Tarzan the Ape Man (1932 film)

Tarzan the Ape Man is a 1932 pre-Code American action adventure film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous jungle hero Tarzan and starring Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith and Maureen O'Sullivan. It was Weissmuller's first of 12 Tarzan films. O'Sullivan played Jane in six features between 1932 and 1942.[1] The film is loosely based on Burroughs' 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes, with the dialogue written by Ivor Novello. The film was directed by W.S. Van Dyke. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released two remakes of Tarzan, the Ape Man in 1959 and in 1981, but each was a different adaptation of Rice Burroughs' novel. It is also the first appearance of Tarzan's famous yell.

Tarzan the Ape Man
Theatrical poster
Directed byW. S. Van Dyke
Written byCyril Hume
Based onTarzan of the Apes
1912 magazine
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Produced byIrving Thalberg
StarringJohnny Weissmuller
Neil Hamilton
Maureen O'Sullivan
C. Aubrey Smith
CinematographyClyde De Vinna
Edited byTom Held
Ben Lewis
Music byGeorge Richelarie
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • April 2, 1932 (1932-04-02)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.54 million

Plot edit

James Parker and Harry Holt travel in Africa on a quest for the legendary elephant burial grounds and their ivory. They are joined by Parker's daughter Jane. Holt is attracted to Jane, and tries somewhat ineffectively to protect her from the jungle's dangers. The expedition encounters an attack by both hippopotami and crocodiles. The mysterious Tarzan wards off the attack, but abducts Jane.

The experience is terrifying to Jane at first, but as their relationship develops, she finds herself happy; "not a bit afraid, not a bit sorry". As she returns to her father, her feelings are brought to a test. She wants Tarzan to come with her to London, and to be part of her world. But Tarzan turns his back on her and returns to the jungle. Her father tells her that is where Tarzan belongs; she cries, "no, Dad, he belongs to me."

The expedition is captured by a tribe of aggressive dwarfs. Jane sends Tarzan's chimpanzee friend Cheeta (Jiggs) for help, bringing Tarzan to their rescue. During the rescue, Tarzan summons elephants and they escape from the dwarfs' stronghold, although Jane's father dies from wounds just as they reach the elephant graveyard. Jane decides to stay in the jungle with Tarzan and in the final scene, to the music of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, the happy couple appear on a rock, Jane holding Cheeta like a baby.

Cast edit

O'Sullivan and Weissmuller

Production edit

MGM finally found who they were looking for when they came across decorated Olympian Weissmuller. The professional swimmer had five gold medals in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, alongside 67 world and 52 national titles. The only obstacle with signing him onto the role was his contract to model BVD underwear. In order for them to release him from the contract, MGM agreed to have actresses such as Greta Garbo and Marie Dressler, to be featured in BVD ads.[2]

The film was shot on Lot One of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Culver City, California and at the Lake Sherwood area north of Los Angeles[3] as well as Silver Springs in Florida. Lions from the film were borrowed from nearby Goebel's Lion Farm in Thousand Oaks, CA. Goebel himself would often camp by the filming site near Lake Sherwood to watch his lions during filming.[4]

As with most Weissmuller Tarzan films, the elephants were Indian, which have smaller ears, rather than African, so large fake ears, and fake tusks, were fitted onto the animals in an attempt to make them look authentic.[5] Similarly, the tribe of African dwarfs, made to look like pygmies (all males), portrayed in the film was actually a cast of several white midgets wearing blackface.[5]

Little people wearing blackface acted as pygmies

Stock footage made in Africa for W.S. Van Dyke's Trader Horn was added to location work shot in the then-undeveloped Toluca Lake region north of Los Angeles.[6]

Release edit

The film was released on April 2, 1932.[7]

Reception edit

The movie proved to be a huge hit, pulling in nearly $1 million in profits. The overall success of the film led MGM to star Weissmuller and O'Sullivan in a total of five sequels.[2]

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 100% "Fresh", based on 14 reviews, with a rating average of 7.9/10.[8]

Film series edit

The Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) sequels that were produced by MGM, starred Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan,[9] were:

The Tarzan sequels that were produced by RKO, starred Johnny Weissmuller were:

Following the twelve films starring Johnny Weissmuller, MGM and RKO would produce a further 16 Tarzan films set in the same continuity with different actors playing Tarzan, along with two remake films in 1959 (starring Denny Miller as Tarzan) and 1981 (starring Bo Derek as Jane).

References edit

  1. ^ "Feature Film/TV Episode/Video/TV Movie/TV Special/TV Mini-Series/Documentary/Video Game/Short Film, with Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan (Sorted by Year Ascending)". IMDb.
  2. ^ a b "Tarzan, the Ape Man". www.tcm.com. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  3. ^ George E. Turner, ed. The Cinema of Adventure, Romance, & Terror. ASC Cinema Press, 1988.
  4. ^ Maulhardt, Jeffrey Wayne (2011). Jungleland. Arcadia Publishing. Page 7. ISBN 9780738574448.
  5. ^ a b Ethington, Phillip J. (2008). "Global Spaces of Los Angeles". In Prakash, Gyan; Kruse, Kevin Michael (eds.). The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life. Princeton University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-691-13343-0.
  6. ^ Miller, Frank, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932), tcm.com
  7. ^ "Tarzan de Ape Man". AFI Catalog. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  8. ^ "Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  9. ^ "Johnny Weissmuller | Actor, Music Department". IMDb.
  • DVD commentary for the Tarzan Collection DVD set released in 2005.

External links edit