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Issue 0592

Frank Merrill
A Serial in 15 Chapters running from August 13 through November 19, 1928
Merrill's Tarzan Cry: LISTEN
Tarzan the Mighty, released in 15 chapters in 1928 through 1929, starred Frank Merrill, who had doubled for Elmo Lincoln in Adventures of Tarzan  The film was loosely based on Jungle Tales of Tarzan  which provided an excuse for retelling Tarzan's origin before focusing on his battles with Black John, a pirate pretending to be the long-lost John Greystoke in order to claim his fortune. Tarzan, the real Lord Greystoke, traveled to England to expose the impostor. Natalie Kingston played Tarzan's mate, called Mary Trevor rather than Jane Porter.Mary Trevor and her younger brother, Bobby, are castaways befriended by Tarzan. These two characters reappeared in the first Tarzan Sunday colour newspaper strip drawn by Rex Maxon in 1931. Since Merrill was a champion gymnast, his Tarzan stunts were especially impressive. He was the first to invent the system of vine swinging that would be copied in every Tarzan film from then on. Tarzan the Mighty was a critical and financial success and Universal used the profits to make landmark films such as All Quiet on the Western Front and to produce a Tarzan sequel, Tarzan the Tiger.
Tarzan the Mighty (1928)
Working Title: Jungle Tales of Tarzan
Directors:  Jack Nelson and Ray Taylor
Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel) ~ Ian McClosky Heath ~ Jack Nelson

Frank Merrill ~ Tarzan
Al Ferguson ~ Black John, village ruler of Pirates' descendants
Natalie Kingston ~ Mary Trevor
Bobby Nelson ~ Bobby Trevor, Mary's younger brother
Lorimer Johnston ~ Lord Greystoke, Tarzan's uncle

Production Companies ~ Universal Pictures
Distributors ~ Adventure Pictures (UK) ~ MCA/Universal Pictures (US)
Black and White ~ Silent ~ Film length: 2315 m
Released: October 29, 1928

  •  The original star for Tarzan the Mighty was to have been Joe Bonomo, promoted by the studio as "the greatest of all Tarzans." Near the end of work on another picture, Perils of the Wild (1925), Bonono fractured his left leg and injured his sacroiliac. Frank Merrill, who had doubled for Elmo Lincoln in the Adventures of Tarzan and Perils of the Jungle (1927), was offered the job and began work the next day.
  • Frank Merrill's real name was Arthur Poll
  • Frank was national gymnastics champion from 1916 to 1918. In his lifetime, won scores of championships in rope climbing, Roman rings, parallel bars, weight lifting, etc.
  • The serial was originally planned to contain 12 chapters but because of its popularity in the theatres it was extended to 15 chapters.
  • When a friend of Merrill's learned of a physical culture contest in England he entered Merrill's photo without his knowledge. Merrill was voted second runner-up for "World's Most Perfectly Developed Man" and the publicity from this added to attendance at the movie. The irony is that Merrill's body was more thoroughly covered than any other Tarzan.
  • Since Merrill had doubled for Elmo Lincoln Universal claimed that Merrill was "The Original Tarzan"
  • The film was based loosely on Jungle Tales of Tarzan touching on some of the themes from that book: Tarzan's wondering about the concept of God, his challenge to Goro the moon, his concern over not having a mate, the apes Teeka and Taug, etc.
  • The two main heirlooms Tarzan found in his father's cabin in Tarzan of the Apes -- the locket and hunting knife -- become a single object in the film: the carved knife that Tarzan wears around his neck.
  • No known prints of the serial are known to exist.
  • IMDB
  • Wikipedia
  • Melvin Koontz and Jackie Melvin Koontz doubled for Frank Merrill as Tarzan in "Tarzan The Mighty." The movie began filming April 12,1928. The studio followed it up with one more "Tarzan the Tiger" also starring Merrill. Merrill was stood six feet tall, was a muscular 200 pounds, as well as a fine athelete. He competed and won a championship on the Roman Rings. Merrill wore a Leopard skin around his hips and over his left shoulder.

    The lion in the picture is Jackie, who was trained by Melvin Koontz specifically for motion picture work. Melvin also doubled for Victor Mature in “Demetrius and the Gladator.” 

    Autographed Frank Merrill Photo

    1.White Gorilla, The (1945) .... Ed Bradford, Perils of the Jungle stock footage
    2.Tarzan the Tiger (1929) .... Tarzan 
    3.Little Wild Girl, The (1928) .... Tavish McBride
     ... aka Flaming Justice (1928) (UK) 
    4.Tarzan the Mighty (1928) .... Tarzan 
    5.Perils of the Jungle (1927) .... Tarzan 
    6.Cupid's Knockout (1926) .... Frank Gibson 
    7.Fighting Doctor, The (1926) .... Dr. Frank Martin 
    8.Dashing Thru (1926) 
    9.Unknown Dangers (1926) .... Frank Carter 
    10.Hollywood Reporter, The (1926) .... Billy Hudson 
    11.Trailer, The (1925) .... The Trailer 
    12.Gentleman Roughneck (1925) 
    13.Speed Madness (1925) 
    14.Shackled Lightning (1925) 
    15.Savages of the Sea (1925) .... Silent Saunders 
    16.Battling Mason (1924) .... Mason 
    17.Reckless Speed (1924) .... Speed Creswell 
    18.Fighting Heart, A (1924) .... Jack Melford 
    19.Adventures of Tarzan, The (1921) .... Arab guard

    A scene from PERILS OF THE JUNGLE, a 1927 Weiss Brothers serial that, amazingly, survives complete as a multi-tinted 16mm print in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Every chapter ends with one or more cast members imperiled by wild animals. In this still, leading man FRANK MERRILL has just been seized by a mad elephant. On the left is his sidekick, Milt Morante; on the right (barely visible) is leading lady Eugenia Gilbert. On the strength of his work in this serial Merrill was cast by Universal to play Tarzan in two late-silent chapter plays. ~ Ref: B Movies & Serials Facebook Group

    Horizontal three-sheet posterLobby Hanger

    Upright three-sheet posterSix-sheet poster

    From Universal Weekly 1928 ~ Reprinted in Jerry Schneider's ERB and the Silver Screen: Vol. 1 The Silent Years
    Lobby Card 11 x 14
    Chapter One: The Terror of Tarzan
    Tarzan (Frank Merrill), whose parents died in the heart of the jungle, was adopted by a she-ape. Spending his childhood among the wild beasts he understands their language and, grown to manhood, becomes king of the jungle Through the few books and pictures left in the hut of his dead parents he learns the rudiments of English.  Deep in the jungle is a village inhabited by the descendants of pirates. Black John (Al Ferguson), a beach comber, has worked on the supertitions of these primitive people until he dominates them completely. He conducts a ceremony with incantations to set the evil spirits against Tarzan and his apes, who have raided their cattle. Mary (Natalie Kingston) and Bob (Bobby Nelson), sister and brother castaways, are living among the tribe and Black John, despite Mary's protest, determines to make her his bride. One morning, as Mary is bathing in a forest pool, she is discovered by Tarzan, who is fascinated by this strange and beautiful creature. Suddenly he is horrified to see a swarm of crocodiles sliding into the pool from the opposite shore. His battle-cry acquaints Mary with her desperate situation. She swims frantically for the bank pursued by a monster crocodile. Death seems inevitable when Tarzan dives from a tree and tackles the beast with his bare hands. 

    Chapter Two: The Love Call

    From the bank Mary sees her deliverer kill the crocodile and realizes she has been saved by Tarzan. Returning to the village, she learns that black John plans to trap Tarzan. Taug, the ape, wandering through the forest, is caught in the trap. The natives, who are watching, think they have caught Tarzan and, leaving a guard, speed to the village with the news. The enraged cries of Taug are heard by Tarzan, who rushes to his rescue. He leaps upon the guar, knocks him senseless, releases Taug and entraps the guard. When Black John arrives with the villagers he is infuriated at being duped, and when he sees Mary smile her relief promises her Tarzan's head as a wedding present. Mary cries out in horror, and Tarzan, who is watching from a treetop, gives his battle-cry. The terrified natives flee for safety. Black John realizes Mary has stayed behind, and sneaking back discovers Mary and Bobby talking to Tarzan. Later, when Mary overhears Black John planning to trap Tantor, she determines to warn Tarzan, but discovers she is a prisoner in her hut. Little Bobby escapes and goes into the forest looking for Tarzan. Just as he is about to be trampled by the terrified elephant who is being driven toward the pit by the natives, Tarzan rescues him and climbs into a tree. A limb breaks and they are thrown into the spiked elephant pit. 

    Chapter Three: The Call of the Jungle
    Tarzan recovers quickly from the fall into the elephant pit, but Bobby is stunned. With the boy in his arms he climbs out, takes the boy to his hut and revives him. Black John and the tribesmen return to the village. He tells Mary that he alone knows of Bobbie's whereabouts and if she wishes to save him she must consent to the immediate marriage. At Tarzan's hut Bobby tries to make Tarzan understand that he should return to the village, that Mary needs him. At the village Mary consents to marry Black John, as she sees not other way to save her little brother. Night comes and with it the ceremony that gives Mary to Black John. After a weird dance he offers to fight any man in the tribe for her. None dare face him until Tarzan suddenly drops from a tree. The two men fight fiercely. Tarzan, who has vanquished Black John, finds himself surrounded. He gives his jungle cry. Tantor, the elephant, is the first to respond and tears through the jungle to the aid of Tarzan, who is bound fast and helpless to a stake. As Tantor breaks through the village wall, Black John hurls his spear at Tarzan. 

    Chapter Four: The Lion's Leap
    Tarzan is captured by the people of the Lost Village, but, tied to the stake, his call for aid brings Tantor, the mighty elephant, crashing through the stockade. The villagers flee and Tarzan breaks free, avoiding the spear of death hurled by Black John, who flees, taking little Bobby with him. Tarzan snatches the swooning Mary into his arms and rides away on Tantor. Black John returns to the village with little Bobbie, whom he imprisons in his hut. He threatens the terrified child with the lash and forces him to divulge the location of Tarzan's hut. A curious scene takes place between Mary and the primitive man at the hut. Through his hoarded books and pictures she concludes that he is the son of Lord Greystoke, soldier and explorer. Tarzan discovers his love for Mary. Night finds Tarzan swinging in the jungle defying them to take away his new found mate. He is unaware that Black John has crept up to his hut and surprised Mary. Black John threatens her with the death of Bobbie unless she returns to the village. Terrified for his safety Mary goes. Tarzan, who has spent the night under the stars, returns at dawn and finds Mary gone. Uttering his terrible challenge he makes for the village. Black John hurries to the hut where he has imprisoned Mary and Bobbie. He forces them into a room over a pit where a great lion is snarling. 

    Chapter Five: Flames of Hate
    Black John is foiled when he sees that Numa, the lion, not only knows Tarzan, but fears him as well. The beast runs from him. The villagers scatter as Tarzan utters his jungle cry. Mary calls him. He crashes through the hut to her side. He and Black John battle. Tarzan vanquishes him and would kill him, but Mary pleads with him not to commit murder. Tarzan lets him go and leaves the village, without further conflict, in the company of Mary and Bobby. They go to Tarzan's hut in the jungle. In the village Black John is rousing the tribesmen to go with him and take Mary from Tarzan. As they approach the hut, armed with spears, Bobby spies them and gives the alarm. Tarzan wishes to rush out and do battle, but Mary restrains him. Seeing that Tarzan will not come out Black John posts guards on every side and then throws a flaming spear into the roof of the brush hut. As Mary, Bobby and Tarzan huddle together in the middle of the hut the flaming roof drops in while the tribesmen hurl their huge spears. 

    Chapter Six: The Fiery Pit
    Black John's attempt to drive Tarzan and his friends from the burning hut was frustrated by a sudden rainstorm. With the fire extinguished, Tarzan dashes from the hut, with Bobbie following, while the natives flee in superstitious fear. Black John finds Mary alone and captures her, forcing her to return to the village, where she is imprisoned in the ceremonial chamber. In the meantime Tarzan and Bobbie discover that Mary has disappeared. They set out for the village. Mary is hoping they will arrive in time to save her from Black John, who has found the papers identifying Tarzan as Lord Greystoke, and is planning to annex the title and estates for himself. Leaving Mary chained hand and foot and well guarded, Black John goes to prepare for the marriage ceremony. Bobbie slips through the village and sees Black John leaving the ceremonial chamber. He manages to reach Mary and hears of her danger. He goes for Tarzan and, returning, tricks the guards so Tarzan can overcome them. One of the guards recovers and goes to warn Black John. As Tarzan is breaking the last of Mary's chains the shadows of Black John and his conspirators are seen. A knife is raised and plunges down towards the shadow of Tarzan. 

    Chapter Seven: The Leopard's Lair
    Tarzan senses their peril. He whirls and grapples with their menacing foes. A vicious fight ensues. Mary and Bobby flee. Black John attempts to capture them, but Bobby outwits him and they escape. When Tarzan overpowers his foes the patriarch of the tribe is awed. He asks Tarzan to be chief of the tribe in place of Black John. Mary persuades Tarzan to accept and the ceremonial rites are set for that night. While the ceremony is in progress Black John steals the sleeping Bobby. Mary discovers that the boy has vanished and tries to reach Tarzan, but she is not allowed to enter the ceremonial chamber. While Black John sleeps in his secret hiding-place in the jungle, Bobby steals Tarzan's papers from him. Black John wakens and pursues the boy into the jungle. When the ceremony is over, Mary tells Tarzan that Bobby has disappeared. Tarzan leads the tribe in search of the lost child. Bobby takes refuge in a leopard's cave to escape his pursuer. The leopard returns and makes ready to leap upon the terrified boy. Tarzan is told by a monkey, whose language he understands, where to find Bobby. While he speeds to the rescue, Mary is followed and seized by Taug, the ape, who carries her off. 

    Chapter Eight: The Jungle Traitor

    Tarzan, warned by the monkey of Bobby's plight, comes to the rescue and vanquished the leopard, but Bobby gets out through a secret passage without seeing Tarzan. He is again caught by Black John and taken away. A native runs to Tarzan and tells him that Mary is in the clutches of Taug, the ape, Tarzan sets out to rescue her. Black John and Bobby come upon an expedition headed by Lord Greystoke (Lorimer Johnston), in search of the lost heir, Tarzan. 

    Having stolen Tarzan's papers, Black John represents himself as Tarzan. Bobby insists that Black John is an impostor, but the latter assures Lord Greystoke that a recent illness has made Bobby irresponsible. Lord Greystoke insists upon more evidence and Black John says he will produce the family hunting knife, which he knows Tarzan has. As he leaves Greystoke's camp he steals a rifle and starts for Tarzan's hut. Tarzan overtakes Taug, and after a terrific battle, overcomes him and frees Mary. He takes her to his hut and tells her he will continue the hunt for Bobby. As he stands in his lookout in the tree top, Black John spies him and shoots. Tarzan tumbles form the tree with a crash. 

    Chapter Nine: Lost in the Jungle
    Tarzan saves Mary Trevor from the clutches of Taug, the ferocious gorilla and carries her to his hut. Meantime, Black John is stalking Tarzan in order to steal certain papers and heirlooms and establish himself as the Earl of Greystoke. As Tarzan leaves the hut to go in search of Bobby, Black John sees him in a tree and shoots him. Tarzan falls from the tree unconscious, though not seriously wounded. Black John believes him dead, as does Mary, who heard the gun shot and ran to Tarzan. Black John enters the hut and seizes the credentials proving Tarzan's identity. He then insists that Mary go with him, but she refuses, preferring death to such a course. At Greystoke's camp, Bobby tells the lord what a great man Tarzan is, and how Tarzan once saved him and Tantor the elephant. Greystoke is deeply impressed by the boy's story and determines to find Tarzan. In the meantime, Mary and Tarzan, who has recovered, set out to find Bobby. On their way to Tarzan's hut Greystoke and Bobby meet Black John, who tries to convince Greystoke that he is the missing heir. Greystoke tells Black John he must find Tarzan before making a decision. Black John becomes furious, and at the point of his gun drives Bobby and Lord Greystoke into a cave, blocking the entrance with a big boulder. He tells them he will report their death and claim the Greystoke title. Hastening to their camp he dons Greystoke's clothes. Seeing Tarzan and Mary approaching the tent, Black John tries to shoot at Tarzan from ambush, but fears to fire because of Mary. Mary and Tarzan come into the tent and Mary, seeing Black John with his back turned, thinks him a stranger. She inquire fore Bobby. When he answers Tarzan recognizes his voice and leaps at him just as Black John pulls the trigger of his pistol. 

    Chapter Ten: The Jaws of Death
    Mary tries to intervene between the two men and Tarzan seizes the opportunity to wrest the gun from Black John and would kill him were it not for Mary's protest. Tarzan yields to her plea and contents himself with binding Black John to a tree, after which they resume their search for Bobby. Tarzan calls his jungle friends to help him locate Bobby. A monkey who has discovered the prisoners in the cave leads Tarzan and Mary to their rescue.  Greystoke, returning to camp, finds Black John who tells him their camp has been attacked by natives and Greystoke and Bobby carried away. The secretary doubts the story and tells Black John that he will remain bound until Greystoke returns. Black John makes a proposition to the secretary that they return together to England and claim the title and estates of Lord Greystoke. Meanwhile at the cave Greystoke sees Tarzan's knife and recognizes the family crest carved on the handle. Mary produces the papers and trinkets, which they had taken from Black John, and Greystoke realizes that Tarzan is the legitimate heir he seeks. Before returning to England Lord Greystoke wishes to visit the hut where his brother died. When they arrive they are startled by the appearance of Black John, who covers them with a gun. The secretary appears in another part of the hut and also covers them. They turn to make a dash for freedom and discover they are surrounded by natives. 

    Chapter Eleven: A Thief in the NIght
    Tarzan gives his battle cry and leaps upon Black John. They fight. The secretary takes flight. Tantor comes in response to Tarzan's cry and scatters the blacks. Tarzan overpowers Black John and throws him out. Lord Greystoke is satisfied that Tarzan is the man he is seeking and they leave for the sea coast. Black John finds the secretary in the jungle. He forces him to return to Lord Greystoke, present an alibi, and regain his confidence. During the night the secretary is to stab Greystoke, steal Tarzan's documents and bring them to Black John. The secretary agrees and rejoins the party. That night, at the jungle camp, the secretary carries out Black John's plan and steals the papers, leaving Greystoke badly wounded. Tarzan, sleeping in a nearby tree senses danger. He rouses Mary, who goes to Greystoke's assistant, while he follows the secretary into the wilds. The secretary turns the papers over to Black John, who promptly deserts him, leaving him at the mercy of the wild beasts. At the camp Mary looks up at a sound and sees Black John advancing on her with leering face and clutching hands. 

    Chapter Twelve: The Enemy of Tarzan
    Black John grabs Mary, but she gains possession of the knife and threatens to kill herself if he harms Greystoke. She agrees to go with Black John if he will leave the man in peace. Black John agrees. At the scene of the secretary's fate Tarzan searches in vain for the stolen documents. Failing to find them, he concludes that Black John must have them and calls on his friends, the beasts, to locate his enemy. Bobby, sneaking from camp at Black John's entrance, finally finds Tarzan, who races back to save Mary. Black John again gets Mary into his clutches when she stumbles and falls. Intent upon the destruction of Greystoke he starts back to the camp. Suddenly he hears Tarzan coming through the jungle. He picks up Mary and carries her off. He sees two renegades from the Lost Village and enlists their aid. Seeking to impress them he fires his gun and Tarzan who is searching for them is directed by the shot ot their hiding place. When he discovers them Tarzan makes a leap for Black John, but is overpowered and bound to a tree. Numa, the lion, who is Tarzan's enemy, is heard roaring in the forest and Black John thinking the beast will destroy him drags away the horrified Mary. 

    Chapter Thirteen: Perilous Paths
    Tarzan found Mary in the hands of Black John, but as he is about to rescue her he is knocked on the head. Black John's men tie their unconscious victim to a tree. Tarzan, regaining consciousness, sees a lion about to spring on him. He is saved by the elephant, who drives the lion away and helps Tarzan loosen his bonds. Black John imprisons Mary in a cave, and leaving his henchmen to guard her, returns to Greystoke's camp and demands a letter certifying that he is the real Lord Greystoke instead of Tarzan. Meanwhile, with the aid of his jungle friends, Tarzan finds the cave where Mary is imprisoned. The guards attack him and they have a desperate battle. Having forced the wounded Greystoke to sign false documents proving his identity Black John attacks him, intent upon his death. 

    Chapter Fourteen: Facing Death
    The explosion of the mine laid by Black John in the stream works havoc in the little party. Mary and Tarzan are thrown against a log senseless while Lord Greystoke and Bobby, hurled on the bank of the stream, appear to be dead. Just as Mary is regaining consciousness she realizes that Black John is near her ransacking Tarzan's treasure box. Before she can cry out and arouse Tarzan, Black John forces her out of the stream. He threatens to leave Bobby, who is still breathing, to die unless she promises to marry him. Lord Greystoke, still dazed is forced along with the others and finally taken aboard his own yacht by Black John, who tells the Captain that he is the authentic heir. Meanwhile, Tarzan regains his wits and is frantic when he discovers his friends have disappeared -- after hours of searching he makes his way to the coast and seeing the yacht at anchor in the bay, seizes a canoe and is soon stealing on board. Just as he is making his way below he hears a cry from Mary. He finds Mary the unwilling victim of Black John's love making. A fierce battle follows -- Black John forces Tarzan up to the deck where the sea men, mistaking Tarzan for an enemy, aid Black John in his fight until Tarzan is thrown into the sea. 

    Chapter Fifteen: The Reckoning
    After Black John succeeded in throwing Tarzan into the sea, Mary Trevor was in a desperate situation. The Earl of Greystoke suffered a complete lapse of memory and was putty in the hands of the unscrupulous villain. When they reached England they were enthusiastically greeted at Greystoke Castle. Black John was hailed as the future Earl by the unsuspecting retainers. Plans for the wedding which Black John was forcing upon Mary were quickly arranged and the fateful day arrived. Little did Mary dream that Tarzan had been picked up by a fishing vessel and landed in a little village on the English coast. When the wedding ceremony was half over Tarzan, ragged and breathless, burst in upon them. The sudden shock of his appearance restored the clarity of Lord Greystoke's mind. He denounced Black John as an impostor and Tarzan claimed the willing Mary as his bride.


    From the Brian Bohnett collection
    Frank Merrill

    Novelization by Arthur B. Reeve


    I.  Jungle King
    II. Queen of His Kind  5
    III. Black John Plots    6
    IV. A Pawn of Passion  8
    V. Tantor Trumpets    9
    VI. Giant Emotions    10
    VII. Flaming Hate       11
    VIII. Mock Marriage   12
    IX. Black John's Revenge   13
    X. The Imposter    14
    XI. The Stolen Heritage    15
    XII. Treachery Higher Up   16
    XIII. A Thief in the Night     17
    XIV. Momentary Triumph   19
    XV.  The Day of Reckoning   19
    Read the Novelization in ERBzine Starting At:


    Tarzan the Mighty
    Tarzan the Tiger
    Merrill Remembered
    Part I
    Merrill Remembered
    Part II
    Merrill Remembered
    Part III
    Tarzan the Mighty
    Gallery 1
    Tarzan the Mighty
    Gallery 2
    Tarzan the Mighty
    Gallery 3
    Photo Gallery

        WEB REFS
    ERBzine Silver Screen Series: An Online Resource Guide to the Movies of Edgar Rice Burroughs
    ERB and the Silver Screen Volume I - The Silent Years by Jerry Schneider
    Jerry Schneider's Movie Making Locations
    Serial Summary
    ERB On The Silver Screen

    Volume 0592

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