The annual Shark Week celebration over at the Discovery Channel is getting a lot of attention this week, but even bigger news on the amazing animal front is that apes are going to be in the spotlight again when The Legend of Tarzan, starring Margot Robbie, Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, debuts in theaters this Friday (July 1).
That’s right, the Ape Man is going to be back in a live-action movie for the first time in almost two decades, in a film that is looking very much like it could be the blockbuster of the summer, and quite possibly the ‘date-movie’ of the year.
To get you ready for this spectacular simian-cinema milestone we thought we’d get you hip to some of the history behind Tarzan of the Apes so that you can amaze your fiends while anxiously waiting for that first film-frame to flicker on the big screen.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first Tarzan story, Tarzan of the Apes, was published in the October 1912 edition of The All-Story pulp magazine. The author first began writing the tale of the orphaned babe raised by apes on Dec. 1, 1911.
- Tarzan was raised by the fictional simian tribe known as the Mangani, meaning “great-ape” in their own elaborate language, which was invented by Burroughs. Other Mangani words include: Tarzan (white-skin); Numa (lion); Histah (snake); Bolgani (gorilla); Manu (monkey); and Tarmangani (white human being or white great ape.) You can read a scholarly article by Dr. Peter Coogan about the great apes’ language and an extensive listing of words over at the Official Philip José Farmer Web Page.
- Batman is often considered the first “superhero” without actual super-powers, but the truth is that Bob Kane’s caped-crusader was at least partially inspired by Tarzan (not to mention The Shadow and Doc Savage as well.) Both Bruce Wayne and John Clayton (Tarzan’s real name) were orphaned as children, inherited fortunes, and would go on to fight injustice and evil using their wits and physical prowess. The big difference is that Tarzan doesn’t have all the fancy gizmos. As Jane states in the upcoming film, “No man ever started with less.”
- The love of Tarzan’s life, Jane, has been portrayed in the movies as both American and British. The best known Jane was played by Maureen O’Sullivan in the Johnny Weissmuller films from the ’30s and ’40s, where she was an English woman named “Jane Parker.” The real Jane, from the books, is an American woman (Jane Porter) from Baltimore.
- Tarzan’s father, the British Lord Greystoke, is killed by the Mangani leader, Kerchak; but when Tarzan, nurtured and raised by the she-ape Kala, becomes a young adult he avenges his father by killing the malevolent Kerchak and taking on his role as the king of the tribe.
- The first Tarzan movie was a silent film released almost 100 years ago. Tarzan of the Apes hit theaters in 1918 and starred the very stout Elmo Lincoln as the Ape Man, and the doe-eyed Enid Markey as Jane. The movie was a huge hit, but author Edgar Rice Burroughs was not thrilled with the casting of Tarzan. (You can watch the film on YouTube HERE!)
- The Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan pulp stories have been re-published into 24 novels in multiple languages. Most of the tales are set in Africa, although the author never actually set foot on the continent.
- Jane Porter is one of the first female characters in popular culture to be written as a strong, independently-minded woman; even though her Ape Man often arrives just in the nick of time to save her skin.
- The fictional character of Tarzan is one of the best known and most popular characters the world over. His pulp magazine heroics have inspired countless other adventure heroes and have greatly influenced the serial storytelling medium as a whole.
- While some believe that Burroughs’ Ape Man was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the late author always maintained Tarzan of the Apes was his original tale and that if he was subliminally influenced by anything it was most likely the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus.
‘The Legend of Tarzan’ opens in theaters on July 1, 2016.