a confirmed box office hit. The phenomenal popularity of Tarzan guaranteed that many more of ERB's books would be adapted to the screen.

The central character in "The Return of Tarzan" is Tarzan, the son of English gentlefoot, who, born after the marooning of his parents in Africa, is left an orphan by their deaths and reared to young manhood by and ape. Tarzan's chance meeting with a scientist has resulted in his journeying to England and there establishing his right to the title of his family.

Tarzan of the Apes (Gene Pollar) returning to France makes the acquaintance of Count Di Coud (George Romain) and the latter's wife (Estelle Taylor). He exposes two gamblers, Rokoff (Armand Cortez) and Polawitch (Walter Miller), whom he catches cheating the Count at cards. Later he throws Rokoff out of the countess's stateroom when the latter and his confederate insult her. She begs him to say nothing of the occurrence, but does not disclose the fact that Rokoff isher scapegrace brother, who has repeatedly been in trouble with the law. In Paris Tarzan is lured by the two enemies he has made into a trap, but fights his way clear. He goes on a mission to Algiers at the request of his friend D'Arnot (Franklin B. Coates), whose life he once saved in the jungle. At night he is thrown overboard by his crafty foes, but swims safely to shore and lands in Arica close to his former jungle home. Here hs assumes his old leadership temporarily among the beasts. A yacht upon which Jane Porter (Karla Schramm), the girl he loves sails is wrecked. She reaches the African shore with a few survivors. Tarzan arrives on the scene just as a lion is about to devour Jane. He kills the lion with his bare hands. The lovers are united.

~ Exhibitor's Trade Review ~ June 12, 1920
Gene Pollar with Joe Martin, the orangutanAutographed Gene Pollar PhotoAutographed Gene Pollar Photos

Gene Pollar Gallery

Today, not many fans seem to be impressed with Pollar's Tarzan as he appears in surviving stills,
but many reviews of the day seem to be far more impressed with the actor and the film.

  • Gene Pollar, Ape Man, is 6 Feet 2 Inches, and Liberally Proportioned
  • Harry Revier has picked an exceptional cast 
  • remarkable specimen of manhood
  • I have no criticism, and am very proud to be identified with the offering ~ERB
  • Gene Pollar fares well as Tarzan
  • a splendid type for the leading role
  • His physique and manliness fit right into the popular conception of the hero
  • a fine athletic figure
  • splendidly adapted to the role of Tarzan by reason of his fine physique and apparently superhuman strength is also an excellent actor
  • his feats of strength are very impressive
  • his combat with the lion is particularly effective
  • marvelous strength
  • plays Tarzan with all the necessary vim and dash
  • there are several superhuman stunts staged that cannot be faked
  • billed as being very athletic, a non-smoker a teetotaler and as having passed all tests of physical endurance with flying colours.
  • a big unspoiled boy ~ Revier
  • Doesn't think he's great, enjoys his work; and my -- how he can fight! He wades in and does every fight up to the finish ~ Revier
  • positive sensation ~ positive thriller
  • a perfect Broadway triumph ~ excellent production
  • photography is very good... several fine shots of jungle life
  • the action is is an improvement on the preceding Tarzan productions
  • good production. . . will undoubtedly please the majority of audiences
  • provides all the action the most exacting could demand
  • a stirring melodramatic diamond in the rough
  • better produced picture than the first
  • ERB's Tarzan stories are among the best known works written with the picture crowds
  • the film ran four weeks to capacity business at the Broadway Theatre, NY
  • All the fast action and sudden surprises of a serial
  • wonderful glimpses of the jungle, close-ups and long shots are excellent
  • grouping effects are highly artistic
  • The photography, the wild animals, the natural settings embellish the picture with atmosphere and realism
  • irresistible atmosphere, fantastical and alluring
  • excellent cast and the direction of the picture is skillfully done
  • a spectacular melodrama, coupling adventure and romance
The Revenge of Tarzan (1920)
Early Hollywood studios and stars threw money at Harry Reichenbach, so much so that he reportedly bagged $1,000 a week at the height of his career. He hired fake search parties to look for The Virgin of Stamboul (1920) and even planned to have actress Clara Kimball Young kidnapped in a “fake Mexican raid.” But he’s probably best known for his lion room-service stunt. To prime audiences for the release of The Revenge of Tarzan (sometimes labeled The Return of Tarzan), Reichenbach rented a room in New York’s Hotel Belleclaire under the name T.R. Zann. Zann was a professed musician who brought along a piano in a box, which the bellhops hoisted into his room through the window. But there was no Steinway in that crate, as the poor staffers soon discovered. The next morning, Reichenbach called to request ten pounds of raw steak for breakfast — for his pet lion. The hotel manager, clerk, bellhops, and house detective raced into the room to find a lion cub prowling the carpet. This stunt was well-reported in the New York media, earning plenty of advance buzz for T.R. Zann — or rather, Tarzan.


Director: Harry Revier
Producers: Adolph Weiss ~ Louis Weiss ~ Max Weiss
Film Company: Great Western Producing Company ~ Numa Pictures Corporation
Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel) ~ Robert Saxmar
Gene Pollar: Tarzan
Karla Schramm: Jane
Estelle Taylor: Countess de Coude
Armand Cortes: Nikolas Rokoff
Franklin B. Coates: Paul D'Arnot
George Romain: Count de Coude
Walter Miller: Henchman to Rokoff
Publicist: Harry Reichenbach
Distributors: Goldwyn Distributing Company
Filming Locations: Balboa, CA ~ Florida ~ Fort Lee, NJ ~ Lakewood, New York
A black ? white, 35mm (spherical) silent feature
Released May 30, 1920 ~ Aspect ratio: 1.33 : 1
Originally released as a 9-reeler, the film was later trimmed to 7 reels
Gene PollarGene Pollar Gene Pollar (Joseph C. Pohler)

Birth: September 16, 1892 ~ Death: October 20, 1971 (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)

Numa Pictures offered 28-year-old New York City fireman Joseph Pohler the role of Tarzan on account of his physique: six feet two-and-a-half inches, two hundred fifteen pounds. Pohler had little acting experience, having played only bit parts in the western films of William Hart, Douglas Fairbanks and Tom Mix.  He got a new name, Gene Pollar, and $100 per week plus expenses. He was billed as being very athletic, a non-smoker a teetotaler and as having passed all tests of physical endurance with flying colours. When "The Revenge of Tarzan" turned out to be surprisingly successful, Universal offered him a two-year contract at $350 a week, but Numa  wouldn't release him. Disappointed, he ended his acting career and returned to his job as a fireman. Ref: IMDB

Pollar remembers the filming:

He is quoted in  "No more do I get back in old New York than the Numa people spoil my homecoming by the information that they have brought the lions outright and intend to use them in more pictures. It's a great life if you can afford to weaken. But I can see an interesting future for myself in the Yonkers studio, with those brutes part of the equipment. I never met personally a group of lions that were so aggressively unfriendly. An to think I turned down the offer of a job in the fire department."

"It's a great life! Take Charley, the elephant, for instance. The trainer coached me as to how to get on the big boy's back -- a running jump onto his trunk and zip! -- he would to the rest. Just toss me up, secure and contented, onto his back. Following instructions, I ran a bit, landed on his trunk and was swayed into the air, but, instead of landing on his back, I landed on my own. Three unsuccessful attempts I made. Finally, I was ignominiously forced to be boosted, pushed and pulled up; the camera started grinding, and I assumed by celluloid the air of the jungle man."

~Exhibitor's Trade Review (20.02.14)
"One day, Joe Martin, the almost human monkey who seemed to understand my Harlem English better than some of the native Californians, was doing scenes with me. We were jumping, where the jumping was good, from bough to bough . I made a leap and as my weight relieved it, a bough snapped back and hit Joe in the face. He thought I had done it on purpose, started jibbering, and the first thing I knew he was after me and on my back, ready for fight. It took some effort to pull him off, and it took triple the amount of effort and all of the pastry included in my lunch-box, to put him in friendly humor with me again."
~Motion Picture News (20.02.28)

Karla Schramm
Karla Schramm in The Son of Tarzan

Birth: February 1, 1891, Los Angeles, CA ~ Death: January 17, 1980, Los Angeles, CA
Educated in Los Angeles and Chicago. Height: 5' 2" ~ Weight: 115 lbs. ~ Medium brown hair and dark gray eyes
Home address was: 468 S. Lake St., No. 5, Los Angeles ~ Phone: 558476
She travelled as a child pianist and composer through US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. She made her debut as a matured artist in Chicago at Music Hall. She was an accomplished swimmer and dancer.
MOVIES: His Majesty, The American (1919) ~ Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) ~ The Revenge of Tarzan (1920) ~ Son of Tarzan (1920)
Enid Markey was passed over to play Jane, and Evelyn Fariss was hired for the role. However, when she discovered that she would have to work with actual lions, apes, and elephants, she suddenly took ill and was hurriedly replaced by Karla Schramm. She was popular enough in the role to be hired to play Jane again in the next film in the series: The Son of Tarzan. Even before filming began, the producers were under pressure to conform to new industry moral standards regarding nudity. At issue was not Miss Schramm's apparel, but rather Pollar's. To satisfy the moral guardians, Pollar had to wear an over-the-shoulder animal skin to hide most of his torso, and leggings that covered his thighs. She and her sister, Paloma, were noted pianists who toured the world. After retiring from the film business she taught piano.

Part I - The Eternal Friends —By PRABHAS CHANDRA GHOSE 
Recent activities at the Los Angeles Headquarters have included the New Year’s banquets in honor of Swami Yogananda’s homecoming from India. The menu consisted of many new dishes and ingredients brought by Swamiji from India, and included Kashmere Gucchi mushrooms with Chinese potatoes, papar fruit, Rasagulla Mango Cream, and Indian Keora Flower Ice Cream.The enjoyable musical program consisted of a vocal solo by Mrs. Charles Frye, a piano solo by Miss Karla Schramm and a violin solo by Miss Lois Challand.

Estelle Taylor 
Picture Estelle Taylor
(Countess de Coude) was born as Estelle Boylan. She began as a secretary and in the 20s she became quite a popular movie star. She was very ambitious and had a extremely good "business sense." She married a wealthy man at age 14  but when her career as model took shape the marriage was divorced four years later. During her work as a chorus girl on Broadway she attracted the attention of movie producers. She made her film debut in the movie "The Golden Shower" (1919), followed with "The Revenge of Tarzan" (1920) which starred Gene Pollar as Tarzan. She went on to act in the 20s as an exotic beauty in movies like "The Adventurer" (1920), "The Lights of New York" (1922), "Monte Cristo" (1922), Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" (1923), "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall" (1924), "The Alaskan" (1924), "Don Juan" (1926) and "Honor Bound" (1928).

She married heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey in 1925 and their high profile divorce took place in 1931. Estelle Taylor managed the transition to the talkies without any difficulties and won rewarding roles in movies like "Liliom" (1930), "Cimarron" (1930), "The Unholy Garden" (1931) and "Call Her Savage" (1932), she retired from the film business at the beginning of the '30s. She made her comeback in 1945 for Jean Renoir's movie "The Southerner" (45), her last movie.


Click for Full-Screen Image
 The Criterion Theater in Washington, D.C. ~ January 1921.
318 9th Street N.W. In operation 1918-ca.1945. Seating capacity 350-600, including a balcony that could seat 100.
Built by Marcus Notes for about $11,000, later operated by Willie Notes for his father.
National Photo Company glass negative.
From Shorpy: The 100-year-old Photo Blog

"Animals, Don't Feed" area magnified


click for larger images

Promo booklet submitted by Ron de Laat

Lobby Display in the Olympic Theatre, McKeesport, PA


Revenge/Return of Tarzan Lobby Display
Karla Schramm Gallery in ERBzine 0588a
Gene Pollar Feature in ERBzine 2986


ERBzine Silver Screen Section of ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.Encyclopedia
The Danton Burroughs Family Archive
Jerry Schneider's ERB and the Silver Screen: The Silent Years ~ ERBville Press
Jerry Schneider's ERBville Website
Tarzan Movie Guide: The Silents
Internet Movie Database Tarzan Links
 My Mother's Tarzan
Five Tarzans: The Silent Apemen

Volume 0588

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