Sunday, October 13, 2013
Taran 101 | Burroughs' Later Years
Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.
Two months after he finished writing his final novel, Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, in 1944, Burroughs' first wife Emma passed away from a stroke. He was still a war correspondent at the time, but got leave from the army - as did his and Emma's son, Hulbert - to return to California to be with the rest of the family and settle Emma's affairs. It was Christmastime and the first time Burroughs had celebrated the holiday with his entire family in 11 years.
In February 1945, he returned to duty in Hawaii and embarked on a final army tour shortly after Germany surrendered in May. On one leg of that tour, he was piloted by swashbuckling film legend Tyrone Power who was serving in the Marine Corps at the time.
After the war with Japan ended in August, it took Burroughs another couple of months to prepare and move back to California. Sadly, his health was already failing and he suffered from various heart ailments as well as Parkinson's disease. He started a new Tarzan novel in California, but only got 15,000 words into it before giving it up.
Sol Lesser was making Tarzan movies at the time and Burroughs stayed in contact with the productions. He got to see Tarzan and the Leopard Woman and one of his last outings was to the set of Tarzan and the Slave Girl. Ultimately though, his health declined to the point that he was confined to a wheelchair and he spent his final days watching TV (a new invention in the late '40s and Burroughs loved watching sports on it) and receiving visits from family and friends.
He died of heart failure in bed on Sunday morning, 19 March 1950, reading the Sunday Tarzan strip in the paper. His ashes were buried under a large tree in front of the ERB, Inc. office.