“The Girl from Hollywood” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a novel about an aspiring actress, Shannon Burke, struggling with drug addiction, who finds refuge and rejuvenation with the Pennington family at their Rancho del Ganado home.
Novel Setting is ERB’s Tarzana Ranch –1/8
The first time I read the story, I knew little about the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs himself. But when I read it again, several years later, I had learned a lot more of the background of the man who wrote it, and I wasn’t far into the story before I started coming across passages that I was recognizing as being things that were true in the life of the author.
Most of my growing knowledge of ERB’s life had come from biographies, but I also had the privilege, by the time of my re-read, of visiting a former home of the author– the very home which served as the model for “Rancho del Ganado,” the setting for “The Girl from Hollywood.”
This was the Tarzana Ranch, overlooking the Southern California community of Tarzana, a tour of which was one of the activities of the 1989 Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship gathering. Fans toured the grounds and home which, though much changed from ERB’s days, still featured some intact reminders, including the old ballroom, ERB’s writing quarters, the swimming pool, fish ponds and one of the author’s old pickup trucks.
Having seen all that, the more I read of “The Girl from Hollywood,” the more I felt “at home.”
The foremost ERB biography, “Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan,” by Irwin Porges, confirmed my conclusions and enhanced them with even more details about life on the Tarzana ranch which paralleled descriptions of happenings in GH.
The classic P.J. Monahan painting of “The Girl from Hollywood,” published by The Macauley Company in 1923, will be used with new lettering on the dust jacket of a “centennial edition” to be published this Spring by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
The new edition will also have a frontispiece by Douglas Klauba and an introduction by Michael D. Sellers, author of “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.,” plus rare and never-before-seen bonus materials from the archives of Burroughs in Tarzana.
Edgar Rice Burroughs and his family were comfortably settled at the Tarzana Ranch in 1922 when he used it as the setting for “The Girl from Hollywood,” a story that took place upon the ranch of the fictional Custer Pennington family.
"THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD"
The Moorish Castle…and More -- 2/8
So as he wrote the story, all he had to do was look around him. He described the Pennington ranch house as standing “upon the summit of a low hill, the declining sun transforming its plastered walls, its cupolas, the sturdy arches of its arcades, into the ambiance of a Moorish castle….” (GH, Chapter II).
Those fans who had the opportunity to visit the ranch during the 1989 ECOF saw no “Moorish castle,” for it had been leveled years before as part of a radical renovation. But the picture on page 306 of Irwin Porges’ ERB biography (hardback edition) along with other photos in the book, clearly shows the multiple archways along the outer walls of the house which did, indeed, give it the appearance of Moorish architecture.
Porges comments on the use of the Tarzana ranch for the model of the spread described in the book: “In contrast to the unhealthful atmosphere of Hollywood, a city painted as a glamor capital that lures naïve, movie-struck girls to their downfall, Burroughs uses his Tarzana ranch for another setting – the ranch demonstrating the virtues of a simple outdoor life and the invigorating effects of horseback ridings.” (Porges, p. 352)
“With the inclusion of certain elements – the description of life at Tarzana, the realistic details about the ranch house, and the horseback rides into the hills and canyons—the story does arouse some strong interest,” Porges continued.
Joseph Bray of A.C. McClurg & Co., which published Burroughs’ early books with the exception of this one, nonetheless commented to Burroughs, “You pay a deserved tribute to the healthy country life as you have lived it…” (Porges, p. 352)
Though Burroughs and his family were not the same ages as the various members of the Pennington clan, he nonetheless used family experiences as models for things the fictional Penningtons did. In inscribing a copy of the finished book, he wrote: “To my dear son Jack who knows Rancho del Ganado like a book and loves it like a Pennington.” (Reported in “Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection: A Catalog,” by George T. McWhorter)
Porges writes, “In Eva, the daughter and darling of the Pennington household, whose doting parents indulged her capricious behavior, Burroughs’ real-life model was probably his own daughter Joan.” (p. 352)
Ralph Herman, who owned the Tarzana property at the time of the 1989 ECOF, conducted a tour for attendees and provided each participant with a typewritten history of the Tarzana ranch.
He noted the first recorded owner of the land was General Harrison Gray Otis, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, who acquired the property in 1909-10 and supervised construction of the “Moorish castle,” calling his estate Casa Milflores.
Burroughs acquired the land in 1919. Between 1927 and 1931, Herman said that ERB “for some still unknown reason…decided to demolish the main General Otis residence.” So Burroughs himself did away with the Moorish castle effect that he had immortalized in “The Girl from Hollywood.” But in his renovation he preserved the ballroom (mentioned in GH) and his old writing quarters, which in 1989 were being used as a child’s bedroom.
Click for larger images from the ERBzine M.A.P.L.E Galleries
Accompanying art from the June 1922 edition of Munsey Magazine, containing first of six installments of "The Girl from Hollywood," accompanied by the Munsey covers for all six installments are featured in the ERBzine Pulp Encyclopedia
Anyone who has seen the swimming pool at the old Tarzana Ranch of Edgar Rice Burroughs will recognize it as the one described in his novel, “The Girl from Hollywood,” which first appeared as a magazine serial in 1922.
"THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD"
The Watery Worlds of Tarzana Ranch and del Ganado 3/8
Among fans who had the opportunity to see that pool were those in attendance at the 1989 ECOF in Tarzana.
ERB supervised construction of that pool in 1919, not too long after acquiring the property. The large, deep pool (empty at the time of the ECOF) was cut by hand from solid rock, reported Ralph Herman, owner of the property at the time.
“The pool was also designed as the irrigation reservoir for the extensive concrete pipe water system which extended northerly toward Ventura Boulevard,” Herman noted.
As I looked at that pool in 1989, it was easy to recognize it as the one described in GH. It made me wonder how many of the scenes described in the novel were typical of things which took place in the Burroughs family:“A few minutes later he entered the inclosure west of the house, where the swimming pool lay. Mrs. Pennington and her guests were already in the pool, swimming vigorously to keep warm, and a moment later the colonel and Custer ran from the house and dived in simultaneously. Though there were twenty-six years difference in their ages, it was not evident by any lesser vitality or agility on the part of the older man.” (GH, Chapter III)ERB was around 47 at the time this was written and his oldest child, Joan, was 14, so I wonder if he imagined himself in the role of the older Pennington or the younger when describing a scene like that. Perhaps a little of both.
Chapter IV of GH begins with another mention of the pool in a discussion about the benefits of life on the ranch in general. And one might well regard this to be just as much a description of life at Tarzana as at Ganado:“Work and play were inextricably entangled upon Ganado, the play being of a nature that fitted them better for their work, while the work, always in the open and usually from the saddle, they enjoyed fully as much as the play. While the tired business man of the city was expending a day’s vitality and nervous energy in an effort to escape from the turmoil of the mad rush-hour and find a strap from which to dangle homeward amid the toxic effluvia of the melting pot, Colonel Pennington plunged and swam in the cold, invigorating waters of his pool, after a day of labor fully as constructive and profitable as theirs.”In the same chapter, we find a scene of play in the pool that surely typified the kind of water fun ERB enjoyed with his children:“They were off. The colonel, who had preceded them leisurely into the deep water, swam close to his son as the latter was passing, a yard in the lead. Simultaneously the young man’s progress ceased. With a Comanche-like yell he turned upon his father, and the two men grappled and went down. When they came up, spluttering and laughing, the girl was climbing out of the pool.”The large swimming pool was not the only watery attraction on the old Tarzana ranch. Herman, in his history of the ranch, also reported that,“Additionally, Burroughs constructed a series of interconnecting fish ponds that extend from the upper part of the knoll, southerly. He mined a high grade Paloverdes type of stone and granite boulders found on the property, which he used to line the edges of the ponds and waterways.”During the ’89 ranch tour, I recall seeing only one of the fish ponds. But Burroughs describes the series of ponds in GH Chapter VI, as Guy and Eva take a romantic stroll:“They walked on in silence along the winding pathways among the flower-bordered pools, to stop at last beside the lower one. This had originally been a shallow wading pool for the children when they were small, but it was now given over to water hyacinth and brilliant fantails.If teen-age Joan Burroughs was really the model for a more mature Eva, then one can imagine that this game of seeing a fish in each pool was one she played herself.
“There!” said the girl, presently. “I have seen fish in each pool.”
“And you can go to bed with a clear conscience tonight,” he laughed.
Scans are of advertisements for "The Girl from Hollywood." The first one, advertising the serial in Munsey Magazine, was provided by George T. McWhorter, curator of the ERB Memorial Collection at the University of Louisville.
The Macauley book advertisement comes from a page in Henry Hardy Heins's "A Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs.”
Alan Hanson, official editor of ERBapa at the time, used the images for mailing No. 38, Summer 1993, when many ERBapa members participated in a symposium on "The Girl from Hollywood."
My facebook posts on the story are from my contribution to that apa.
When Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote “The Girl from Hollywood,” he described the use of a ballroom by the Pennington family. No doubt ERB was drawing on personal experience and describing it in one of the same ways his own family had used it when they resided at Tarzana Ranch, the setting for the story’s Rancho del Ganado.
"THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD" IN ERB’S HOUSE
The Ballroom of Tarzana – 4/8
The old Burroughs ballroom was a popular place when ERB fans had the opportunity to step into it during a 1989 ECOF tour. Not only did they have the opportunity to imagine ERB himself and his family in that room, but Ralph Herman, owner of the ranch at the time of the tour, had especially enhanced the décor for the visit by placing old Tarzan movie posters along the walls.
During that 1989 ECOF, an additional attraction was Joe Musso, who was showing off his collection of authentic movie-prop knives used by Johnny Weissmuller. Fans took turns holding a knife in a threatening manner while having their photos taken with a movie poster in the background.
The actual use of the ballroom in Burroughs’ day may well have been like that attributed to the Penningtons. This was the era before TV, so instead of sitting in front of the tube all evening, families had to devise other forms of amusement.
In GH, Chapter V, we read of Colonel Pennington and his daughter Eva: “…they started for the ballroom—really a big play room—which adjoined the garage. Behind them, laughing and talking, came the two older women, the two sons, and Grace Evans. They would dance for an hour and then go to bed, for they rose early and were in the saddle before sunrise, living their happy, care-free lives far from the strife and squalor of the big cities, and yet with more of the comforts and luxuries than most city dwellers ever achieve.”
Next: Horses, of Course, on Tarzana Ranch
Scans are of the cover of the hardbound Macauley Company book (ERBzine), which shows a lit pipe, probably supposed to represent a pipe used for smoking drugs, although Shannon Burke, the girl in "The Girl from Hollywood," prefers injections. The other scan is of the dust jacket, showing the book's jacket and spine, with illustration by P.J. Monahan
When “The Girl from Hollywood” was reprinted by ACE in the late 60s, it was trimmed in several places. The new edition by ERB Inc. will restore the full text as originally published by Macauley.
Learn more about the book and see how to order here:
NEXT: PART 5
Horses, of Course, on Tarzana Ranch
THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD in ERBzine ERB Bibliography
TARZANA RANCH 1921
An Illustrated Docu/Novel by Bill Hillman
Ed's Inner Sanctum
Mansion & Ballroom
Special The Girl From Hollywood Issue
Burroughs Bulletin Issue New Series 31 Reprinted in ERBzine 5231
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