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Volume 6893

Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzana Ranch
was the inspiration for his novel:
Continued in Part II
By Bill Hillman

ERB, Inc. is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of
The Girl From Hollywood
with a special Centennial Edition

Click for full-size images

ERB's TARZANA RANCH ~ 1922 ~ Looking SW
The Inspiration for the Penningtons' Rancho Del Granado

The Tarzana Ranch Inspiration
Readers familiar with the classic view of ERB’s fiction will find that The Girl from California is in a different vein – it deals with a real life type situation in a real life place.
One of the intentions ERB had when he started writing this novel at the end of 1921 was to use it as a means to describe for posterity the grounds and lifestyle he was living at the Rancho. He peppered the book with family and household banter, humour and customs -- much of which he surely drew from real life experiences on Tarzana Ranch.

ERB's main pupose in writing The Girl From Hollywoodwas to present a contrast between the wholesome outdoor famiy life of the fictional Rancho del Ganado which he modeled after Tarzana Ranch and the sordid world of drug additction. The book is peppered with descriptions that surely reflect ERB's own Tarzana observations and experiences -- lines such as:  "Work and play were inextricably entagled upon Ganado, the play being of a nature that better fitted them for their work, while the work, always in the open and usually from the saddle, they enjoyed fully as much as the play."

ERB was obviously sharing his own love of his Tarzana Ranch with descriptions such as: "And the faint haze of the mountains . . . that make them a perfect backdrop for the beautiful hills which the Supreme Artist is placing on his canvas today. An hour from now he will paint another masterpiece, and tonight another, and forever others, with never two alike, nore ever one that mortal man can duplicate. . ."

The Burroughs family's wholesome life on Tarzana Ranch was a far cry from some of the goings on that ERB witnessed in the fast-paced movie making capital of Hollywood. As ERB wrote in a 1928 article: "For ten years I have roamed these hills with my family, both afoot and on horseback. I have watched my children grow to a sturdier health, achieving cleaner minds and morals because of their close companionship with nature."

During the time in from 1920 to 1922 in which ERB was planning and writing this novel, the world press exposed a number of tinsel town scandals. This included the overdose suicide of popular Ziegfeld showgirl actress Olive Thomas (sister-in-law of Mary Pickford) -- the Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle sex scandal -- and the mysterious sordid shooting death of director William Desmond Taylor, president of the Screen Directors' Guild. The sin, debauchery, alcoholism and drug addiction of some of the Hollywood elite was very much in the news. Ed's decision to write a novel contrasting the two lifestyles between that of the Burroughs family on Tarzana Ranch and that of nearby Hollywood resulted in his semi-autobiographical novel The Girl From Hollywood.

The book, originally titled The Penningtons and subititled "A Modern Drama of City and Country Life in Southern California," first appeared in Munsey Magazine in six parts beginning in June 1922 and later published in book form on August 10, 1923 by Macaulay. One reason for writing this book was an attempt to break from his reputation as only a pulp writer and to find a market in the more prestigious "slick" publications of the day. Bob Davis of Munsey's had suggested a more exciting and controversial title such as "The Dope Fiend" or "The Snow Slave" or "The Wages of Sin," but they settled on The Girl From Hollywood but the cover still presented a drug reference by using the image of a dope pipe.

Daughter Joan Burroughs recalled:
"My father did considerable research on the story and our ranch was used as the basis for the background. Dad even instilled some of my speeches and mannerisms into the character of one of the girls. He believed very much in this story and always felt that it was killed quickly by certain Hollywood elements."

Tarzana Ranch Influence
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzana Ranch became Rancho Del Granado (Ranch of Livestock) in his THE GIRL FROM HOLLWOOD. When he moved from the East and bought Miraflores -- the former estate of General Harrison Gray Otis in the San Fernando Valley -- ERB renamed the estate Tarzana Ranch and had dreams of being a successful farmer and livestock owner. His main interest was the raising of Angora goats and Berkshire hogs. There were a few references to Berkshires in the Hollywood book but cattle were the main type of livestock on Del Granado.

Healthy Tarzana Living
ERB was not made out for a nine-to-five business work-day in the big bustling city. He actually presented his Tarzana ranch as a contrast to some of the evils of Hollywood and as an example of the virtues of a simpler outdoor life and the invigorating effects of horseback riding. Ed saw healthy living as the solution to most human ills, even drug addiction which he related in the book.

Love of Animals and Nature:
ERB described the ranch and the surrounding hills as abounding with quail, deer, and coyotes. He noted the presence of mountain lions and spoke of the family's enjoyment in riding along the "many beautiful trails." Ed and Emma each had their own saddle horse and the children each a Shetland pony, besides which they kept a couple of extra saddle horses,

ERB at first looked forward to the experience of shooting and hunting on the property -- a chance to make use of the various firearms in his collection. He even .22 rifles and air guns  for his young boys,

Ed, Emma and Hulbert with .22 rifles

Ed soon developed a respect for wildlife well ahead of his time. His dislike of hunting on his ranch grew after a series of problems with unauthorized hunters on the property and even their slaughtering of some of his lifestock. This resulted in a sincere love and respect for wildlife and he soon enforced a no-hunting policy on his land. It's not unusual then, that Pennington had similar views on hunting in Hollywood.

A 1923 article in the Oakland Tribune Magazine described ERB's love of animals:
"Mr. Burroughs neither hunts nor fishes. His keen sense of justice prevents his finding any fun in killing. He would kill for food or in self-defense, but not for sport. But he gets a keen joy out of hunting with a camera. The master of Tarzana allows no hunting on his estate. Furthermore, he secured an appointment as a deputy game warden in order that he might better protect the wild creatures that live on his land.
    "Two pools in the garden near the house supply clear fresh drinking water for the wild things. As a result of this care and protection, the grounds are alive with small animals, quail and other birds. But the mountain lions and wild cats cannot be tempted to venture so near to civilization.
    "Of all animals, Mr. Burroughs loves horses best. He keeps several mounts and finds keenest joy in the saddle. Riding is another of the subjects in which Mr. Burroughs instructed the students at the Michigan Military Academy, and he was in the cavalry division of the United States Army for several years thereafter.  But Mr. Burroughs' chief pride is his family. Two sons and a daughter have just blossomed into maturity."
    All of these traits were carried over into the description of Colonel Pennington's character.

Tarzana Ranch House
The Pennington ranch house was described as sitting 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….” and was really a tribute to the healthy country lifestyle on Tarzana Ranch. Ed obviously used his family experiences on Tarzana Ranch as models for many of the actions of the fictional Penningtons. He even inscribed the copy of his book  “To my dear son Jack who knows Rancho del Ganado like a book and loves it like a Pennington."

Readers interested in learning about the mansion on Tarzana Ranch are pleased to learn so much about it through ERB's descriptions. Ed and Emma soon recognized the need for alterations and additions to the old Otis residence to suit their life-style and an enormous amount of money and work went into upgrades and decoration of house and grounds. Even the heating facilities of the house were inadequate for a family of five. Ed contracted for the installation of a central steam heating system which necessitated extensive tunneling beneath the house to bring heat to each room.

The front part of the Rancho's mansion looks out over the San Fernando Valley to the north and then the hills and mountains beyond that.  The Santa Monica Mountains were to the west while the Hollywood Hills and Mulholland Drive were to the south. ERB's descriptions of the rugged Ranchland certainly capture the essence of its beauty: "See the purple sage way off there, and the lighter spaces of wild buckwheat, and here and there among the scrub oak the beautiful pale green of the manzanita. . . scintillant jewels in the diadem of the hills."

Much of the book was set in April when the spring vegetation was far more lush than it was when Sue-On and I hiked along the trails south to Mulholland. The scrub oaks and sycamores that lined the canyons were interspersed with hardy chaparral bushes, purple sage, wild buckwheat, shrubs and cactus. The trails we followed crossed scenic creeks, canyons, and ridges. ERB's descriptions of the Ranchland certainly capture the essence of it beauty.

Modern Day Hike Along ERB's Tarzana Ranch Trails

California Summer Heat and Wildfires
In September and October a phenomenon known as the Santa Anna winds would kick in and everyone would swelter under the oppressive dry heat from the desert. Of course, the Santa Anna winds also caused another problem in addition to oppressive heat: wildfires.Wildfires are a truly fearsome danger in Southern California. I don't have any record of major fires threatening ERB's Tarzana Ranch, but he certainly would have been aware of the threat and the dangers must have been of concern. The fighting of such fires in Hollywood provided action scenes in the book. ERB was known for his action scenes, and the fighting of the fires provided the danger, suspense, and heroism that his readers expected.

There was no air conditioning at this time and the Burrough family and the Pennington's had to keep cool and survive the oppressive heat by using traditional methods like shade. Some of the most miserable days that ERB spent as a young man were on horseback under the blazing Arizona sun when he rode with the 7th Cavalry, General Custer’s old unit.  This day after day monotony, enduring constant difficult assignments such as chasing the elusive Apache Kid, proved to be too much for ERB, and he was eventually discharged with a heart murmur, mainly due to the influence of his father, the Old Major.  He was definitely writing what he knew. During our visits to the Fort Grant, Arizona, area where ERB was stationed with the Cavalry we were impressed by the ruggedness of the the mountainous and desert topography over which he must have ridden many times with his troop.

Inspiration for Colonel Custer Pennington
ERB's inspiration for Colonel Custer Pennington was obviously drawn from ERB's association with the military. His father, Major George Tyler Burroughs, had fought in the Union Army during the US Civil War. ERB himself had attended Michigan Military Academy and later had served in the US 7th Cavalry in Arizona. Near the end of WWI-The Great War, Ed was appointed a major in Illinois Reserve Militia. In WWII ERB served as the oldest War Correspondent in the Pacific Theatre and was assigned the rank of Assimilated 2nd Lieutenant.
    We can see much of ERB's character and morality in his description of Pennington. Even the name Custer comes from a personal experience since the 7th Cavalry in which ERB served was actually the unit that had been commanded by General George Armstrong Custer of "Custer's Last Stand." Although the Burroughs family were from the North, ERB admiration and fascination with southern officers had been shown in his choice of John Carter of Virginia who had served in the Confederate army. It is not surprising then that he identified Colonel Pennington as being from the Virginia. Pennington had come west to recover from a wound received in the Spanish-American War.

Both he and his wife Julia love the lifestyle on the ranch and feel it is the perfect place to raise their two children -- Eva and Custer. Their views obviously reflect Burroughs' feelings about his real-life Tarzana Ranch. ERB wrote long passages in the book where Pennington expressed his love of the beauty of his Rancho Del Granado. ERB's articles and correspondence of the day reflect the same passion for the surrounding countryside.

Pennington believed that youth was a physical and mental attribute independent of time: "If one couild feel and act with the spirit of youth, one could not be old." This philosophy certainly reflects ERB's lifestyle before, during and after the Tarzana Ranch years.

The Burroughs and Pennington familes shared their love of horseback rides across the ranch's many trails, the daily romps in the ranch's swimming pool and the evening dances in the ballroom.  Even their dinner conversations reflect the types of topics that ERB's family were interested in.  Like many Hollywood directors of the silent golden era, ERB was fond of wearing riding clothes, so it is not remarkable that Colonel Pennington followed suit in his choice of wardrobe. The book's conflicts arise later when the family starts to fall prey to the temptations of Hollywood.

1. ERB: The Gentleman Farmer of Tarzana Ranch
2. Edgar Rice Burroughs Relaxing at Tarzana ~ 1922

ERBzine References For
The Girl From Hollywood

in ERBzine's ERB Bibliography
Booklet by ERB From the '20s
Munsey Pulp Magazine Covers in 
ERBzine Pulp Encyclopedia
El Caballero/Tarzana Promotional Booklet
Photos ~ Text by ERB ~ Art by Studley Burroughs
ERBzine 1091 ~ ERBzine 1092 ~ ERBzine 1093
Special The Girl From Hollywood Issue
Burroughs Bulletin Issue New Series 31 Reprint
ERB, Inc. Graphic Interpretation 
Subscriptions at
Home By Edgar Rice Burroughs
ERB Homes Pt. 3: 1919-1950
Hike Across Tarzana Ranch to South
Tarzana Then and Now
Tarzana Ranch Mosaic - Today
Farewell Tarzana
The Girl From Hollywood
Family Ties In ERB's House I
The Girl From Hollywood
Family Ties In ERB's House II
Tarzana Ranch Inspiration For
The Girl From Hollywood I
Tarzana Ranch Inspiration For
The Girl From Hollywood II
Tarzana Ranch Inspiration For
The Girl From Hollywood Photos
ERBzine M.A.P.L.E. Collage Series
Montages ~ Art ~ Photos ~ Legacy ~ Events

 by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Pt. I: Ch. 1 Pt. II: Ch. 2 Pt. III: Ch. 3/4 Pt. IV: Ch. 5 Pt. V: Ch. 6/7 Pt. VI: Ch. 8/9/10 Pt. VII: Ch. 11/12
Pt. VIII: Ch. 13/14 Pt. IX: Ch. 15 Pt. X: Ch. 16 Pt. XI: Ch. 17/18 Pt. XII: Ch. 19/20 Pt. XIII: Ch. 21 Pt. XIV: Ch. 22/23
Pt. XV: Ch. 24/25 Pt. XVI: Ch. 26/27/28 Pt. XVII: Ch. 29/30/31 Pt. XVIII: Ch. 32/33 Pt. XIX: Ch. 34 Pt. XX: Ch. 35 Pt. XXI: Ch. 36/37

Back To Tarzana Ranch 1921 :: An Illustrated Docu/Novel by Bill Hillman

Entire Text
Faster Loading
Pt. I: Illustrated
The Arrival
Pt. II Illustrated
Ed's Inner Sanctum
Pt. III Illustrated
Mansion & Ballroom
Pt. IV Illustrated
Trail Ride
Pt. V Illustrated
Hollywood Visit

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