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Issue 0591

Edna Murphy and James Pierce
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Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927)
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Despite the success of the 1921 serial, The Adventures of Tarzan, starring Elmo Lincoln there were no film projects until 1926 when FBO Studios (Joseph Kennedy's company which later joined with RCA to form RKO Radio Pictures) bought the film rights to Tarzan and the Golden Lion. Burroughs had much more say in the choice of actor to play Tarzan in this film. During a party at Tarzana Ranch ERB was impressed by one of the guests who fit the mental image of his fictional jungle man. Pierce was a former All-American football player from Indiana who had come to Hollywood to work as a football coach at Glendale High School. His giant physique and chiselled good looks got him numerous roles in Hollywood films. ERB insisted that he try out for the role of Tarzan, even though it meant giving up a major part in the upcoming film, Wings -- a part that eventually went to Gary Cooper.

Filming began in September 1926 and finished in December 1926. Under ERB's supervision the script followed the original novel quite closely. Jane was played by Dorothy Dunbar and the part of a native was played by an obscure English actor called Boris Karloff. The film was a hit at the box office despite the lukewarm reviews by critics. Mainly because of the poor critical reception, FBO did not exercise their option to produce a sequel. Burroughs then signed a deal with rival Universal who produced two Tarzan movies starring Frank Merrill -- the last of the silent Tarzan films. Jim Pierce never played Tarzan again on film, although he married Burroughs daughter, Joan, and they starred as Tarzan and Jane in the 1932 radio serial.

Lord Greystoke (James Pierce), known as Tarzan to the natives of Africa among whom he lived, expects his wife (Dorothy Dunbar) and her niece (Edna Murphy) with the young overseer (Harold Goodwin) of his estate. A renegade White (villain played by Frederic Peters) meets the travellers and plans to attack them. But the timely arrival of the hero with his native army rescues them. A stranger in rags (D'Arcy Corrigan) comes to the hero and informs him that he had escaped from the diamond city of a race of people little known. He tells the hero of a fabulous wealth in diamonds hidden within the Diamond palace of this tribe. The villain overhears him and during the hero's absence he abducts him and the young heroine. The villain forces the stranger to lead him to the city of diamonds. When the hero returns and hears of the abduction he takes his faithful lion along and rushes to their rescue, instructing his lieutenants to follow him wit his army of natives. Eventually he reaches the city of diamonds in time to rescue the heroine from being offered as a sacrifice to a lion, which the natives worshipped as their God. The hero kills their lion, and his lion kills the villain. The natives declare the hero as their High Priest, to reign in the city of diamonds. The young heroine marries the overseer of his estate.
From Harrison's Reports, March 12, 1927
See Actual Screen Captions Below


Edgar Rice Burroughs ~ Director J. P. McGowan ~ Golden Lion: On the Set

Director:  J.P. McGowan
Producer: Edwin C. King
Assistant Director: Mack V. Wright
Writer: Edgar Rice Burroughs  (novel: Tarzan and the Golden Lion, Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1923.)
~ William E. Wing (adaptation)
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Other crew: Joseph P. Kennedy (Presenter: Executive Producer/Voice-Overs)
James Pierce ~ Tarzan
Frederick Peters ~ Esteban Miranda
Edna Murphy ~ Ruth Porter
Harold Goodwin ~ Burton Bradney
Dorothy Dunbar ~ Lady Greystoke
D'Arcy Corrigan ~ Weesimbo
Boris Karloff ~ Owaza
Robert Bolder ~ John Peebles
Black and White ~ Mix: Silent ~ Film length: 6 reels
35mm  negative and print  ~ Spherical ~ Aspect ration: 1.33 : 1

  • For many years the only known print of this film was a French version. There are video dubs of this print in circulation.
  • Considered lost for many decades, a complete print of the film was discovered in the 1990s.
  • Some of the players Jim Pierce coached during his job at Glendale High included John Wayne and Bob Steele.
  • Jim Pierce had an affair with his leading lady, Edna Murphy, but later married ERB's daughter Joan.
  • Shooting was delayed for month while star Jim Pierce recovered from injuries suffered in a serious car crash.
  • More than 1,000 extras were hired for the filming
  • A standout in the cast was Lin-Yu-Ching, a Chinese giant who stood eight feet tall and weighed 300 pounds
  • California shooting locations included Chatsworth, Santa Ana Canyon and Sherwood Forest. Elaborate sets were built at the FBO Studio.
  • A sampling of other films that used the Chatsworth location: Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Cops ~ Charge of the Light Brigade ~ Last of the Mohicans ~ Maisie ~ Phantasm IV: Oblivion ~ Stagecoach ~ Shanghai Express ~ White Heat
  • There were two lions; Jad-bal-ja and a wild lion; Tarzan killed the wild lion that was attacking Gordon (the stranger).
  • They changed Flora Hawks name to Betty Greystoke and her boyfriend's name to Jack Bradley. Most writeups (even on the internet movie database) use the names from the book, not the film).
  • Boris Karloff plays the renegade Owaza in his film debut.
  • Release date: January 2, 1927
  • After the Golden Lion, Jim Pierce, typecast as the apeman, could only find work in lesser roles: westerns with Tex Ritter, Tim McCoy and Bob Livingston, parts in serials such as Zorro's Fighting Legion and as  King Thun, the Lion-Man with Buster Crabbe in the Flash Gordon serial.
  • ERB believed in this film and its star. On December 8, 1926, he wrote to a friend: "I suggest you not miss the new Tarzan picture just being completed by FBO here. I have seen some of the work during the making and also some of the rushes, and am convinced that it is going to be the greatest Tarzan picture ever made. We have found a man who really is Tarzan, and whom I believe will be raised to the heights of stardom."
  • Jim Pierce was of a different opinion. He was quoted later as saying: "Because of poor direction, terrible story treatment and putrid acting, the opus was a stinkeroo. I emerged with nothing to show for my strenuous effort except being typecast as Tarzan. I was out of a job."
  • Jim and Joan Pierce starred as Tarzan and Jane in the 1932 radio serial.
  • Jim and Joan hadn't re-heard their Tarzan radio serial for almost 40 years. After meeting with them in the '70s, Bill and Sue-On sent them the serial on reel-to-reel tapes from their OTR collection.
  • Jim was anxious to obtain a copy of his Tarzan film but it was thought lost. He even appealed to Joseph Kennedy for assistance in finding it - but with no luck. A copy was discovered in France years after Big Jim's death.


    ERB ~ Joan ~ McGowan ~ Pierce

    Autographed Jim Pierce Still from Tarzan and the Golden LionJim and Joan Burroughs Pierce: Radio Promo PhotoERB son-in-law Jim Pierce in later years

    Dorothy Dunbar and James Pierce


    1. Tarzan and the golden lion. 
    2. In the middle of the jungle in a still mysterious area in equatorial Africa... 
    3. was found the shelter of a bold explorer... 
    4. The war tribe of the Wazari celebrated the capture of a big bear. 
    5. "Where is the chief?"  "Mister Tarzan is in the jungle with the lion Jab" 
    6. Explorer Lord Greystoke, who impressed the Wazari because of his boldness, was chosen as their chief and he was called Tarzan: the friend of the wild animals. 
    7. Lion Jab, whom Tarzan had tamed with patience, had given him back both loyalty and obedience like a little dog. 
    8. "Do you hear me? our friend Jab appeared to us as a wandering stranger, the way he looked like..." 
     9. After long years of slavery explorer John Gordon, who had succeeded in misleading the guards, who had to guard those, who were captured, wandered exhausted in the area of Tarzan. Tarzan kills the lion that attacked Gordon. 
    10. "Return to that old man, and offer him your apologies..."  "Retourne pres de ce vieillard, et demande lui pardon..."  Tarzan picks up Gordon and carries him to his home. 
    11. Escorted by some warriors, Lady Greystoke, accompanied with the most beloved sister of Tarzan, came to find back her husband.." 
    12. Jane, Lady Greystoke; Betty Greystoke, Tarzan's sister. Jack Bradley, Tarzan's friend and mate during several expeditions through the jungle. 
    13. "Don't you think, Betty, that Jack is a charming fellow?" 
    14. "We won't hesitate to meet Tarzan. As far as I know him, don't be surprised, when he will appear to us in the... national dress of the Wazari". 
    15. After they had ensured themselves of the rich prize Awaza, who went over from the Wazari tribe, a group of plunderers went to the house of Tarzan. 
    16. Esteban Miranda, their chief; John Peebles, his lieutenant. Awaza, who once had tried to organize a revolt together with the Wazari warriors against the power of Tarzan, had been  chased away from the tribe. 
    17. "The trip has been long enough for today: we will camp here". 
    18. "Let us go and meet Lady Tarzan and my sister". 
    19. "While we are waiting for the moment, that we can capture the riches of Mister Tarzan, here we already have a prize, which, I think, cannot be despised..." 
    20. "Stay here, I'll talk to them..." 
    21. "And when I raise my hand, attack..." 
    22. "I made a mistake...I thought it was Tarzan..." 
    23. "My honor, ladies...the jungle does not often have the honor to receive such attractive  travellers: didn't you get lost...?" 
     24. "Not at all: I am going to join my husband again. No doubt you will know him: Lord Greystoke...Tarzan." After arguing with Jack, Estaban is thrown out of camp; he has the natives attack...They cross the river and there is a lot of gunfire... Tarzan and the Waziri arrive in time and fight off the bad guys...
         Tarzan is reunited with Jane...
    25. While waiting for the right moment for the plundering, that he planned, Esteban had built his camp close to Tarzan's residence". 
    26. Strengthened, attended, full of confidence, Gordon told a strange story to his new friends... 
    27.  (Tarzan and Jane listen to Gordon) "Ten years ago I was captured by the Tangani, people from the mountains, that adjoin the jungle..." 
    28. "This temple was built above a surprising rich diamond mine, where they forced me to work together with some other prisoners..." 
    29. "Here Jab..."  He is rather nervous tonight...   There sure must be foreigners quite close..." 
    30. (Estaban is outside overhearing Gordon talk about diamonds)"The bag full of diamonds, that I bring with me, proves to you, that I don't exaggerate anything..." 
    31. "The great priest, who had noticed, that I knew the stones, has put me into a room, where thousands of gems were collected..." 
    32. "A little later I could escape through a bed of a brook, that ran dry..." 
    33. "In the morning Jab was still nervous..." 
    34. While he trusted the instinct of the wild animal, Tarzan got worried, called together his warriors and left for a drive... 
    35. "Yesterday I heard your story about the Temple of the Diamonds.  If you love your life you'd better take me there..." 
    36. "I'll take you there as a hostage: if this man will betray us, you will die first..." 
    37. "On their trip, Esteban's man had sacrified one of Tarzan's favorite monkeys..." 
    38. "Gobu, who has killed your brother?" 
    39. "Too bad, poor Gobu would have loved to answer..." 
    40. I am your friend, Gobu: his death will be avenged..." 
    41. "This arrow belongs certainly to those we are looking for..." 
    42. "I go after them with Jab, that Burton follow me with his warriors..." 
    43. On the high rock cliffs that dominate the jungle, raises the Temple of Diamonds, Tangani's pride. 
    44. Childish and superstitious, Tanganis obeyed to a few astute white people  who called themselves Sons of the Sun. 
    45. Numa, the sacred Lion of Tanganis,
    46. the Giant Raisoul portrayed the parts of Great Priest and Sorcerer the most ever seriously.
    47. Tanganis adored Mha, that is, God of Sun, Fire and Light.
    48. Suddenly, the ground shaked, a deep fissure was opened under the petrified warriors.
    49. "Great Priest, rescue us, cast out the anger of God ..."
    50. "O Mha, Mighty God, appease your anger..."
    51. "Make us know a sacrifice worthy of you..."
    52. Under Gordon's lead, Esteban arrived at the feet of the cliffs...
    53. "I tell you the truth, we must climb the cliffs to find the passageway... "
    54. Betty understood that Gordon searched to win some time to let Tarzan go.
    55. "You will climb first..."
    56. On the crest of cliffs, some apes dressed specially were acting sentinels...
    57.  "Give the alert...strangers want to enter the temple."
    58. "Mha grants our prayer : He sends us a sacrifice worthy of him"
    59. "Catch the woman alive... she will be sacrified by Lion Numa..."
    60. "Look out... rescue us...."
    61 "Mha will be satisfied..."
    62. "Prepare the woman for the sacrifice..."
    63. "I know Tanganis' habits : when the sun is at its zenith, they will sacrifice your sister..."
    64. "This old bandit has tricked us, he shows the way to Tarzan "
    65. "You'll follow the banks of the Torrent until you find the fissure in the rock..."
    66. "Go and find the warriors, bring them to me..."
    67. "Cloak yourself with the skin of the panther we killed this morning, he will take you for Tarzan..."
    68. "You're right, his injury has weakened him too much for him to see the difference."
    69. "This is Jab ... let's follow him, he will lead us to Tarzan..."
    70. The great priest had announced that Betty would be given to the sacred Lion when the sun would cover entirely the crown of destiny."
    71. the drums of death.
     72. The time of the sacrifice came closer...
    73. "Mighty Numa ... soon the god of fire will cover the crown of destiny : then the sacrifice will be done..."
     74.  "Tarzan ... Burton."
    75. Only the servants of the Great Priest could assist to the sacred rituals...
    76. In front of the temple, the gathered warriors waited until the sacrifice was done...
    77. Frigthened by the sound of explosions Tanganis put up a weak resistance......But Tarzan arrived in time to rescue Betty... The leader of the Tanganis commited suicide by stabbing himself with the ritual knife... The high Priest captured Betty again to continue the sacrifice... ...but Jab came to her rescue and killed the High Priest... Betty looks on in horror.... Esteban and his men find the treasure room...
    78. "Jab!"
     79. "By the Judas of supervision, Jab saw the man that his master had pursued vainly..."
    80. "Now, diamonds are ours : Esteban will no longer annoy us."
    81. "Burton... Burton."
    82. "Look at Jab... He seizes the throne... Why would you not do the same ...."
    83. "Viva Tarzan... Viva the King of the Jungle..."
    The End.
    To see the screen captures plus French translations accompanying the above text visit:
    William Armstrong's Tarzan and the Golden Lion: ERBzine 0640  and ERBzine 0641

    Dorothy Dunbar - Lady Greystoke

    Boris Karloff - Owaza


    May 6th 1927, Michigan Daily
    From the Ron de Laat Collection

    Photo by Bill and Sue-On Hillman
    Joan and James Pierce at the ERB, Inc. Office Garden ~ Tarzana, CA

    Click for large images

    Read the James Pierce Autobiography starting at ERBzine 2729

    Poster | Wall  5"CardThumbnail

    Poster | Wall  5" CardThumbnail


    ERB Family Tribute Series: Joan Burroughs Pierce Bio
    Those Burroughs Kids
    ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Tarzan and the Golden Lion ~ Photoplay Edition
    ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Tarzan and the Golden Lion
    Tarzan and the Golden Lion: Screen Captures and Card Script I
    Tarzan and the Golden Lion: Screen Captures and Card Script II
    My Famous Father-In-Law by Jim Pierce

    Tarzan and the Golden Lion Screening:
    1. Arrival and Interior
    2. The Audience Files In


    Volume 0591

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