Tarzan the Ape Man
Release year: 1932
Director: W.S.Van Dyke
Screenwriter: Cyril Hume, Ivor Novello, Edgar Rice Burroughs (based upon characters created by)
Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith, Doris Lloyd, Forrester Harvey, Ivory Williams
Jane (O’Sullivan) arrives in Africa to be with her father, the trader James Parker (Smith). Here she discovers the mystics of Africa when they go on an expedition to find the elephant burial grounds. But then Jane is abducted by a strange man (Weissmuller) living with apes in the jungle.
The first of an astonishing 12 Tarzan movies starring Weissmuller, Tarzan the Ape Man is based loosely on Burroughs’ classic novel from about to decades earlier. The film uses stock footage from Van Dyke’s former movie Trader Horn (1931) which, especially in the beginning of the movie shows clear signs of the fact that, the movie was filmed in studios, but once the story really starts after Jane meets Tarzan, you don’t think about too much anymore. After a slow beginning, the movie moves into a dramatic twist of story, with some terrible monkey costumes and some black-facing, but the drama works well enough to keep your interest. Weissmuller seems made for the part and his Tarzan yell is definitely one of the very best and must be the one every movie Tarzan since has tried to live up to and O’Sullivan (Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986) finds a nice balance between independent woman and damsel i distress. A classic adventure.
Though some believe Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan call was made by sound recordist Douglas Shearer, Maureen O’Sullivan insisted to her dying day that it was all Weissmuller.
The elephants used in the early Weissmuller films were not African but Asian elephants with African sized ears strapped on. This practice is still common because the Asian species is much more docile than the African. In later films the fake ears were abandoned altogether figuring no one would know the difference.
Some of the monkeys used in this film got away, and they are still breeding in the wilderness of Tampa Bay, Florida.
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video