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Elmo Lincoln was tagged to play the adult Tarzan, and Burroughs was not pleased with the choice. His Tarzan was a graceful yet powerful man, muscled like an Olympic gymnast. Elmo was muscled like a wrestler. Make that two wrestlers. Elmo was a huge barrel-chested man who looked like he could knock a tree over instead of swinging from one. But audiences loved Lincoln, and in typical Hollywood fashion a sequel was quickly made. Other studios started to make Tarzan films and other muscular men were fitted out in loincloths: Gene Pollar (a New York fireman), P. Dempsey Tabler (an opera singer!), Jim Pierce (a football player who would eventually marry Burroughs' daughter Joan), and Frank Merrill (a gymnast at last!).

All these early Tarzan films were from the silent era of cinema, but "Tarzan the Tiger" (1929) had a crude soundtrack (sound films were just starting to appear) and so it was Frank Merrill who was the first to voice a Tarzan yell. Unfortunately, it came off sounding as if an elephant had stepped on his toes. It was not until 1932 that sound movies would change the image of Tarzan forever ... 

Tarzan was big in magazines, big in books and big in the movies. Time to conquer new territory ~ the comics!

In 1927 Joe Neebe, an advertising man, approached Edgar Rice Burroughs with the idea of adapting Tarzan for the newspaper comics. At this time the "funnies" were just that ~ humorous cartoons like Barney Google or Mutt and Jeff. Others, like Little Orphan Annie, were similar to serials, with each day's adventure continuing on to the next day's installment. This is what Neebe had in mind for Tarzan.

Neebe hired Hal Foster to adapt Tarzan of the Apes for the daily newspaper strip. Foster would achieve his greatest fame as the creator of Prince Valiant, but at the time he started with Tarzan he was an advertising illustrator. The Tarzan strip debuted on January 7, 1929 (the same day as the first Buck Rogers strip). Foster managed to cram the first Tarzan novel into ten weeks (sixty daily strips altogether). Eventually this strip was published in book form, technically making it the first Tarzan comic book.

Foster's dynamic retelling of the Tarzan story was a welcome change from the usual comic fare, and soon newspapers across the country were clamoring to carry the strip. But if Tarzan in a black-and-white daily strip was something ~ wait until Tarzan hit the Sunday color comics! This debuted in March of 1931. First illustrated by Rex Maxon, after six months (and a lot of pressure from Burroughs) he was replaced by Foster, who quickly made Tarzan the first thing America wanted to read Sunday morning. All the wild adventure that Hollywood couldn't get into a movie was in full display in Foster's pages.

When Hal Foster left Tarzan in 1936 in order to work on Prince Valiant, he handed the reigns over to Burne Hogarth, who quickly made Tarzan into one of the most vivid and action-packed comics ever seen. His mastery of human and animal forms, the unconventionality of his layout, and his ability to make the images leap off the page earned Hogarth the title "The Michaelangelo of the Comics." These classic Foster and Hogarth strips have been reprinted by NBM Publishing, Inc. and are as exciting to view today as they were sixty years ago. The Sunday Tarzan comic is also still going strong. Why not ask your local paper to start carrying Tarzan?

In 1931 Metro Goldwyn Mayer mogul Irving Thalberg approached Edgar Rice Burroughs with the idea of producing the first of a series of sound Tarzan movies. These would be big budget "A" pictures stocked with lots of action, stunts and thrills a'plenty. Good idea, thought Burroughs. There was just one problem: he had already sold the film rights to Tarzan of the Apes, and MGM wanted to film the first Tarzan tale. What to do?

Of course, the solution was simple: Rewrite Tarzan! Abandoning Burroughs' complex tale, MGM came up with a story that was a great deal more streamlined. How Tarzan actually got to Africa is never explained. The American Jane Porter became the English Jane Parker. The movie would take place entirely in the African jungles, so no need for Tarzan to learn the ways of civilization. In fact, Tarzan really didn't need to do much speaking at all. This allowed the MGM casting department to find a man who really looked like Tarzan.

And they found him in twenty-seven year-old Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller. Considered one of the most perfectly formed men on the planet, Weissmuller was a natural for the role. With his outstanding athletic ability and sheer physical presence, Weissmuller didn't have to say much in order to be Tarzan. Paired with the beautiful Maureen O'Sullivan, this Tarzan and Jane remain one of the classic Hollywood film couples of all time.

"Tarzan the Ape Man" debuted in 1932 and was a huge hit. Filmed in various Los Angeles locations and at Crystal Springs, Florida (with a great deal of authentic African footage that had been shot for the earlier movie "Trader Horn"), "Tarzan the Ape Man" gave Depression-weary movie goers a unique form of escapist entertainment. And even though Tarzan didn't talk much, Weissmuller did come up with one of the most memorable sounds to emerge from cinema: The famous Tarzan yell. Suddenly Burroughs' "victory cry of the bull ape" was given form, and kids across America were now hanging from trees and yelling at the tops of their lungs.

The MGM Tarzan movies made Tarzan books and comics more popular than ever. Everyone was happy ~ except the Hollywood censors. It seemed that Tarzan and Jane's jungle outfits were a bit too, well, revealing. As the series progressed both Tarzan and Jane would show less and less skin. And then there were the household arrangements. It appeared as if Tarzan and Jane were living in their tree house together without the benefit of a marriage ceremony. If movie goers were shocked they certainly didn't complain, as each new film was a big success. But still, later movies were downplay the romance between Tarzan and Jane, and emphasize action and adventure. Oh, and Cheeta the chimp, too!

Sound movies had given a voice to Tarzan, but they had also greatly simplified Edgar Rice Burroughs' character. Movies, no matter how elaborate or expensive, just can't match the images of each reader's imagination. But if you didn't want to pick up a book there was still one way to let your imagination run wild: Listen to the radio!
 
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