TARZAN IN FILM - 1918 to 2005

Tarzan ranks beside Dracula and Sherlock Holmes amongst the top three most popular characters of literary fiction to appear in films.  His appeal may lie in the fact that he represents everything that has been lost by people living in civilised countries.  He is the master of a terrifyingly savage domain but is equipped with only primitive weapons and his own strength and courage.  He is also motivated by a strong moral conviction and is, therefore, a true Noble Savage.

Between 1918 and today 52 "official" Tarzan films have been released.  Four of those are animated and the remainder feature twenty different adult actors.  The quality of those films ranges from painfully inept to rivetingly engrossing, but fans are generally just happy to see their jungle hero in action.  

Not surprisingly, the majority of actors who played the ape man were about six foot, three inches tall (192 cm) and weighed about 220 pounds (100 kg).  Most of them came from non-acting backgrounds and about half of them were sportsmen.  Four were Olympians.  They are frequently ridiculed for the triviality of their chosen profession but these large-chested men-of-few-words have contributed something invaluable to the human spirit - transports of the imagination and a sometimes heart-pounding sense of wonder.

Click on the images below to explore the topics or play a short documentary on Tarzan films by clicking on the image above:

• The small images in the banner above - (L to R) Lex Barker & Vanessa Brown; Gene Pollar & Joe Martin the ape; Glen Morris & Eleanor Holm; Frank Merrill; Mike Henry; Ron Ely; and Miles O'Keefe - are all from AMC (American Movie Classics) Magazine, Jun 97
• The embedded Youtube video was made by Youtuber condensedclassics.  Many thanks for creating this gem!
• Photos on The Silents image (top left to bottom right) - Elmo Lincoln, Gene Pollar, Frank Merrill and P Dempsey Tabler - are all from of A Pictorial History of the Tarzan Movies by Ray Lee and Vernell Coriell, Golden State News Inc, 1966
• Photo of Johnny Weissmuller on The Black & Whites image (top left) was donated by Geoff St Andrews. Many thanks Geoff!
• Other photos on The Black & Whites image (top right to bottom left) - Herman Brix, Glen Morris and Lex Barker - are all from of A Pictorial History of the Tarzan Movies by Ray Lee and Vernell Coriell, Golden State News Inc, 1966
• Photos on The Colour Films image (top left to bottom right) - Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, Christopher Lambert and Joe Lara - were all pilfered from eBay auction items
• See numerous clips from Tarzan films at Mathieu Neyens' Tarzan en Jane site from Belgium

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 June 2008