Tarzan is a fictional character created by a writer with an unlikely name; Edgar Rice Burroughs. To him must go the credit for creating a legend that has entertained young and old for a hundred years.
The Emergence of Tarzan
Tarzan was created in 1912. He was part of a story in what at that time were known as pulp fiction. These were magazines printed on poor quality paper with garish illustrations that told a story. The first story to appear was Tarzan of the apes and people were impressed. Subsequently more stories of Tarzan appeared. Well what was the name of that first story? It was ‘Tarzan of the Apes- a romance of the Jungle’. It was an exotic tale and the legend of Tarzan began to build up.
The pulp magazines popularized Tarzan. Burroughs also created a romantic angle of a white girl conveniently shipwrecked on the west coast of Africa, a girl from Baltimore named Jane and love between the two blossomed and more important Jane taught him to speak English and etiquette as she got to love his animal friends. There were many of them. There was Tantor the elephant, Numa the lion and there was another lion Jad BAL JA. They listened to Tarzan and when he called the animals of the jungle responder.
It was inevitable that his book would be published and it happened in 1914 when AC McClure & Co a small but significant publisher brought out the book the first one ‘Tarzan of the Apes’. That time the book was priced at $2 a copy. But let me tell you in case you can get hold of that original edition you can make a cool $ 60,000. That’s what Tarzan means in America.
Tarzan of the Apes sold many copies and also won good reviews from the critics. But the people clamored for more Tarzan and Edgar Rice built up the legend further. He made him a scion of a long lost Baron in England and Tarzan goes back to England to claim his heritage. But he comes back and once again the animals that are pining for him are delighted and so is Tarzan. Burroughs in all wrote of 22 books and each of them tickled the palate of the readers who wanted more. Burroughs published The Return of Tarzan, Tarzan and the Ant Men, Tarzan and the jewels of Opar and a host of books which are all available on the net.
Hollywood and the Stage
Now Hollywood took note of the Character Tarzan and producers planned films on the ape man. But before that a tremendous show of Tarzan appeared on Broadway in a stage presentation in 1918. In this show the producers brought on the stage 4 lions and a host of apes. It was a hit and the public enjoyed Tarzan.
The first man to play Tarzan was Elmer Lincoln. At that time Edgar Burroughs was not happy with the choice of Lincoln as Tarzan as he felt he was too muscle bound and not as graceful as he wanted, but the public loved Lincoln and these films began to add to the legend of Tarzan. Up to 1929 the Tarzan films were from the silent era. The first Tarzan film with sound was Tarzan the Tiger.
In 1932 metro Goldwyn Mayor the famous Hollywood production company got into the act and produced one of the greatest Tarzan films ever made’ Tarzan of the Apes. There was also a search for a proper Tarzan and he came in the shape of Johnny Weissmuller, who was an Olympic swimming champion. Johnny Weissmuller is even now considered the best Tarzan ever. He had a perfect body and best of all he was not affected before the camera. I have seen Johnny as Tarzan in’ Tarzans Hidden jungle and Tarzan and the she devil in re-runs and CDs. There is no doubt that Johnny was a natural Tarzan.
Around this period Tarzan also appeared in comic form and Dell, DC and others took to publishing Tarzan comics, that were immensely popular. The end of the Second World War some diminishing of interest in Tarzan as the people weary after a war were looking for something else. Burroughs died in 1952, but within a decade of his death Tarzan again burst on the scene and a spate of films and comics as well as TV shows hit the public. Tarzan was again in fashion. Holly wood also produced some excellent movies. The best being ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ starring Bo Derek as Jane and Miles O’Keefe as Tarzan. What a body he had, simply stupendous!
Lastly there was also a fim made ‘Tarzan goes to India ‘ with Jack malony as Tarzan (1962)
Now when we are in the 21st century and it’s good to know that all the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels are available in current editions and are selling in great numbers. Comics the staple fare of Americans in the form of Dark Horse Comics is churning out Tarzan tales by the dozen and a writer named Del Rey has published a new book on Tarzan. Burroughs’ legendary character is not ready to die away and in 2012, its popularity is the same as in 1912. What a century! I love Tarzan. Do you?