Tarzan the Ape Man (1932 film)

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Tarzan the Ape Man
Tarzan the Ape Man 1932 poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Written by Cyril Hume
Based on Tarzan of the Apes
1912 magazine
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring Johnny Weissmuller
Neil Hamilton
Maureen O'Sullivan
C. Aubrey Smith
Music by George Richelarie
Cinematography Clyde De Vinna
Edited by Tom Held
Ben Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • March 25, 1932 (1932-03-25)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $652,675
Box office $2.54 million

Tarzan the Ape Man is a 1932 Pre-Code, American action adventure film featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous jungle hero Tarzan and starring Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith and Maureen O'Sullivan. It was Weissmuller's first of 12 Tarzan films. The film is loosely based on Burroughs' novel Tarzan of the Apes from approximately two decades earlier, with the dialogue written by Ivor Novello. The film was directed by W. S. Van Dyke. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released two remakes of Tarzan, the Ape Man in 1959 and in 1981, but each was a different adaptation of Rice Burroughs' novel.


James Parker (C. Aubrey Smith) and Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) travel in Africa, on a quest for the legendary elephant burial grounds and their ivory. They are joined by Parker's daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan). Holt is attracted to Jane, and tries somewhat ineffectively to protect her from the jungle's dangers. He notably fails to prevent her abduction by the jungle's guardian, the mysterious Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and his ape allies.

The experience is terrifying to Jane at first, but as their relationship develops, she finds herself happy: "Not a bit afraid, not a bit sorry." As she returns to her father, her feelings are brought to a test. She wants Tarzan to come with her to London, and to be part of her world. But Tarzan turns his back on her and returns to the jungle. Her father tells her that is where Tarzan belongs, she cries, "No dad, he belongs to me."

The expedition is captured by a tribe of violent dwarfs. Jane sends Tarzan's ape friend Cheeta (Jiggs) for help, bringing Tarzan to their rescue. During the rescue, Tarzan summons elephants. Jane's father dies from wounds received in the rescue just as they reach the elephant graveyard and she decides to stay in the jungle with Tarzan. In the end scene, to the music of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, the happy couple appear on a rock below the heavens, Jane holding Cheeta like a baby.



  • As in other Weissmuller Tarzan films, the elephants were Indian, which have smaller ears, rather than African. Large fake ears, and fake tusks, were fitted onto the animals in an attempt to make them look authentic.[1]
  • The tribe of African dwarfs, made to look like pygmies (all males), portrayed in the film was actually a cast of several white midgets wearing blackface.[1]
  • The stock footage was added to location work shot in the then-undeveloped Toluca Lake region north of Los Angeles.[2]

Pre-Code era scenes[edit]

Tarzan the Ape Man shows scenes of Maureen O'Sullivan, scantily clad, in a leather loincloth and halter top, [1] [2] before the censorship, of the Hollywood Motion Picture Production Code.


Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 100%, based on 13 reviews, with a rating average of 7.810.[3]


  1. ^ a b Ethington, Phillip J. (2008). "Global Spaces of Los Angeles". In Prakash, Gyan; Kruse, Kevin Michael. The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life. Princeton University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-691-13343-0. 
  2. ^ Miller, Frank, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932), tcm.com
  3. ^ "Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  • DVD commentary for the Tarzan Collection DVD set released in 2005.

External links[edit]