National Film Corporation renewed their contract with Burroughs after Bill Parsons' death in 1919. Tarzan was now considered a valuable property and Burroughs was paid a whopping $20,000 plus a percentage for The Son of Tarzan. Veterans of earlier Tarzan films, Karla Schramm and Gordon Griffith, were hired to play Jane and Tarzan's son, Jack. Since Lincoln and Pollar were still under contract to Universal they made a surprising choice for the new Tarzan. The role went to Perce Dempsey Tabler (a.k.a. Percy Dempsey Tabler or P. Dempsey Tabler), a middle-aged actor whose feeble physique and poorly designed toupee failed to convince anyone that he was the Lord of the Jungle. Luckily the role of Tarzan was secondary in the film and their choice for the starring role of Tarzan's son Jack (his ape name was Korak), went first to western star Jack Hoxie who was replaced before production began by an exotic young actor from Hawaii, Kamuela Searle.
Searle was widely touted as a rising star. His first name was Samuel, but he used the Hawaiian equivalent of that name, Kamuela, as his professional name. Like the Tarzans before him Searle insisted on performing his own stunts. The unathletic Tabler also did his own stunt work but suffered broken ribs and other injuries during the filming. Before shooting began, Searle took his upcoming role very seriously. He spent a month in the desert to toughen himself up for the demanding role of Tarzan's son. A legendary Hollywood rumour has it that his insistence on putting himself at risk resulted in a near tragedy. His final stunt called for him to be tied to a wooden stake and carried off by an elephant in its trunk. The scene went as planned in rehearsals but once the cameras rolled, the elephant became frightened by the crowds and flames, and slammed Searle to the ground, severely injuring him. Searle was hospitalized while a double stood in for him in the last scene.
The storyline of the film has Jack (ape name: Korak the Killer) kidnapped from England by one of Tarzan's old enemies, Paulvitch, and taken to Africa. He escapes to grow up in the jungle with the help of Paulvitch's trained ape, Akut. Director Revier used a well-executed triple exposure effect to show Jack's transformation from a studious normal boy into a combative jungle boy -- a scene that impressed Burroughs. He befriends Meriem, a girl from an Arab tribe. He soon falls in love with the girl, who later turns out to be a kidnapped heiress who is sought by Paulvitch. Tarzan's son Jack (ape name: Korak the Killer) is kidnapped from England by Tarzan's old enemy Paulvitch. Tarzan and Jane arrive at their African estate to save the day.
The Son of Tarzan was released as a 15-chapter serial in 1921. The realistic scene of Searle's near fatal accident remained in the picture and proved an irresistible draw. For years it has been reported that Searle was killed during the making of this film, but this myth was debunked in the Burroughs Bulletin after Searle's brother wrote a letter to the editor explaining that Kamuela had been diagnosed with cancer in 1919 and died of it on February 14, 1924, in a Los Angeles hospital. Of special interest to fans (as well as to censorship boards) was the marriage of Tarzan and Jane in the opening chapters.
The serial footage was adapted into a six-reel feature -- much of the editing done by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself in his projection room at Tarzana Ranch. It was released as Jungle Trail of the Son of Tarzan on October 20, 1923. This version is lost.
The film was another box office and critical success, but producers now faced a major problem: they had no one in the wings to play future Tarzans. Pollar, disillusioned by the contract haggling between studios that had pushed him out of the role, had quit acting and returned to firefighting, Everyone realized that Tabler was totally ill-suited for the role and Searle was injured or sick and dying. They realized that the one actor who had been totally successful in the role was Elmo Lincoln, but even he was not the type of Tarzan Burroughs had in mind. Elmo Lincoln was still at Universal, where he was having a successful run of serials and adventure films. Numa Pictures who still had the rights to one more Tarzan film entered into a deal with another company, Great Western, who leased the production rights and were able to negotiate with Universal to get Lincoln back for the role. In the process, Burroughs was sued but won the court case in New York in February 1923. The way was clear for Weiss Brothers' Numa Pictures and Great Western to produce a Tarzan serial starring Elmo Lincoln.
Directors: Arthur J. Flaven ~ Harry Revier
Producers: David P. Howells ~ Harry M. Rubey
Production Companies: National Film Corporation
Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel: Son of Tarzan) ~ Roy Somerville
P. Dempsey Tabler: Tarzan
Karla Schramm: Jane
Gordon Griffith: Son of Tarzan
Kamuela C. Searle: Korak, Son of Tarzan grown up
Eugene Burr: Ivan Paulovich
Mae Giraci: Meriem as a girl
Manilla Martan: Meriem as a young woman
Saville De Sacia
Black and White, spherical, 35mm,
Silent serial in 15 episodes with aspect ratio of 1.33:1
Film historian, Jerry Schneider, has determined that the locations in which the serial was shot. Locations include: the National Film Studio n Hollywood, the Burroughs Tarzana Ranch, the mountains of San Bernardino, the river bottom of Pico Rivera, including the current Woodland Park area, the San Francisco waterfront, and the coasts of San Francisco and Los Angeles, including the beach and palisades of Corona del Mar.
THE INVOLVEMENT OF ERB IN PRODUCTION
Eugene Burr, ERB, ?, P. Dempsey Tabler, Karla Schramm, Arthur J Flaven
ERB visited the National studios almost every day during the filming. He followed the progress of the film from start to finish. The Exhibitor's Trade Review (August 21, 1920) quoted him as saying: Both Director Harry J. Revier and Roy Somervile, who adapted my book for the screen, have my absolute confidence. Mr. Revier has grasped my point of view very well, and I'm sure that he will handle the story in keeping with the general idea of the printed book. I am particularly gratified to find in this director a man who doesn't think he knows it all, and is willing to take suggestions from the author of the work he is placing before the public"
The magazine also reported that, "The handsome and interesting home of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author will be the setting of a large number of scenes for The Son of Tarzan. Mr. Burroughs lives at Tarzana, a bit of jungle Africa situation in the wonderful San Fernando Valley, only a short distance from the National Studios."
NATIONAL MAKES SON OF TARZAN SERIAL FOR DISTRIBUTION
by David P. Howells
Production has just started on the West coast on the serial picturization of "The Son of Tarzan," according to word received by David P. Howells from the studios of the National Film Corporation of America where the drama is being filmed. Harry Revier, director of the previous "Tarzan" pictures, is directing, assisted by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author. The picture will be made under the general supervision of Captain Harry M. Rubey, president of National.
"The Son of Tarzan" is the fourth of the series of "Tarzan" stories to be screened. "Tarzan of the Apes" and "The Romance of Tarzan," both from the studios of the National Film corporation, proved successful as dramatic productions and as box-office winners. the third, "The Return of Tarzan," has been completed and is now being released with a big publicity campaign back of it.
Director Revier has arranged for a pictorial prologue which will tell briefly the story of "Tarzan" and his "Romance." To carry out this idea two sets of players were secured, one to enact the roles of the previous stories and one to play the story of The Son of Tarzan.
There has been assembled at the National Studios a varied and large collection of jungle animals. It is said that Director Revier has planned the most spectacular of his jungle scenes for picturization during the visit to Los Angeles of a large circus in order that he might utilize the circus menagerie. Steam and sailing vessels have been assembled near Los Angeles for the ocean and deck scenes. Two vessels have been bought outright that they may be burned for one of the big scenes.
K.C. Searle will play the title role. Other players inclued P. Dempsey Tabler, who will impersonate Tarzan, DeSacia Saville, Karla Schramm, May Gratcia and Kathleen May.
Production of "The Son of Tarzan" will proceed rapidly now that it has started. The prologue and the first episode have been completed and it is expected that the first few episodes will be ready for screening within the next month. It is planned to have the picture ready for release before fall by David P. Howells.~ THE MOVING PICTURE WORLD, May 29, 1920
THE SERIAL VERSION
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1. The Call of the Jungle
ASSORTED LOBBY CARDS
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Sheet music, "Tarzan My Jungle King" written specifically for the 1920 silent film
The Son of Tarzan produced by The National Film Corp.
TARZAN, MY JUNGLE KING
Words by Osborn Tedman ~ Music by Norman Stuckey
Copyright MCMXX by David P. Howell, New York
There lived a cave-man wild and grand,
Tarzan -- the Tarmangani
He with valor strong and brave
From dire peril saved a maid --
Daughter of Sheik Ben Ami
Thru the tree tops to his lair,
Tarzan bore his maid so fair
And in truly cave man way
Wooed her till he made her say:
Tarzan, my jungle wild man
Tarzan, my cave man mate
Here in the tree-tops swaying
I'll keep my jungle date
Tarzan my virile lover,
Tarzan, my King of men
Fierce burns my heart's desire
Come love, my heart's on fire
Kiss me, oh, kiss me again.
There lived the cave-man and his wife --
Sharing each joy and sorrow
In the tree tops day by day
Hand in hand they's sway and play
No thought of the tomorrow
Tho' at last they came again
Back into the homes of men,
Ever in their ears would ring
Jungle echoes and she'd sing:
ORIGINAL SHEET MUSIC
Written and Composed Especially for
Music Composed by
"15 EPISODES OF JUNGLES, WILD ANIMALS, THRILLING ACTION, LOVE and ROMANCE
From the Brian Bohnett Collection
Pastel by Kamuela Searle
The long-believed rumour of Searle's death following the infamous elephant rescue
has been debunked by Burroughs enthusiasts.
A letter from Searle's brother to fanzine "The Burroughs Bulletin,"
stated that though badly injured when the elephant slammed him to the ground still tied to a pole,
Kamuela recovered, but died in 1924 of cancer.
See ERB Events for June 7 at
and July 4 at
For more info and photos
ERBzine Silver Screen Series: An Online Resource Guide to the Movies of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Karla Schramm Gallery
Back to Tarzana Ranch 1921 ~ Part 3
the Silver Screen Volume I - The Silent Years by Jerry Schneider
Jerry Schneider's Movie Making Locations
On the Silver Screen Part 1: ERBzine 0013
Classic Images: Five Tarzans
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