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.