Ronald Pierce Ely (born June 21, 1938)[1] is an American actor and novelist born in Hereford, Texas, and raised in Amarillo.

Ron Ely
Ely (center) as Tarzan in 1968
Ronald Pierce Ely

(1938-06-21) June 21, 1938 (age 85)
Occupation(s)Actor, novelist
Years active1957–2001, 2014–present
(m. 1959; div. 1961)
Valerie Lundeen
(m. 1984; died 2019)
Children3 (1 deceased)

Ely is best known for having portrayed Tarzan in the 1966–1968 NBC series Tarzan and for playing the lead role in the film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975).[2] He hosted the Miss America pageant telecast in 1980 and 1981.

Actor Edit

Ely won the role of Tarzan in 1966 after playing supporting roles in films such as South Pacific (1958), as an airplane navigator, The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958) and The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959).

During the filming of Tarzan, Ely did virtually all of his stunts for the series,[3] and suffered two dozen major injuries in the process, including two broken shoulders and various lion bites.[4]

Ely's height (6'4") and athletic build also won him the title role in the film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975), as well as various guest shots. He was in five episodes of the series Fantasy Island; in one, in 1978, Ely portrayed Mark Antony in a Roman military short tunic and breastplate. Also in 1978, Ely starred in the Wonder Woman television series two-part episode "The Deadly Sting."

Ely starred on the series The Aquanauts in 1960–1961, in the western adventure film The Night of the Grizzly (1966) opposite Clint Walker, and later appeared in Jürgen Goslar's slavery movie Slavers (1978). In the 1980s, he hosted the musical game show Face the Music, as well as the 1980 and 1981 Miss America Pageants, replacing longtime host Bert Parks.[5] Later in the decade, Ely starred in a 1987–1988 revival of the 1960s adventure series Sea Hunt as Mike Nelson, the role played by Lloyd Bridges in the original series.

In the 1990s, Ely's roles included a retired Superman from an alternative reality in the 1991 two-part episode "The Road to Hell" of the Superboy syndicated television series, and a big game hunter named Gordon Shaw in the 1992 episode "Tarzan the Hunted" of the syndicated Tarzán TV series (starring Wolf Larson). Until about 2001, Ely made appearances on such television shows as Sheena and Renegade.

Ely had retired from acting in 2001, but he returned to acting with an appearance in the television movie Expecting Amish (2014).[2]

Writer Edit

Ely embarked on a professional writing career and has authored two published mystery novels featuring private eye Jake Sands: Night Shadows (1994) and East Beach (1995).[2]

Personal life Edit

Ely married his high school sweetheart Janet in 1959. Both natives of Hereford, Texas, they stayed together until their divorce in July 1961.[6] He later dated actresses Ursula Andress, Barbara Bouchet, Dyan Cannon, and Britt Ekland. In 1984 he married former Miss Florida USA, Valerie Lundeen,[6] and they had three children: Kirsten, Kaitland, and Cameron.[2]

On October 15, 2019, Valerie was found stabbed to death at the Hope Ranch residential community along the Santa Barbara coast where the couple lived; Ron was unharmed.[7] Police were called to the scene for a "family disturbance",[2][8] and a suspect identified as the couple's son Cameron was shot dead by police.[3] In October 2020, Ely challenged the Santa Barbara District Attorney after the police's actions were described as justifiable homicide by the district attorney and no charges were filed against the deputies who were involved in the shooting.[9][10]

Filmography Edit

Film Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1958 South Pacific Navigator
1958 The Fiend Who Walked the West Deputy Jim Dyer
1959 The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker Wilbur Fielding
1966 The Night of the Grizzly Tad Curry
1966 Once Before I Die Soldier
1972 Der Schrei der schwarzen Wölfe Bill Robinson
1972 Alleluja & Sartana Are Sons... Sons of God Hallelujah
1975 Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze Clark Savage Jr. aka Doc
1976 MitGift Dr. Kurt Jahn
1978 Slavers Steven Hamilton
1981 The Seal
2014 Expecting Amish Elder Miller

Television Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1959 Father Knows Best Jerry Preston Episode: Crisis Over a Kiss
1959 Steve Canyon Pete Randall Episode: The Sergeant
1959 Playhouse 90 Buddy Episode: The Second Happiest Day
1959 How to Marry a Millionaire Philip Jackson Episode: The Method
1959 The Millionaire Jim Phillips Episode: Millionaire Sergeant Matthew Brogan
1959 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Dobie's Older Brother Episode: Pilot
1960 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Arleigh Smith Episode: The Posse
1961 The Aquanauts Mike Madison 18 Episodes
1962 Thriller Lt. Mike Hudson Episode: Waxworks
1966–1968 Tarzan Tarzan 57 Episodes
1969 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Ronald Episode: Pain
1971 Ironside Scott Bradley Episode: A Killing at the Track
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D. Ben Brecht Episode: To Father a Child
1978 Wonder Woman Bill Michaels Episode: The Deadly Sting
1979–1984 Fantasy Island Fred Spenser / Burt Hunter / Kevin Lansing Eric Williams / Marc Anthony / Baron Manfred von Richthofen 5 Episodes
1980-1981 Face The Music Host[11] 2 Seasons
1980–1981 The Love Boat Ted Cole / Jim / Steve Swaggart / Darryl Brewster 3 Episodes
1983 Matt Houston Winston Fowler Episode: A Deadly Parlay
1983 Hotel Evan Paige Episode: Charades
1987 Sea Hunt Mike Nelson 22 Episodes
1991 Superboy Superman Episode: The Road to Hell: Part 2
1992 Tarzán Gordon Shaw Episode: Tarzan, the Hunted
1992 The Hat Squad Carl Strong Episode: Family Business
1993 L.A. Law Episode: Book of Renovation, Chapter 1
1993–1994 Renegade Gen. Howard Bird / Reverend McClain 2 Episodes
1994 Hawkeye Harry March Episode: Out of the Past
2001 Sheena Bixby Episode: The Feral King

References Edit

  1. ^ BnF catalog entry for Ron Ely. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ron Ely: Woman found dead at Tarzan star's California home". BBC News. October 16, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely's wife killed; son shot by deputies". ABC News. Associated Press. October 16, 2019.
  4. ^ Rutledge, Leigh W. (1989). The Gay Fireside Companion. Alyson Publications, Inc. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-55583-164-6.
  5. ^ "Our History | Miss America 2.0". Miss America. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Farrell, Paul (October 16, 2019). "Valerie Lundeen, Ron Ely's Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  7. ^ O'Neill, Natalie (October 16, 2019). "'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely's wife stabbed to death: reports". New York Post. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  8. ^ Parker, Ryan (October 16, 2019). "Homicide Suspect Killed by Deputies in Home of 'Tarzan' Actor Ron Ely". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  9. ^ Roberto, Melissa (October 16, 2020). "Ron Ely challenges Santa Barbara district attorney after fatal shooting of his son deemed 'justifiable'". Fox News. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  10. ^ "No charges against sheriff's deputies who shot, killed son of 'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely in Santa Barbara County". ABC7 KABC. October 7, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  11. ^ "Face the Music". IMDb.

External links Edit