Directors Jack Nelson & Ray Taylor
Story Edgar Rice Burroughs
Adaptation Ian McCloskey Heath &
Jack Nelson

Tarzan Frank Merrill
Black John Al Ferguson
Mary Trevor Natalie Kingston
Bobby Trevor Bobby Nelson
Lord Greystoke, Tarzan's uncle Lorimer Johnston

• FBO was discouraged from filming a sequel to Tarzan and the Golden Lion because of the bad reception it got from critics.  Universal saw that there was an opening and, inspired by fond memories of the success of their Elmo Lincoln serials, approached ERB for a Tarzan property for a new serial.  They paid him an undisclosed sum for the rights to Jungle Tales of Tarzan, a collection of short stories about Tarzan's early life, and Ian McCloskey Heath wrote a shooting treatment named after the book.  That title was soon abandoned in favour of Tarzan the Mighty and the similarities to ERB's original work became more tenuous.  To play the lead Universal hired a handsome, muscular 35-year-old stunt man who was a veteran of two Tarzan films - The Son of Tarzan and The Adventures of Tarzan.  Merrill was a national gymnastics champion in 1916 and 1918 and was a perfect choice for the role.  His impressive vine work helped the film's success considerably and he is credited with devising the well-known vine swinging for which Tarzan is famous.  Opposite Merrill was an attractive 23-year-old named Natalie Kingston, who played the love interest - Mary Trevor, not Jane.  The serial was a mammoth success and Merrill and Kingston soon returned in a sequel - Tarzan the Tiger (1929). (Essoe)

PLOT - Note: Spoiler warning
• Tarzan befriends a woman named Mary and her younger brother, Bobby, survivors of a shipwreck.  They are harassed frequently by a colony of thugs who are descended from pirates, led by a brute named Black John who has strong desires for Mary.  Mary soon learns that Tarzan is heir to the Greystoke estate from documents he has kept for years but does not understand.  Coincidentally, a ship arrives carrying a search party, headed by Lord Greystoke's brother, searching for his long-lost nephew.  Black John attempts to pose as the missing Greystoke, shoots Tarzan and then traps Bobby and Greystoke in a cave and assumes Greystoke's identity.  He plans to return to England as Lord Greystoke with Mary as his new bride.  Tarzan recovers from his wound and rescues Bobby and Greystoke.  Black John continues his scheming and soon after Greystoke is stabbed by his disloyal secretary.  Tarzan and Bobby arrive in time to save Greystoke and Black John is savaged by leopards as he escapes.  Tarzan refuses to return to civilisation with Greystoke and Mary decides to stay on in the jungle with Tarzan. (Fury)

See some brief footage of Frank Merrill in the documetary on the Silent Films Intro page

Tarzan of the Movies by Gabe Essoe, 1968, The Citadel Press
Kings of the Jungle by David Fury, 1994, McFarland Classics
• Both photos are from Tarzan of the Movies by Gabe Essoe, 1968, The Citadel Press
• A Frank Merrill filmography from IMDb (Internet Movie Database)
• Essay: Five Tarzans - The Silent Apemen by Gene Popa
Learn much more about this film at Bill Hillman's comprehensive Tarzan the Mighty page
• There are currently no surviving copies of this film

TARZAN® is the property of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., Tarzana CA.
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Tarzan material is copyright © 2002-2007 Paul Wickham
This page was updated April 2007