Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tarzan's Hollywood Adventure

 Something that would probably surprise a lot of people who haven't read much Edgar Rice Burroughs is that the creator of Tarzan of the Apes and john Carter of Mars had a very sly sense of humor and it shows up throughout his novels. I was reminded of it this evening while doing a reread of ERB's 1934 novel, Tarzan and the Lion Man.
   Lion Man isn't a favorite, primarily because it's a book that seems to feature Tarzan almost as a guest star. Large portions of the book follow the cast and crew of a movie company who have traveled to Africa to shoot a movie about an ersatz Tarzan who was raised by lions. Tarzan shows up every few chapters, but I'd say he's in less than half the book and the other characters aren't really that interesting.
   Things get a bit more entertaining in the second half of the book when one of the movie crew is captured by some apes who speak English and taken to the domain of the Dr. Moreau-like mad scientist who created the mutant apes. But even then we don't get much Tarzan.
   BUT the last chapter of the book is fantastic. Functioning as an epilogue, the last chapter is sort of a mini adventure where Tarzan travels to Hollywood to see what has become of the survivors of the doomed Lion Man crew. He visits the Brown Derby, attends a movie premiere, and ends up at a Hollywood party where he is 'discovered' and offered a part in, wait for it, a Tarzan movie. But when he goes in for a screen test the director declares that he's not the right type to play Tarzan. He does offer him a part as a cowardly white hunter though. I got the idea Burroughs was having a lot of fun writing this sequence.
   I did note that after Tarzan gets fired from the movie for killing a lion that had gone berserk (He saved several lives but he cost the studio a lot of money) that ERB said he stayed in Hollywood another week before taking the shortest route back to Africa. Tarzan in Hollywood in 1934. The possibilities for pastiches are not lost upon me.
   Anyway, not a great book, but that last part was worth showing up.


James Reasoner said...

I love this one for its sheer goofiness. I also read it the first time under perfect circumstances: 13 or 14 years old, sick in bed, desperate for entertainment. But I thought it held up well on a reread a while back.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Cool, James. I can definitely understand the appeal of the goofy.

thedarkman said...

I was born in 1965, just the right time to be a kid. The Ballantine re-prints of all 24 Tarzan novels were easily available by the mid 70's. No video games/arcades, too young for the pool hall and only 1 station on television. It was perfect. I grew up with the ape-man, and even that 1 channel carried the Ron Ely Tarzan series every Saturday afternoon, and the occasional movie from the 30's-40's. Although they don't read the same 35 years later, they still bring me back to my childhood. And it's a great place to visit once in a while.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Sounds like we're roughly the same vintage, Dark Man. Tarzan was omnipresent in my childhood. Movies, comics, TV. I re-read the original ERB books often, and as you say, it takes me right back. Glad you feel the same.

thedarkman said...

The biggest problem with our modern,computer driven world is that there is too much to like. Movies, books, comics, games...and all available at the touch of a button. I am glad I can find anything I want, when I want, but it's just too much at times. That's why I tend to lean towards old, pulp adventure type paperbacks-a tangible link to a simpler time. It's up to me to narrow my focus with the other stuff-you can't have it all!