Friday, January 29, 2016

FRIDAY's FORGOTTEN BOOKS, January 29, 2016



Jerry House lives in Florida. He can be reached at
TARZAN OF THE MOVIES by Gabe Essoe (From the archives)

With the death of Johnny Sheffield last month, I got to thinking about Tarzan movies. Five-year old Sheffield had been handpicked by Johnny Weismuller to play Boy in TARZAN FINDS A SON. Weismuller had looked on Sheffield as the son he couldn't have during his tempetuous marriage to Lupe Velez. (Weismuller's first marriage to Bobbe Arnst ended at the request of MGM Studios, which paid Bobbe $10,000 for the divorce, because the studio felt marriage would be a hindrance to Weismuller's career; his later romancing of Velez was approved by the studio as good publicity.)

This is just one tidbit from Gabe Essoe's TARZAN OF THE MOVIES: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGH'S LEGENDARY HERO (Cadillac Publishing, 1968), a chatty walk down memory lane from Elmo Lincoln to Mike Henry, with a side jaunt to the Ron Ely television series and a few unauthorized foreign films (such as Singapore's THE ADVENTURES OF CHINESE TARZAN, 1940). Some of the other interesting items:

- When a drugged lion turned on him during the filming of TARZAN OF THE APES, Elmo Lincoln stabbed and killed the lion.

- Boris Karloff's first screen appearance was as a Waziri chief in TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION, the last true silent Tarzan movie, which also featured Burroughs' future son-in-law Jim Pierce as Tarzan. That movie, by the way, was financed by Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of John F. Kennedy. The book has a great photograph of Karloff as an angry African warrior.

- The several attempts to kill off (or ignore) Jane as a character.

- The deaths of an actor, a trainer, and a stuntman during the filming the series.

- Among the actors rejected for the role of Tarzan was Clark Gable. (Because, "He has no body.")

- How Weismuller made a friend of the movie Cheetah by hitting him hard on the head with his hunting knife to show him who was boss,.

- The original Tarzan yell was created by using four different synchronized sound tracks: a camel's bleat, a hyena's howl, the growl of a dog, and the plunking of a violin's G-string. Weismuller and Lex Barker were able to recreate the yell; Ron Ely wasn't.

The book portrays Burroughs as a sometimes canny/sometimes naive businessman whose protective nature for his creation was paramount. His disdain for many of the portrayals of his character is evident, as we follow the complicated business dealings that allowed "duelling" Tarzans from different studios. All too often the producing studios' visions led to the degradation of the series to strictly juvenile fare.

TARZAN OF THE MOVIES also contains hundreds of photographs (all, alas, in black and white), including those of television guest stars Diana Ross and Mary Wilson, Ethel Merman, Fernando Lamas, and Julie Harris.

Bottom line: a casual and entertaining overview and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Sergio Angelini, PURITY, Jonathan Frantzen
Joe Barone, THE GIVER, Lois Lowry
Bernadette, THE JUMP, Douglas Johnstone
Brian Busby, TED ALLEN
Bill Crider, THE TALL STRANGER, Louis L'Amour
Scott Cupp, THE DEEP RANGE, Arthur C . Clarke
Martin Edwards, THE CASE IS ALTERED, William Plomer
Ed Gorman, BLACK FRIDAY, David Goodis
Jerry House, THE FEATHER MERCHANTS, Max Shulman
Margot Kinberg, THE MERCHANT'S HOUSE, Kate Ellis
B.V. Lawson, SYLVIA, Howard Fast
Steve Lewis/Walter Albert, AMAZONIA, James Rollins
Todd Mason, TEENSPELL edited by Betty M. Owen; BENCHMARKS REVISITED by Algis Budrys
Mathew Paust, APOCALYPSE, D. H. Lawrence
James Reasoner, DAUGHTER OF THE NIGHT, Richard S. Shaver
Richard Robinson, THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN, Rex Stout
Gerard Saylor, THE CONFESSION, Domenic Stansberry
TomCat, A PLAGUE OF THIEVES AFFAIR, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Zybahn, BETE NOIR #3 


Gerard said...

Weismuller's first marriage to Bobbe Arnst ended at the request of MGM Studios, which paid Bobbe $10,000 for the divorce, because the studio felt marriage would be a hindrance to Weismuller's career

What a bunch of dirtbags.

J F Norris said...

Mine's up now:

The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral by Robert Westall

Deb said...

Studios frequently did this. Jennifer Jones's marriage (to Robert Walker, iirc) was destroyed by David O. Selznick because he wanted to marry her. The studios forced Keenan Wynn and his wife to divorce so that she could marry Van Johnson and scotch the (completely accurate) rumor that Johnson was gay. Marriages and divorces were engineered for the talent much as European royalty arranged their children's marriages.

Mathew Paust said...

AAYEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIYODELEEYODELEEEEEEEEIIIIIIII... Umm, me Tarzan, you...Jane? (fascinating review, Jerry)

Gerard said...

I did not know Van Johnson was gay. Sham marriages for gay people are still popular. But, splitting an already married couple and paying off the spouse seems so despicable to me.

There were a couple book within the past few years about Tab Hunter and Tab Hunter's agent who managed a lot of gay actors.

Deb said...

In his autobiography, WE WILL ALWAYS LIVE IN BEVERLY HILLS, Ned Wynn (Keenan's son) says that eventually Johnson left his mother for another man.

RT said...

Yikes! Another death reported (Boy), and I feel even older than I did this morning. Well, there is consolation in all the linked reviews/recommendations. Now, if only I can live long enough to read some of the FFB lists. Thanks to everyone for sharing your reviews/recommendations. You've made my day. (Well, that death notice threatened to ruin it!)

Jerry House said...

Patti, I have it on good authority that, since the time the review was first published, I no longer live in Southern Maryland, but I can still be reached at That is, unless you are a bill collector or are campaigning for any of the current Republican presidential candidates; if that is the case, then I regret to inform you that I met my tragic demise in an unfortunate accident involving a falling piano and that whatever remains were recognizable have been devoured by a pack of ravenous scavengers and that I left no forwarding address. Thanks.

Todd Mason said...

Despite having laid my head down for a bit more sleep at about 10:15 am and actually awakening about five minutes ago (Ninja the cat, across the bed from me, seems as surprised as I), i suspect I can do the 28 Feb listing. Now to continue with those I was working on this morning...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes I wonder if you are the only person to read this.

Cap'n Bob said...

I saw Buster Crabbe at a comic con years ago. He also played Tarzan in the movies. He said the yell was produced by three people--a hog caller, an opera singer, and I forget the third.

Jerry House said...

Cap'n, it was only after Carol Burnett perfected her Tarzan yell did she learn that it took three people to produce the original.

Todd Mason said...

I'm the only one who enjoys it, perhaps, Patti, when I can stay awake long enough. And, of course, the 26h.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

My apologies for not contributing this week. It has been a hard one around these parts. This is why I don't ever offer to collect the links. Things can go very wrong around here in a heartbeat and I don't want to let anyone down. I did that today as we were in the car this morning when I suddenly realized it was Friday and I had forgotten.

In other and totally unrelated news, years ago I worked for Bookstop. Late one night, around 2 am and long after the store had closed, I got the bright idea to do my version of the tarzan yell to jump start staff as we had an all night shelving deal going. I did not know that the store manager had showed up to check on us. Apparently, doing the yell through the stores intercom cranked to the highest setting was frowned upon by the establishment.

Said store manager apparently had decided she need to use the facilities and apparently was in the middle of something when I cut loose. When she came out she was extremely displeased and wanted to write up yours truly, but could not figure out how to explain it when the DM would review the case. So, she fussed at me for days until finally somebody else screwed up and I was off the hook.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

TEENSPELL edited by Betty M. Owen (Scholastic Book Services 1971); BENCHMARKS REVISITED by Algis Budrys (Ansible Editions 2013)

...perhaps the latest ever...

Jeff Meyerson said...

I must admit I never heard that Van Johnson marriage story before. I would have told them to go pass up a rope. They 'forced' Keenan Wynn to get a divorce? What did they think they were, some Biblical King? And how did they 'force' Mrs Wynn to marry Van Johnson?

I must admit that stories like that infuriate me.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I must admit I never heard that Van Johnson marriage story before. I would have told them to go pass up a rope. They 'forced' Keenan Wynn to get a divorce? What did they think they were, some Biblical King? And how did they 'force' Mrs Wynn to marry Van Johnson?

I must admit that stories like that infuriate me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, as ever, Patti, for the list and for including my post.

Deb said...

Here is Van Johnson's Wikipedia entry. There's a pretty good wrap-up of what happened under the PERSONAL LIFE heading. My guess is, Keenan Wynn was given the old "you'll never work in this town again" speech and realized he had to yield the floor, as it were. If you haven't read Ned Wynn's book, I strongly recommend it. His parents' divorce and his mother's immediate remarriage to Van Johnson were devastations from which the family never recovered:

Mathew Paust said...

I wish these comment threads had "like" buttons to click. Instead, all I can do is stifle my laughter to keep from being thrown out of the library. Tipple's story was nearly the tipping point (sorry).

Todd Mason said...

Anyone who's seen IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT knows Gable was a slightly sunken-chested beanpole. I guess my unanswered question, perhaps until I look at Deb's link, is why it was necessary for Van Johnson to marry Ms. Wynn. Seems like Lupe Velez was available.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Always amazing how little men seemed to exercise back then. Almost none had much muscle tone compared to actors today.

Mathew Paust said...

I was thinking the same thing the other night, watching Laura. We first meet Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) in his bath. He looks like a concentration camp survivor:

Todd Mason said...

Exercise was for athletes. Watching recent women actresses portraying non-athletic women of the (say) 1930s-50s with essentially zero body fat and pronounced muscular definition is perhaps pleasant but distractingly unconvincing. Meanwhile, Groucho Marx back when, on why he'd give Victor Mature and similar films a pass: "No picture can hold my interest where the leading man's [breasts] are bigger than the leading lady's."

Charles Gramlich said...

Perhaps surprisingly to some, I don't think I've ever seen a Tarzan movie made before the one called Greystoke. Read all the books, though.

Todd Mason said...

I certainly saw a cross-section of thee films when I was young (even a bit of the Elmo Lincoln), and the various tv series...the Ron Ely series was on and in repeats in my early childhood, and made an impression.