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Volume 6894

Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzana Ranch
was the inspiration for his novel:
By Bill Hillman
Continued from Pt. I

Click for full-size images

The Inspiration for the Penningtons' Rancho Del Granado


Joan Inspiration
Eva Pennington, the daughter of the old Colonel, Custer Pennington, and sister of young Custer, acts and talks much like ERB's real life daughter, Joan.  The book was in many ways written as a warning to his daughter about the temptations and perils of Hollywood, their nearby neighbor to the south -- especially since Joan aspired to be an actress and singer.
    The real life Eva, Joan Burroughs, also had an infatuation with Hollywood, eventually marrying James Pierce, the actor who starred in Tarzan and the Golden Lion. She and Pierce later played Jane and Tarzan in the 1932 Tarzan radio series.

As biographer Porges noted “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.” Joan who was only around 14 when the book was written, went on to some success as a stage and radio actress and as a singer. The coming dread of empty-nest syndrome must have been a constant nag in the back of ERB's mind during this period.  All of these fears and concern for the safety and future of his family come out in this story.

Tarzana Pools
The swimming pool that ERB had constructed after they moved onto the property was also described in the book's text. The fun and games enjoyed by the family in the pool played a vital part in the both familys' relaxation and bonding . . . and provided a major release contrast to the stresses and demands of fast-paced urban Hollywood. It was around this pool that  house guests of both the Burroughs and Pennington families gathered -- and many of the visitors were from Hollywood. The Burroughs kids have fond memories of their much older dad being first to plunge into the pool's unheated waters and frolicing with them showing all the vigour of a much younger man. You can sense through his lifestyle and writing that ERB was becoming conscious of his age at this time, especially living among teenage kids.

This was just how ERB had described Pennington and his family. The pool was the first built in the valley and was without filtration and heating system. Hully described the waters as always being murky, full of algae and often with floating small dead animals that had drowned in it through the night.

    The series of connected fish pools stretching down the slope to the south of the Tarzana mansion were also incorporated into the novel's plot. In real life these pool often provided water for thirsty small animals on the ranch.

1. The Tarzana swimming pool on the east side of the house
A popular place for exercise and family play and social gatherings
2. The series of Fish Ponds and Water Gardens cascading down the slope on the south of the mansion
Top Left is the chicken house - beyond to the right is the dairy barn and creamery

Tarzana Ballroom/Theatre/Garage
Shortly after ERB took possession he had built a large structure about 30 metres to the west -- a large ballroom/theatre with an attached garage that housed ERB numerous prized automobiles. ERB, who had a lifelong passion for driving, liked fast cars and had the money to buy them. In the book both the Colonel and Guy drive roadsters.  The family enjoyed dancing and singing in the ballroom. Overlooking the ballroom was a film projection room and office where Ed did some of his writing. Later he gave regular showings of Hollywood films which were enjoyed by the family and invited guests from the city and from the valley below. ERB was a film enthusiast and even did film editing in this projection room. It was actually some of this nitrate that caught fire in the office warehouse many years later. A study of the events in Girl shows how he had incorporated this building and activities into the plot.

1. Sons Hully and Jack by the new Ballroom/Garage building ~ August 12, 1921
2. ERB's two new Packards ~ a sedan and a sports roadster - and a Hudson roadster in the new garage building

Love of Horses and Riding
ERB had a lifelong love of horses and riding. . . stretching all the way back to his MMA days where he had excelled in riding competitions and even as a riding instructor. Later, he worked as a cowhand on his brothers' Idaho ranch and during his days in the US Cavalry in Arizona where horses were vital to the cavalry's activities. During bouts of sickness Ed had been assigned to the headquarters stables where he had to take care of fourteen horses. He cleaned them and their stables, hauled manure, hay, and grain, and doctored those that were sick. He passed this love and knowledge of horses and riding onto his family. They each had their own saddle ponies and spent many hours riding across the ranch. Later, Joan won awards in riding competitions.
ERB the horseman with sons Hully and Jack
. .

Ed incorporated many of his personal experiences and his knowledge of horses into Hollywood and he even conveyed the distrust and dislike he held toward the book's characters who treated the animals badly. One can sense ERB's contempt for the character Slick whom he saw as a horseman who didn't like horses. He hated people that trained animals with cruelty and violence, for he knew that treating them kindly but firmly was the key to success.

ERB had great family memories of his family's many rides on the rugged trails across the ranch and in the Santa Monica Mountains. This love of riding and horses is expressed throughout Hollywood.  His daughter, Joan, fondly remembered her father teaching her how to read animal trails by their spoor and other tricks of the trade.

Hollywood Business Dealings
ERB must have felt at times that he was nothing but a writing machine among his wife, Emma, and their kids.  He went through money so fast that the only solution for him was to write more stories and come up with more business deals. He often complained that he was out of ideas, but he always seemed to come up with fresh ones. It is innteresting that Guy in the book claimed to have written a novel and sold it for $700. . . the same amount that ERB was paid for his first Tarzan story.

Ed had many professional acuaintances and business dealings with the Hollywood crowd. This association led to the promotion of film production in locations on Tarzana Ranch. The property had a great variety of vegetation along with many canyons and other landforms as Sue-On and I found out during a morning hike across to Mulholland. This wasn't an easy hike as temperatures approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the terrain was pretty rough. . . I even fell into a cactus patch.

These many natural attractions, along with the rustic Koonskin cabin on the property, lured in a number of film companies for location shooting. Companies included Vitagraph and Metro. I've included a photo in the accompanying phot gallery of the Burroughs family posing with the cast and crew from Universal who shot a Buffalo Bill film in a canyon on the Tarzana site. Goldwyn Studios had even planned to shoot a few "Ben Hur" sequences on Tarzana. During this time and few years later a number notable westerns and war movies were shot here.  All these influences served ERB well when he was incorporating Hollywood life into the book.

1. Ed and the kids visiting the set of The Son of Tarzan in 1920
2. Roy Somerville, scriptwriter, and ERB on movie set of The Son of Tarzan, 1920
ERB was interested in film production and felt that if a production company were formed, the Tarzana Ranch would provide an ideal location for a studio. To Joseph Bray of McClurg Ed had described the existence of a small canyon that was "almost a natural amphitheater," and spoke of his two-part plan to "make a specialty of wild animal productions" and to "attract writers of repute whose stuff is now unavailable." The idea was to interest a group of well-known authors in joining the company.

On the set of Adventures of Tarzan, 1921. L-R: Emma Burroughs, Frank Merrill
(who played Tarzan in two future pictures), Elmo Lincoln, ERB and Louise Lorraine (who played Jane).

ERB's past dealings with some of the Hollywood moguls and companies had not always been successful. He felt that he had been betrayed and swindled by some of filmdom's wheeler dealers and he looked upon some of the experiences with distrust and bitterness. "I have been jipped, insulted and robbed by motion picture producers. ..." Ed wrote to Bob Davis of Munseys, insisting that authors must band together to get a "square deal." Many of his previous experiences and feelings are revealed in how he portrayed some of the major characters in the book.

Ranch Prosperity
ERB lost a lot of money gambling on real estate in the years to come, but in 1921 he was at the height of his fame and wealth.
I mentioned that ERB made major revisions to the house and grounds, built a swimming pool and added a large multi-purpose building on the property. Since he envisioned himself as a gentleman farmer he added a multitude of farm buildings: stables, pens, corrals, elaborate hen house, barn, and facilities to house his large herd of thoroughbred Berkinshire hogs and his beloved riding horses. There are mentions of all these facilities scattered throughout the book.

 1, ERB's champion Marimoor Peer Berkshire hog and Peter Putz, hog foreman ~ July 1921
2. Jack Burroughs in front of the Tarzana lions' den ~ Dec. 1920

Hired Help
The Penningtons -- as did the Burroughs family -- had servants in the house as well as many ranch hands. Photos of some of the hired help on Tarzana are included in my Photo Album section. In describing characters in the book ERB often incorporated expressions of the day in the speech and attitudes of some of his characters. Terms such as "injun", "greasers" etc. may not be acceptiable in current mores of society -- nor should they suggest racism on ERB's part as he was just reflecting attitudes of the day in the speech ofhis characters.

ERB’s adopted son, Lee, the son of actor-director Ashton Dearholt (who worked as producer/director for ERB's New Adventures of Tarzan), spoke at the 2012 Dum Dum in Woodland Hills.  He was amused when someone asked him how the family had done during the Great Depression.  He said that they had lived in a mansion with Japanese servants and that they had never experienced the type of financial suffering most Americans were going through at the time. This was probably stretching the truth a bit :)

Addiction Problems
In his later life, ERB struggled with alcohol, and during most of his life was a fairly heavy drinker.  He knew how hard it was to quit after a drug has got its hold over you.
Drinking had become a problem in ERB's family at the Rancho.  In fact, by the end of the decade ERB's wife, Emma, would become a very heavy drinker and alcoholism was blamed for their marriage breakup and perhaps even a factor leading to ERB’s fatal heart attack in 1950.

The book was set in the beginning of prohibition. ERB hated the Eighteenth Amendment.  Though he was a staunch Republican and would have gladly died for his country, he rebelled against this law, having a hidden stash of wine and other liquor in his cellar the whole time it was against the law.

In his dealings with Hollywood moguls and the various actors and film crews Ed saw first hand, the effects of drug addiction and the crippling use of cocaine, morphine and heroine. He saw too how those in power had gained control of stars and starlets through their manipulation of such drugs. A major reason for the writing of The Girl From Hollywood was to expose this situation and to contrast such lifestyles with the clean country living that he saw and promoted on Tarzana Ranch. Considering ERB's ongoing business and social contacts with film-makers, a major fear was that the lifestyle of some of the Hollywood crowd would be a temptation for his young daughter and sons.

Love of Tarzana
Through the years ERB's comments about God continued to be in a jesting tone. To his brother Harry, Ed revealed his happiness about his Tarzana ranch and wrote, "It took God millions of years to get Tarzana and me together but I can see now that He was evidently working to that end since it occurred to Him to create Earth, and I have to give Him credit for pulling off at least one very successful job." Numerous times in the book he had put similar words of praise thanks for having been blessed with his ranch.

1. ERB enjoying one of his great passions: photography
2. ERB at work at his other great passion ~ writing

Great Memories
All of these experiences must have provided many great memories after the Burroughs finances fell on hard times during the depression era and Ed lost control of much of the ranch. He even demolished the mansion, but the garage/ballroom/theatre, which has been converted into a deluxe house, still remains along with a few other remnants including the swimming pool.

El Cabalerro had taken over the main area for awhile and still operates a major golf and country club on the site of the original golf course that Ed and his nephew Studley had created back in the '20s. I made numerous trips up to the homeplace with Danton when we were transferring the contents of numerous storage lockers down in the valley up to the a garage area for storage. Danton had rescued many items from the original mansion and had stored them in a special room in his nearby Tarzana home.

After Danton's death I had been invited to Tarzana to give the eulogy at Dan's Celebration of Life. The next day, Ralph Herman, Dan's friend and one-time owner of the Tarzana home site had driven me all around the El Caballero golf course area where ERB and Studley had laid out the original course -- we then dined at the luxurious El Caballero Club House. Even this golf course area that was part of the original Tarzana Ranch figured in ERB location descriptions for the book.

1. Tarzana Ranch 1922 ~ NE View
2. ERB takes a bow as an animal trainer on Tarzana Ranch ~ 1923

The Girl from Hollywood is a unique departure from ERB's usual fantasy adventure writing but it is far from boring. ERB wrote such a good mystery, perfectly capturing the exciting background of early Holllywood film making. But more imporantly for Burroughs fans, the book presents a a wonderful look back at the lifestyle of the Burroughs family. Tarzana Ranch has a wonderful history . . . and thankfully, a few glimpses of its glory days are still to be enjoyed as one reads The Girl From Hollywood.

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

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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