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Volume 6308

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

From TARZAN ON FILM by Scott Tracy Griffin


Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #61
As Monopol Pictures producer Pliny P. Craft dickered with Edgar Rice Burroughs over “The Return of Tarzan” contract details, he wrangled an option for Burroughs’ fourth Tarzan novel, “The Son of Tarzan,” from the author. (Craft and his scenarist, Charles A. Logue felt that Burroughs' third Tarzan novel, "The Beasts of Tarzan," which sees Tarzan leading a panther and an army of apes against the kidnappers of his son, was unfilmable.) When Craft did not meet his July 1, 1919 deadline to produce “Return” (the rights of which he subsequently sold to the Weiss Brothers), he lost the rights to “Son.”

Meanwhile, at First National Pictures Corp., producer William Parsons died of kidney disease on September 28, 1919; with Burroughs’ bête noire now gone from the company, Harry Rubey took over and contracted with Burroughs to produce the 15-chapter serial “The Son of Tarzan,” based on the novel. The author signed a contract for a 15-chapter serial on November 14, 1919, for $20,000 against his royalty.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #62
Incensed by losing rights to the fourth ape-man novel, “The Son of Tarzan,” producer Pliny Craft of Monopol Pictures began a campaign to sabotage his rival, First National Film Corp. which had optioned the “Son” rights.

Craft recruited Elmo Lincoln (then shooting serials at Universal) to negotiate with D.W. Griffith to buy Craft's “Return of Tarzan” rights, to upstage First National’s production. When that gambit failed, Craft took out ads in the trades announcing that Tantor Pictures Corporation would film a 15-chapter serial titled “The Adventures of Tarzan” with wrestler Bull Montana as “chief of the ape clan.” The following month, Craft took out an ad in the trade “Wid’s Film Daily” proclaiming “The Real Tarzan is Coming!” to be produced by the Tarzan Film Company, a spiteful ploy aimed at Burroughs’ prior refusal to allow Craft to name his production company after the ape man.

Burroughs sued, eventually journeying from California to New York for a February 28, 1923, court date, where the suit was dismissed. One benefit of Burroughs’ trip was that he contracted with the Howells Sales Company to distribute a feature version of the 15-chapter “Son” serial (which First National had released in 1920-21). Returning to his Tarzana home, he spent four-weeks editing the serial into a seven-reel feature with re-written title cards.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #63
On April 3, 1920, Hollywood trade papers announced that the first Tarzan serial, “The Son of Tarzan,” produced by National Film Corporation, would star Jack Hoxie, the leading man in the Western serial “Lightning Bryce.” Lucille Rubey, the wife of National Film Corp. head Harry Rubey, was slated for the female lead, with Kenneth Nordyke to play Korak, the Son of Tarzan, at age 15. House Peters, Sr. was announced to play Tarzan.

The serial was to be shot on a South Seas island for atmosphere, with natives furnishing “local color;” the cast would also include “more than 300 apes, orangutangs, gorillas, and chimpanzees.” Cast and crew would be transported around the globe via the yacht “The Star of the East.” Despite the ambitious announcement, the production of “The Son of Tarzan” shot in Southern California with a different cast when it went before the cameras in June 1920.

Born January 11, 1885 in a small cabin near Kingfisher Creek, Oklahoma Territory, Jack Hartford Hoxie grew up in Idaho following his veterinarian father’s death, and began working as a cowboy and ranch hand. He became a national rodeo champion and joined Dick Stanley’s Wild West Show, eventually arriving in Hollywood to begin appearing in silent Westerns as Hart Hoxie in 1913. He changed his stagename to Jack Hoxie for “Lightning Bryce,” a 15-chapter serial produced by National Film Corporation, which served as an audition to play Korak in “The Son of Tarzan.” When his request for a raise was denied, the strapping, six-foot Hoxie declined the lead in “The Son of Tarzan,” and continued to star in Westerns throughout the silent era, thoroughly typecast in the role for which he was best suited. Married three times, he died of leukemia on March 28, 1965 in Elkhart, Kansas.

Robert House Peters, Sr. was born in Bristol England on March 12, 1880, and traveled the world, working as a mining technician in South Africa and serving in the Boer War. He gained prominence as a romantic leading man of the early silent era. He married actress Mae King in 1914 and had three children, including son House Peters, Jr. (1916-2008), who also became an actor. Peters, Sr. died December 7, 1967 in Woodland Hills, California.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #64
Cast in “Son of Tarzan” leads were novice actors Kamuela Searle and Manilla Martan as the grown son of Tarzan, Korak, and his love, Meriem.

The second-oldest of 10 siblings, Samuel Cooper Searle was born on August 29, 1890 at Waichinu, Kauai, on the island of Hawaii; he took the stage name Kamuela as a Hawaiianized version of his birth name. He was the son of the islands’ former sheriff, John Cooper Searle, a transplanted Australian, and Hawaiian-born Sarah Yates Searle. A popular local athlete, Searle was an excellent swimmer, surfer, equestrian, sharp shooter, and jiu jitsu expert.

Searle was discovered on the beach at Waikiki by Cecil B. DeMille, who encouraged him to move to Hollywood and take up film training, later casting Searle in “Male and Female” (1919) and “Fool’s Paradise” (1921). Searle left the film industry in 1921 to purse his avocation of painting and sculpture, and died of cancer on February 14, 1924.

Manilla Martan was born Angela M. Martin in Colorado on July 4, 1898, taking her stage name from Admiral George Dewey’s decisive Spanish-American War victory over the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay (she added an extra “l”). Like Enid Markey before her, she left her Hollywood career behind to appear on the Broadway stage, assuming the name Nita Martan, returning to Hollywood film roles in 1927 under her new name. In 1932, she retired from acting after marrying Ernest Klapholz in Arkansas. Martan died June 1, 1986 in Riverside, California, age 88.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #65
The 1920 First National Film Corp. serial “The Son of Tarzan” recast Karla Schramm (“The Revenge of Tarzan”) in the Jane role, but went an unconventional route in hiring P. Dempsey Tabler to play Tarzan.

Perce Dempsey Tabler was born in Nashville, Tennessee to Major John Henry Tabler, and the former Mary Temple Crudup in 1875 or 1876 (conflicting genealogical records exist). Tabler attended military academies, where he excelled in track and field and was an amateur boxing champion and football player. He studied opera in Leipzig, Germany, later relocating to Hollywood to appear in Thomas H. Ince’s Triangle Productions where he played a supporting role to Enid Markey (the silver screen’s first “Jane”) in the 1916 films “The Phantom” and “The Captive God.”

Tabler broke several ribs wrestling with Eugene Burr (who portrayed the villain Paulovitch), and had a heroic encounter with a lion, as recounted by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs in the article “Tarzan’s Seven Lives” published in the May 1934 “Screen Play Magazine”:

“During filming of another (“Son of Tarzan”) scene that was being taken on location, a lion escaped from a small temporary arena in which the shots were being made as was at liberty in a wood for four or five hours. Tabler discovered him stalking something, and in an instant later saw a little boy in a red sweater, who was crying excitedly, ‘Here he is, Skinny, I’ve found him!’ totally unconscious of the fact that the lion was about to spring upon him.

“Tabler gave a war whoop that would have put Tarzan himself to shame and charged the lion.

“It was ticklish moment. Lions are nervous and temperamental. Previous experience with lions cannot assure you what the next lion is going to do under any given circumstances.

“Fortunately for Tabler and the little boy in the red sweater, Numa turned tail and fled. So did the little boy.”

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #66
Gordon Griffith and Mae Giraci played Tarzan’s son Jack Clayton and his love interest Meriem as children in the silent serial “The Son of Tarzan” (1920). The adult Jack (aka Korak the Killer) and Meriem were portrayed by Kamuela Searle and Manilla Martan.

Griffith returned to the film series after playing Tarzan as a child in the first two films, “Tarzan of the Apes” (1918) and “The Romance of Tarzan” (1918). Born July 4, 1907, in Chicago, Illinois to actors Harry Sutherland Griffith and Katherine Kierman Griffith, Gordon began acting at age four with Universal, and worked for Vitagraph, Keystone, Metro, and Monogram. He continued appearing in roles until adulthood, before transitioning into work as an assistant director and production manager, eventually becoming a Columbia production executive under Harry Cohn. Griffith died of a heart attack on October 12, 1958 in Hollywood.

Mae Georgia Giraci was born in Los Angeles on January 22, 1910 to Italian immigrants Santo and Ann De Nubila Giraci. She was discovered at age five playing in the front yard of her home in L.A.’s Little Italy neighborhood and was soon working in films for directors including D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille.

Giraci appeared under a variety of stagenames in more than two dozen films during her childhood Soon after her graduation from Hollywood High School, she retired from the film industry, marrying Herman Platz, and bearing three children. She died January 10, 2006 in Los Angeles.

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #67
The 15-chapter 1920 National Film Corporation serial “The Son of Tarzan” is one of the most faithful adaptations of a Tarzan novel, probably due to author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ involvement in the production. The serial is currently available on DVD.
A brief synopsis:

Chapter 1: “The Call of the Jungle”

Lord and Lady Greystone (sic) are stranded in Africa when their yacht explodes. Following the Greystones’ death, their child is adopted by apes and grows to manhood as Tarzan (P. Dempsey Tabler). When Jane (Karla Schramm) and her party are stranded in the jungle, Tarzan rescues them and returns to civilization with Jane, leaving his forlorn ape friend Akut behind.

Fifteen years later, Tarzan and Jane’s son Jack (Gordon Griffith), living in England feels the lure of the jungle. In Africa, Tarzan’s old enemy Paulovich (who was marooned in the jungle in the prior novel) is rescued by a passing ship, accompanied by a tame ape whom he takes to England to perform as Ajax. Jack sneaks out to the theater to watch the trained ape show and is invited backstage by Paulovich (Eugene Burr)—who then seeks to kill the son of his hated enemy . . 

Chapter 2: “Out of the Lion’s Jaws”

Akut overpowers Paulovich, and he and Jack escape. Swiping Paulovich’s money and personal effects, Jack takes passage on a steamship to return Ajax (Akut) to Africa. When they dock, Akut kills a thief who breaks in to rob Jack, and the pair go on the lam into the African interior . . .

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #68
The 15-chapter 1920 National Film Corporation serial “The Son of Tarzan” is one of the most faithful adaptations of a Tarzan novel, probably due to author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ involvement in the production. The serial is currently available on DVD.

A brief synopsis (continued):

Chapter 3: “The Girl of the Jungle”

Tarzan’s enemy Paulovich (Eugene Burr) teams up with the Swedish sailor Malbihn (Ray Thompson) to return to Africa in pursuit of a large reward from French Captain Jacot for the safe return of his young daughter Meriem (Mae Giraci), abducted by a vengeful Sheik Amor Ben Khatour (Frank Merrill, who would return to the series as Tarzan in a pair of Universal serials in 1928-29).

In Africa, Tarzan and Jane’s son Jack (Gordon Griffith) learns to survive in the wild. He and Akut the ape come upon little Meriem being beaten by the Sheik. Jack overpowers the Sheik and rescues Meriem to live with him and Akut in the forest.

Chapter 4: “The Sheik’s Revenge”

When Paulovich and Malbihn offer the Sheik a ransom for the captive girl, they realize that the boy and ape who have rescued Meriem are Jack and Ajax (Akut). The furious Sheik blames them for the loss of his captive, and they flee to back to their ship. There, Jack, thinking the sailors are friends, boards the vessel, and is confronted by Paulovich, who allows Jack to escape, hoping the boy will lead them to the girl. After the sailors depart the ship in an unfruitful chase to find Meriem, the Sheik and his men dynamite the boat, stranding Paulovich and Malbihn and their henchmen.

Chapter 5: “The Pirates’ Prey"

Jack has grown to adulthood as “Korak the Killer” (Kamuela Searle). He and Meriem (Manilla Martan) live in harmony in the jungle with Akut, while Paulovich and the Swedes have become the most notorious ivory-thieves in the jungle . . .
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Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #69
The 15-chapter 1920 National Film Corporation serial “The Son of Tarzan” is one of the most faithful screen adaptations of a Tarzan novel, probably due to author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ involvement in the production. The serial is currently available on DVD.

A brief synopsis (continued):

Chapter 6: “The Killer’s Mate”
The villainous Paulovich (Eugene Burr) and Malbihn (Ray Thompson) and the Sheik (Frank Merrill) converge on the native village of Kovudoo, hoping to steal the tribe’s ivory. Korak (Kamuela Searle) arrives, too, hoping to filch some jewelry as a gift for Meriem (Manilla Martan). Korak sees Paulovich and attacks him, but both are captured by the Sheik and his men . . .

Chapter 7: “The Quest of the Killer”
In Korak’s absence, Akut reunites with his former ape tribe, whose leader takes a shine to Meriem. The Sheik decides to ransom Korak from his father, Tarzan (P. Dempsey Tabler), and dispatches Paulovich to England to arrange the payment.
Meanwhile, Akut frees Korak, who battles the apes’ monarch, and wins Meriem’s hand and the kingship of the apes. Korak presents her with the necklace he took from the native village, and they kiss for the first time. The moment is broken up by the attack of the Sheik’s men, and Korak is speared in the back . . .

Chapter 8: “The Coming of Tarzan”
The Sheik’s men take Meriem, leaving Korak for dead. In England, Paulovich convinces Jane (Karla Schramm) to bring the ransom to Africa. Tarzan uncovers the plot and attacks Paulovich, who escapes and boards the ship to Africa with Jane. Recuperated from his spear wound, Korak tries to rescue Meriem from the Sheik’s village—and is shot out of a tree and left for dead (again) . . .

Chapter 9: “The Kiss of the Beast”
The Swedes recover the wounded Korak and return to their camp to hold him for ransom (or force him to give up Meriem for her ransom). In England, Tarzan finds a clue to Jane and Paulovich’s mission, and sets out after them. Jane and Paulovich are captured by the Sheik; after Korak finally rescues Meriem, she tells him of another female captive in the village. Korak’s attempt to retrieve Jane ends with him trapped in a pit with a hungry lion . . .

Chapter 10: “Tarzan Takes the Trail”
While Korak battles his way out of the lion pit, Tarzan arrives to rescue Jane, and the Swedes fight over Meriem (with still more escapes and recaptures in the proceedings) . . .

Chapter 11: “Ashes of Love”
Tarzan and Jane rescue Meriem from the Swedes and take the girl back to their ranch, where she is wooed by a British cad, the “Honorable” Morrison Baynes. Korak, believing Meriem dead, is despondent . . .

Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #70
The 15-chapter 1920 National Film Corporation serial “The Son of Tarzan” is one of the most faithful adaptations of a Tarzan novel, probably due to author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ involvement in the production. The serial is currently available on DVD.

A brief synopsis (continued):

Chapter 12: “Meriem’s Ride in the Night”

The caddish Morrison Baynes (uncredited) convinces Meriem (Manilla Martan) to leave Tarzan’s (P. Dempsey Tabler) ranch and elope with him, but is exposed as a coward when he flees an attacking lion. Paulovich (Eugene Burr) and the Swedes plot, and Korak (Kamuela Searle) mourns the loss of Meriem . . .

Chapter 13: “Double-Cross”

Tarzan exiles the cowardly Baynes from Greystone (sic) Ranch, but Paulovich intercepts Baynes and convinces him to abduct Meriem. Dispatching Baynes on an errand, Paulovich and the Swedes flee with Meriem, still bent on obtaining the reward for her return to her father. Malbihn (Ray Thompson) tries to force himself on Meriem . . .

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