Tarzan in film and other non-print media

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For other uses, see Tarzan (disambiguation).
Film poster for the first Tarzan movie in 1918, starring Elmo Lincoln

Tarzan, a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, first appeared in the 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes, and then in twenty-three sequels. The character proved immensely popular and quickly made the jump to other media, first and most notably to comics and film. This article concerns Tarzan's appearance in film and other non-print media.

Film[edit]

The lobby card from the silent 1918 incarnation of Tarzan of the Apes

The first Tarzan movies were silent pictures adapted from the original Tarzan novels which appeared within a few years of the character's creation. With the advent of talking pictures, a popular Tarzan movie franchise was developed, anchored at first by actor Johnny Weissmüller in the title role, which lasted from the 1930s through the 1960s. Tarzan films from the 1930s on often featured Tarzan's chimpanzee companion Cheeta. Later Tarzan films have been occasional and somewhat idiosyncratic.

Silent film[edit]

The first Tarzan movies were eight silent features and serials released between 1918 and 1928, most based on novels in the original series. Elmo Lincoln starred in the first Tarzan feature, Tarzan of the Apes (1918), a faithful cinematic rendering of Burroughs' first Tarzan novel. The first portion of the film featured Gordon Griffith as the young Tarzan, so Griffith could technically be considered the first screen Tarzan. (Early in the film, Tarzan is also shown as a baby played by at least two different uncredited children.) Elmo Lincoln returned for two sequels. Additional silents were produced in the 1920s with other actors (three of these films – The Romance of Tarzan (1918, Elmo Lincoln), The Revenge of Tarzan (1920, Gene Pollar), and Tarzan the Mighty (1928, Frank Merrill) – have been lost). One of the silents, Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927), featured the then-unknown Boris Karloff as a villainous native chieftain. Other actors who portrayed the character in 1920's films were P. Dempsey Tabler and James Pierce (who married the daughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs). The first Tarzan sound film was Tarzan the Tiger (1929), featuring Frank Merrill as the Ape Man, shot as a silent but partially dubbed for release. It was Merrill’s second Tarzan movie, and it cost him the role, as his voice was deemed unsuitable for the part.[1]

The Weissmüller era[edit]

Me Tarzan, You Jane

The “Me Tarzan, You Jane” cliché probably originates from telescoping the dialogue of Tarzan and Jane’s first meeting in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932):

Jane Parker: Thank you for protecting me.

Tarzan: Me?

Jane Parker: I said, thank you for protecting me.

Tarzan: [points at Jane] Me?

Jane Parker: No. I'm only "Me" for me.

Tarzan: [points at Jane] Me.

Jane Parker: No. To you, I'm "You."

Tarzan: [points at himself] You.

Jane Parker: No... [Thinks for a second]

Jane Parker: I'm Jane Parker. Understand? Jane, Jane.

Tarzan: [points at Jane] Jane, Jane.

Jane Parker: Yes, Jane. And you? [Tarzan stares]

Jane Parker: [points at herself] Jane.

Tarzan: Jane.

Jane Parker: [points at Tarzan] And you?

Tarzan: Tarzan. Tarzan.

Jane Parker: Tarzan...

Another dialogue moment that comes close is in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1943). Tarzan emphasizes the couple’s mutual affection by pointing and saying “Tarzan…Jane…Jane…Tarzan.”

The most popular series of Tarzan films began with Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), starring Johnny Weissmüller and Maureen O'Sullivan. Weissmüller, the son of ethnic-German immigrants from Romania, was already well known as a five-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming. He became the most famous and longest-lasting screen Tarzan, starring as the Ape Man in a total of twelve films, through 1948, the first six with MGM and the last six with RKO. The beauteous and scantily clad O'Sullivan was a major factor in the early popularity of the series. The role of Jane in the films was reduced after O'Sullivan departed in 1942 following the sixth film in the series (and the last for MGM), Tarzan's New York Adventure. Two Jane-less films followed before Brenda Joyce took over the role for the last four Weissmüller Tarzan films.

Starting afresh with an extremely free adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes which threw out everything that had gone before, the Weissmüller series was a boon to the franchise if not to the character. In contrast to the articulate nobleman of Burroughs's novels, Weissmuller's Tarzan was a natural hero with a limited vocabulary. The ersatz pidgin of his dialogue has often been mocked as "Me Tarzan, you Jane," although that particular line was never spoken in any of the films (see insert).

Tarzan and Jane were clearly married in the novels, but their legal status was left a bit ambiguous in the Weissmuller films, even though they shared a jungle treehouse and (particularly in the second film of the series, Tarzan and His Mate) a strong sexual chemistry. In keeping with production code requirements, their son "Boy" was found and adopted rather than born to Jane. The "Boy" character, played by Johnny Sheffield, appeared in eight consecutive films in the series, starting with Tarzan Finds a Son (1939). Weissmüller's yodel-like "Tarzan yell" became so associated with the character that it was sometimes dubbed into later films featuring different actors. Cheeta the chimpanzee provided comic relief through the series.

Due to complex licensing issues relating to Tarzan, a number of competing films starring other actors were made during the Weissmüller period. The first of these was Tarzan the Fearless (1933), featuring Buster Crabbe. The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935), hearkening back to the original concept of the character as an intelligent Englishman, was a serial featuring Herman Brix that was reedited into two feature films, the first (confusingly) released in the same year and with the same title as the serial, and the second, Tarzan and the Green Goddess released in 1938. Tarzan's Revenge, also released in 1938, starred Glenn Morris.

With the exception of The New Adventures of Tarzan, which was partially filmed in Guatemala, the Tarzan movies of this period were mostly filmed on Hollywood sound stages, with stock jungle and wildlife footage edited into the final product.

The franchise after Weissmüller[edit]

After Tarzan and the Mermaids in 1948, Weissmuller retired from the series, believing that he was now too old to play the loincloth-clad character. He went on, however, to appear in a long series of similar adventures wearing a safari suit as Jungle Jim.

After Weissmüller's departure, producer Sol Lesser led a nationwide search for a replacement, auditioning over 200 actors. The winner was Lex Barker, a tall and strikingly handsome 29-year old who had grown up in wealth and privilege in New York. Barker portrayed Tarzan in five films (1949–1953), each with a different actress portraying Jane (the first one being Brenda Joyce, a carry-over from the Weissmüller series). These were mostly low budget affairs similar to Weissmuller's RKO films, although the third one, Tarzan's Peril (1951), was an attempt to upgrade the series by filming on actual African locations and using local Africans in the cast. Despite Barker's aristocratic bearing and good acting credentials, Lesser insisted that he emulate Weissmüller's "Me Tarzan, you Jane" characterization.

Next came six films starring Gordon Scott (1955–1960), a bodybuilder who was discovered while lifeguarding at a hotel in Las Vegas. His first four Tarzan films, produced by Sol Lesser, continued in the Weissmüller formula. Then the series was taken over by producer Sy Weintraub, who wanted to move the character closer to Burroughs's original conception. The result was two of the best-received entries in the entire franchise, Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959) and Tarzan the Magnificent (1960). Independent producers remade Tarzan, the Ape Man in 1959 in a poorly received version starring Denny Miller. The Weintraub series continued in two films featuring veteran stuntman Jock Mahoney (1962–1963), three with former pro-football player Mike Henry (1966–1968), and two (feature versions of television episodes) with Ron Ely (1970). The Mike Henry films were filmed before the Ron Ely TV series, but were released to theatres after the TV series debuted. Weintraub had intended Henry to star in the TV series, but Henry declined because of the injuries and illnesses he had suffered during location filming.

The Weintraub productions, including the Ron Ely television series (see below), dropped the character of Jane and portrayed Tarzan as an intelligent but apparently rootless adventurer. The Mike Henry entries, starting with Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), were produced at the height of the James Bond craze, and had a well-tailored Tarzan jetting around the world to take on dangerous missions. In contrast to most earlier Tarzan films, the Weintraub productions were in color and were shot in exotic locations such as Kenya, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, and Brazil.

Later films[edit]

The movie Tarzan went on hiatus until another remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man in 1981, with Miles O'Keeffe in the title role and Bo Derek as Jane. The film was financially successful, but critically panned.

The better-received Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes followed in 1984, starring Christopher Lambert. Returning to the source material, it updated Burroughs’ original novel in the light of 1980s sensibilities and science, utilizing a number of corrective ideas first put forth by science fiction author Philip José Farmer in his mock-biography Tarzan Alive. While restoring Tarzan’s identity as an intelligent human being, Greystoke portrayed his adaptation to civilization as a failure, and his return to the wild as a matter of necessity rather than choice.

The last live-action Tarzan movie to date was Tarzan and the Lost City (1998) which starred Casper Van Dien. Essentially a follow-on to Greystoke, this film was set in the 1920s and attempted to capture the flavor of some of the later novels in the Tarzan series, in which the ape-man encountered increasingly fantastic civilizations hidden in the deep jungles.

Warner Brothers and producer Jerry Weintraub have had a new Tarzan live-action film in development since around 2003, but the project has taken more than a decade to materialize, with many false starts and delays.[2][3][3][4][5] [6][7][8][9][10][11][12] On February 11, 2014, Warner Bros announced that the film will go into production in 2014 with a projected release date of July 1, 2016. Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie will portray Tarzan and Jane, with Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz also in the cast. David Yates will direct, and the film will be shot in 3D.[13] On June 4, 2014, Deadline reports that Djimon Hounsou is cast as Chief Mbonga.[14]

Animated films[edit]

Disney's animated Tarzan (1999) marked a new beginning for the ape man, taking its inspiration equally from Burroughs and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Its major innovations were recasting the original fictitious ape species that adopted Tarzan with gorillas and turning William Cecil Clayton, his paternal cousin and rival for the affections of Jane in the early novels, into a brawny out-and-out villain. Tarzan was voiced by actor Tony Goldwyn. To date, this film is the last installment in the Tarzan genre to be released theatrically.

Two direct to video sequels followed, Tarzan & Jane (2002), and Tarzan II (2005), a re-exploration of the ape man’s childhood. In Tarzan & Jane, Goldwyn was replaced by Michael T. Weiss.

Also in 1999, a direct-to-video animated version of Tarzan of the Apes aimed at younger children was released by Sony Wonder.

In 2013, Germany's Constantin Film released a Tarzan 3D animated feature in CGI with motion capture. Reinhard Klooss directed.[15][16][17] Kellan Lutz and Spencer Locke portrayed Tarzan and Jane Porter, respectively.[18] The film opened in a number of countries in late 2013 and 2014, but received mostly negative reviews and as a result no theatrical release was planned for the U.S. Instead, the film will be released directly to DVD and BluRay in the U.S. in August 2014.

Other[edit]

The film Tarzan corpus also includes a number of documentaries, most of them either made for television or to accompany video sets of Tarzan movies, a number of derivative foreign-language productions from China, India, and Turkey, and various spoofs and parodies. Among the latter is Starzan, a Philippine Cinema comedy film loosely based on the original Tarzan franchise satirizing western entertainment. It stars Filipino comedic actor Joey De Leon as Starzan, Rene Requiestas as "Chitae", and Zsa Zsa Padilla as Jane.

Swedish film poster for Tarzan and the Brown Prince

Steve Sipek also known as Steve Hawkes[19] played Tarzan in two films produced by a Spanish company and intended for world markets. The first was variously titled Tarzán en la gruta del oro/King of the Jungle/Tarzan in the Golden Grotto (1969) and portions were filmed in Suriname, Florida, Africa, Spain and Italy, with interruptions when the producers ran out of money. Sipek claimed the film company couldn't pay the huge licensing fees from Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate and settled for the name "Zan" or "Karzan"[20] for the character.[21]

A 1972 sequel, Tarzan and the Brown Prince (1972), had portions filmed in Rainbow Springs, Florida.[22] where Sipek was burned in a fire that got out of control.

Stage[edit]

A 1921 Broadway production of Tarzan of The Apes starred Ronald Adair as Tarzan and Ethel Dwyer as Jane Porter.

In 1976, Richard O'Brien wrote a musical entitled T. Zee, loosely based on the idea of Tarzan but restyled in a rock idiom.

Tarzan, a musical stage adaptation of the 1999 animated feature, opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway on May 10, 2006. The show, a Disney Theatrical production, was directed and designed by Bob Crowley. The show played its final performance July 8, 2007. Tarzan was played by Josh Strickland. Jane was played by Jenn Gambatese. Terk, Tarzan's best friend, was played by Chester Gregory. Kerchak, Tarzan's ape father was played by Shuler Hensley and Robert Evan. Kala, Tarzan's ape mother was played by Merle Dandridge. Professor Porter (Jane's father) was played by Tim Jerome. Mr. Clayton (Jane's "love interest") was played by Donnie Keshawarz. And Young Tarzan was played by Daniel Manche, Dylan Riley Snyder, J. Bradley Bowers, and Alex Rutherford.

The same version of Tarzan that was played at the Richard Rodgers Theatre played throughout Europe and was a success in the Netherlands.

Tarzan also appeared in the Tarzan Rocks! show at the Theatre in the Wild at Walt Disney World Resort's Disney's Animal Kingdom. The show closed in 2006. The Tarzan Encounter currently plays in Disneyland Park (Paris), similar to the show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Radio[edit]

James H. Pierce and Joan Burroughs Pierce starred in the 1932–34 Tarzan radio series

Tarzan was the hero of two popular radio programs. The first began on 12 September 1932 with James H. Pierce in the role of Tarzan, adapting the novel Tarzan of the Apes in 77 installments, airing three times each week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Each episode, not counting commercials, ran for about ten minutes. This series was followed by two original stories, written by Rob Thompson, "Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher", 39 episodes airing every weekday starting 1 May 1935, and "Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr", 39 episodes, airing during 1936. Both of these stories Rob Thompson later adapted for the Tarzan comic strip and again for the Dell Tarzan comic book.

The second Tarzan radio program began 1 November 1951 and ran for 75 half-hour episodes, ending on 27 June 1953. Lamont Johnson played Tarzan.[23]

Television[edit]

Meanwhile, television had emerged as a primary vehicle bringing the character to the public, as the corpus of Tarzan films, especially those of Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker, became staples on Saturday morning TV. In 1958, in the middle of his six-film reign as Tarzan, Gordon Scott filmed three episodes for a prospective television series. The program did not sell, and in 1966 the three pilots were edited into a 90-minute television feature entitled Tarzan and the Trappers.

A live action Tarzan series starring Ron Ely ran on NBC 1966–1968 (57 hour-long episodes). The executive producer was Sy Weintraub, and the series was basically a follow-on to Weintraub's series of Tarzan films that began with Tarzan's Greatest Adventure in 1959. Weintraub had dispensed with Jane and portrayed his ape man as well-spoken and sophisticated. Though Ely's Tarzan had no Jane, he was accompanied by Cheeta the chimpanzee from the movies and a child sidekick, the orphan boy Jai (Manuel Padilla, Jr.), who also played the similar roles of Ramel and Pepe in Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) and Tarzan and the Great River (1967). The character Jai first appeared in the film Tarzan Goes to India, played by a young actor of the same name.

An animated series from Filmation, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, aired from 1976–1977, with new and repeat episodes in the anthology programs Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour (1977–1978), Tarzan and the Super 7 (1978–1980), The Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour (1980–1981), and The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour) (1981–1982).

Following this Joe Lara starred in the title role in Tarzan in Manhattan (1989), an offbeat TV movie, and would later return in a completely different interpretation in Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (1996), a new live-action series. In between the two productions with Lara, Tarzán, a half-hour syndicated series ran from 1991 through 1994. In this version of the show, Tarzan was portrayed by Wolf Larson as a blond environmentalist, with Jane turned into a French ecologist.

Disney’s animated series The Legend of Tarzan (2001–2003) was a spin-off from its animated film with Michael T. Weiss as the voice of Tarzan (see Tarzan and Jane in "Animated Films" above). The latest television series was the live-action Tarzan (2003), which starred male model Travis Fimmel and updated the setting to contemporary New York City with Jane as a police detective. The series failed to meet studio expectations and was cancelled after only eight episodes.

Television sketches/spoofs[edit]

A 1981 television special, The Muppets Go to the Movies, features a short sketch entitled "Tarzan and Jane." Lily Tomlin plays Jane opposite The Great Gonzo as Tarzan. In addition, the Muppets have made reference to Tarzan on half a dozen occasions since the 1960s.

In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, a spoof of Tarzan appears as "lord of the drapes," and "Lord of Shapes," instead of Lord of the Apes.

Anime[edit]

The Japanese Jungle no Ouja Ta-chan (King of the Jungle Ta-chan) series, originally a manga by Tokuhiro Masaya, was based loosely on Tarzan. It featured the characters of Tarzan and his wife Jane, who had become obese after settling down with Tarzan. The series begins as a comical parody of Tarzan, but later expands to other settings, such as a martial arts tournament in China, professional wrestling in America, and even a fight with vampires.

In another anime, One Piece, Roronoa Zoro is seen doing a Tarzan call imitation during the Skypiea arc.

Video games[edit]

Taito's 1982 arcade game Jungle King featured a character who resembled Tarzan. Copyright issues required Taito to rename the game, producing Jungle Hunt. The company retained the original character, albeit dressed in safari clothing complete with pith helmet. Gameplay remained unchanged; the player still fought crocodiles and swung from trees, but by ropes instead of vines. Jungle Hunt was subsequently adapted for play on numerous video game consoles and personal computers.

Tarzan Goes Ape was released in the 1980s for the Commodore 64.

Martech Games Ltd released Tarzan in 1986 for the ZX Spectrum, among other computing platforms.

In 1999, games based on Disney's animated film Tarzan were released for the PlayStation, Windows, and Game Boy Color. The PlayStation and Windows version was later ported to the Nintendo 64 in 2000.

Other games focusing on Disney's version of Tarzan include Tarzan Untamed (2001) for the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube and Disney's Tarzan: Return to the Jungle (2002) for the Game Boy Advance. Characters from the animated film have also appeared in Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure and Kingdom Hearts.

In the first Rayman, a Tarzanesque version of Rayman named Tarayzan appears in the Dream Forest.

Ephemera[edit]

There have been several Tarzan View-Master reels and packets, plus numerous Tarzan coloring books, children's books, follow-the-dots and activity books.

In the film Histoire de Pen there is a character named after Tarzan and another named after The Phantom.

Superman's Song by the Canadian rock band the Crash Test Dummies compares Tarzan unfavourably to Superman.

One Leg Too Few is a comedy sketch by Peter Cook concerning a one-legged man attempting to audition for the role of Tarzan.

There is a song by Danish pop group Toy-Box called "Tarzan & Jane", first released as a single in Germany in 1998, and then released worldwide in 1999 to coincide with the release of the Disney film Tarzan (see "Film").

Filmography[edit]

Silents[edit]

Franchise films[edit]

With Johnny Weissmuller[edit]

With Lex Barker[edit]

With Gordon Scott[edit]

With Jock Mahoney[edit]

With Mike Henry[edit]

With Ron Ely[edit]

  • Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion (1966) (pilot for the NBC TV series, also released to theaters)
  • Tarzan's Deadly Silence (1970) (a two-part television episode also released to theaters)

Competing films/Unauthorized films[edit]

Later films[edit]

Animated films[edit]

  • Tarzan of the Apes (1999) – direct to video animated feature
  • Tarzan (1999) – animated feature
  • Tarzan & Jane (2002) – direct to video animated feature
  • Tarzan II (2005) – direct to video animated feature
  • Tarzan (2013) – (Kellan Lutz) CGI/Motion Capture

Television[edit]

Documentaries[edit]

Actors portraying Tarzan[edit]

On film (adult)[edit]

On film (youth)[edit]

On stage[edit]

On radio[edit]

On television[edit]

In video games[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Tarzan of the Movies, Gabe Essoe, 1968
  2. ^ Mike Fleming. "Craig Brewer Makes 'Tarzan' Deal, Writing Ape Man Saga As Trilogy". Deadline. 
  3. ^ a b August ape for ' Tarzan'
  4. ^ Exclusive: Director Stephen Sommers Says "Yo Joe!"
  5. ^ CAA Signs Jack Ryan Reboot Scribe Adam Cozad
  6. ^ Exclusive: David Yates Committing to Tarzan at Warner Bros.
  7. ^ Alexander Skarsgard swings into 'Tarzan' frontrunner
  8. ^ http://craveonline.com/film/articles/474541-exclusive-alexander-skarsgard-isnt-sure-about-tarzan
  9. ^ Me Tarzan, you Jessica?
  10. ^ ‘Tarzan’ Dying On The Vine At Warner Bros?
  11. ^ Warner Bros. Eyes Christoph Waltz for Villain Role in ‘Tarzan’ (EXCLUSIVE)
  12. ^ Samuel L. Jackson in Talks for ‘Tarzan’ at Warner Bros. (EXCLUSIVE)
  13. ^ "‘Tarzan’ to Swing Into Theaters July 1, 2016". Variety. 2014-02-11. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  14. ^ Fleming, Jr, Mike (June 4, 2014). "Djimon Hounsou Joins ‘Tarzan’". Deadline. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  15. ^ 'Tarzan' returns in 3D
  16. ^ Promo Images for Pompeii, Tarzan 3D and Step Up 4
  17. ^ Promo Posters and Synopses for TARZAN 3D and THE IMPOSSIBLE; First Synopsis for THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
  18. ^ ‘Twilight Saga’s Kellan Lutz To Play Tarzan In Constantin Movie
  19. ^ http://www.thewildeye.co.uk/blog/?p=37
  20. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vny8WUUSWTs&NR=1
  21. ^ http://www.tarzanmovieguide.com/hawkes.htm
  22. ^ p.85 Hollis, Tim Glass Bottom Boats & Mermaid Tails: Florida's Tourist Springs Stackpole Books
  23. ^ Robert R. Barrett, Tarzan on Radio, Radio Spirits, 1999.

External links[edit]