Director W S Van Dyke
Producer Bernard H Hyman
Executive Producer (uncredited) Irving Thalberg
Adaptation Cyril Hume
Dialogue Ivor Novello

Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller
Jane Parker Maureen O'Sullivan
Harry Holt Neil Hamilton
James Parker C Aubrey Smith
Beamish Forrester Harvey
Riano Ivory Williams
Mrs Cutten Doris Lloyd
Cheta Emma the chimp
Giant Gorilla Ray Corrigan
Stunt Artists

Bert Nelson, Louis Goebel,
The Flying Codonas, the Picchiani Troupe

• In 1931 MGM's "wunderkind" production head, Irving Thalberg, brokered a deal with ERB Inc. for a Tarzan property, which included an option for a second film.  It was suggested that director, "One-Take" Woody Van Dyke, utilise some of the excess jungle footage shot on location in Africa for his production of MGM's Trader Horn (1931), then a big hit for MGM.  The original choice to play the ape-man was Herman Brix, the 1928 Olympic shot put silver medalist turned actor, but he was forced to withdraw when he broke his shoulder filming Touchdown (1931), a film about gridiron.  He would get the chance to play Tarzan again several years later when he was chosen to play the lead in The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935).  Brix's replacement for the part was Johnny Weissmuller, had won two gold medals in swimming at the 1928 Olymics in Amsterdam.  He was discovered by MGM screenwriter Cyril Hume, who saw him swimming at the Hollywood Athletic Club, where Hume also worked out.  Weissmuller was given a film test and it was agreed his rugged good looks and cat-like physical grace would make an excellent Tarzan, despite the fact that he had no previous acting experience.  Maureen O'Sullivan, a 20-year-old Irish actress, was cast as Tarzan's mate, Jane.  Neil Hamilton, who was cast as African adventurer Harry Holt, would acheive a significant amount of fame in the 1960s playing Commissioner Gordon in the campy Batman TV series.  The film was shot in only eight weeks in the MGM studios and the Lake Sherwood and Sherwood Forest area of southern California.  It was released on 25 March 1932 and became one of the top ten box office hits of the year. (Essoe & St Andrews) Read the full story at Geoff St Andrews' Tarzan the Ape Man page.

• To hear the ape cry used in this film click on the image at right

PLOT - Note: Spoiler warning
• James Parker, a crusty old African trader, and his partner, Harry Holt, are lured to embark on a search for the ivory of the mythical Elephant's Burial Ground when an old native gives them a clue to its whereabouts.  Jane, Parker's refined but spunky daughter, arrives from England just as they are departing and she persuades them to take her with them, and Holt soon finds that he is strongly attracted to her.  Their journey takes them to the top of the Mutia Escarpment where the safari encounter an illiterate white savage named Tarzan who abducts Jane, and eventually wins her heart despite his crude ways (above).  Jane soon returns to her father but the safari is captured by a tribe of pygmies.  They are taken to the pygmy's villiage where they are subjected to a hideous ritual and are thrown into a pit with a killer gorilla.  Tarzan and his elephant friends storm the pygmy village, Tarzan battles and kills the giant gorilla and the elephants destroy the village. Parker dies from wounds sustained in the gorilla pit (left), and Holt returns to civilisation vowing to return for the ivory.  Jane decides to stay on in the jungle with her lover, the ape-man.

Click on the image below to view the trailer for this film:
Click on the image below to view the entire film on the Filmschatten Tarzan the Ape Man page:
Below are links to four scenes from this film available on Youtube:
• Click HERE to see the scene of Jane inspecting the native tribes at her fathers' trading post
• Click HERE to see the scene of Tarzan and Jane's first conversation
• Click HERE to see the scene of Parker's safari being captured by pygmies
• Click HERE to see the scene of Parker's safari being sacrificed to the gorilla in a pit

Click on the image below to view a collection of various styles of lobby cards for this film:

Tarzan of the Movies by Gabe Essoe, 1968, The Citadel Press
Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) web site, by Geoff St Andrews
• The embedded Youtube video of Tarzan's ape cry was provided by Youtuber jamon31.  Many thanks!
• The poster and the bottom photo were pilfered from eBay auction items.
• The top photo was donated by Geoff St Andrews. Thanks a million, Geoff!
• The video of the trailer was uploaded to Youtube by me specifically to embed in this web page
• Many thanks to the Filmschatten film blog for providing the entire film online.  Incredible!
• The four Youtube videos of scenes from this film were provided by Youtuber cougarprof.  Many thanks!
• Read a detailed review and rating of this film at At-A-Glance Film Reviews
• View three film clips from this film at Mathieu Neyens' Tarzan en Jane web site (Belgian)
• A great selection of photos of Maureen O'Sullivan at shillPages Maureen O'Sullivan page
• Bag yourself a copy of this film on DVD at
Amazon.com or eBay - it is part of the The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 1

TARZAN® is the property of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., Tarzana CA.
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Tarzan material is copyright © 2002-2008 Paul Wickham
The page was updated March 2008