Thursday, May 02, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan and the Lion Man

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Burroughs gained quite a bit of experience working with Hollywood during the production of the earliest Tarzan films, so he put that to good use in Tarzan and the Lion Man. The title character is a movie character played by marathon champion Stanley Obroski, who's come to Africa to shoot a movie with director Tom Orman, actress Naomi Madison, and Madison's stunt double Rhonda Terry.

The film expedition is based on the events surrounding the production of real-life safari film Trader Horn, an ill-fated shoot in which actors (including the female lead) and crew contracted malaria and two crewmen were killed by wild animals. In Lion Man, Tarzan is mostly a passive observer to the crew's plight until the two women are captured by English-speaking gorillas. He trails them to the gorillas' home and uncovers a Moreau-like scientist who's conducting genetic experiments on animals in order to prove Darwin right.

The novel ends with an epilogue in which Tarzan visits Hollywood and learns that - in its own way - it's just as vicious as the jungle. This last part was suggested to Burroughs by an editor at Modern Screen who wanted to publish a humorous piece about Tarzan and the film industry. Burroughs wrote it, but never submitted it to the magazine.

Thanks partly to Tarzan's being confused with actor Stanley Obroski in Lion Man, Griffin's supplemental chapter is on "Tarzan's Appearance." There's a thumbnail gallery of artists' interpretations (by J. Allen St. John, Frank Frazetta, Robert Abbett, Thomas Yeates, Boris Vallejo, N.C. Wyeth, George Wilson, Robert Stanley, and Neal Adams) and Griffin discusses how Burroughs intentionally left Tarzan's description vague. He also talks a little about Tarzan's costume and reveals that the origin of the over-the-shoulder strap in some depictions of Tarzan was from the early films from a time when men could be arrested for being topless at the beach.

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