MGM's fantasy version of Africa goes swinging into northern Europe.
From up Scandinavia way comes this colorful borderless Danish poster for Tarzan the Ape Man, which starred Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. It was called simply Tarzan in Denmark, though Danes who've since seen it on DVD know it as Abemanden Tarzan. This was painted by Kurt Wenzel, whose signature you can see at the righthand margin, and who also painted well known posters for The Flying Tigers, The Killers, and The Searchers. We saw Tarzan for the first time last year and enjoyed it despite its flaws. We enjoyed the sequel too, equally flawed. Shorter version: watch it only with your historical accuracy and outrage filters turned off. After opening in the U.S. in March 1932, Tarzan premiered in Denmark today the same year.
I was never an ugly duckling. That's why you shouldn't believe fairy tales.
This photo of Swedish actress Kirsten Svanholm, better known by her pseudonym Kitty Swan, was made when she was filming the Tarzan-style adventure Gungala la pantera nuda, aka Gungala the Black Panther Girl in 1968, the second of two Gungala movies she headlined. After those films she appeared in a couple of official Tarzan movies, 1969's Tarzán en la gruta del oro, aka Tarzan in the Golden Grotto, and 1972's Tarzán y el arco iris, aka Tarzan and the Brown Prince, so you could say she ended up typecast. But what a type. We watched one of the Gungala films and it was ridiculous. Will that stop us from watching the other one? Not on your life.
They may not have much but at least they're free.
Like the poster says, Johnny Weissmuller is back again. When we last saw him as Tarzan, earlier this month, he and love interest Maureen O'Sullivan had swung away into the African trees together. But her British friends were always going to return, and sure enough Neil Hamilton and company are back to get their mitts on that legendary cache of elephant ivory. You know the drill. Hamilton and Paul Cavanaugh seek the unobtanium. The jungle comes alive with lethal dangers. Bearers sacrifice their lives to keep the bosses safe. Meanwhile Tarzan and Jane deal with their own cavalcade of jungle horrors—first a lion, then a rhino, then a leopard, then a crocodile, then a lion. We don't have to detail it. What's fascinating is not the action, but the erotic subtext.
This flick oozes sex. O'Sullivan's role has evolved. She's no plain Jane. She's a fantasy of the perfect woman here, the perfect lover. Her character is—in a word—devastating. Her humor, cuteness, and coquettishness are off the charts. She wears less than ever. Her body double Josephine McKim wears nothing, or at most a patch over her pubic area. But audiences who saw the full cut thought it was a bare-assed O'Sullivan. All of this is designed to make her irresistible not only to the male audience, but to Cavanaugh, who goes after her with the charmless persistence of a high school sophomore. Dare we say this is a dangerous game when dealing with the King of the Jungle?
Of course, all the flaws we cited with Tarzan the Ape Man are recurrent here. Once again African bearers are whipped through the jungle, across dangerous rivers, and up that same deadly escarpment from installment one. At which point Cavanaugh says, “Well, I hope we've got the worst behind us.” No, not even. Tarzan and His Mate is not a good look, and what it stylizes—not big men in a big land, but the rape of Africa—is uglier still. But it's up to each viewer to decide whether to watch it, and if so, whether to decide it's simply entertainment, or to compartmentalize its implications, or maybe to use it as a launching point for further thought and discussion. Tarzan and His Mate premiered in the U.S. today in 1934.
Weissmuller's jungle classic continues to look weirder as time goes by.
Above is a beautiful poster for Tarzan the Ape Man, which starred Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan and twenty-one year old Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane Parker. The plot here is simple. White explorers are desperate to find a million pounds of ivory they believe lies hidden in an elephant graveyard somewhere in the African interior. After scaling a massive escarpment (and losing a native bearer over the side), and traversing a river (and losing native bearers to rubber hippos and crocs), and stumbling across a tribe of dwarfs (and losing a native bearer to an arrow), they finally reach the right area—and promptly lose Jane to Tarzan. Although he's carried her away against her will, she and Sir Loincloth eventually establish a rapport. And no wonder—this particular Tarzan is handsome, has good hair, and a physique in top maintenance.
Tarzan the Ape Man was made way back in 1932, but it isn't the first Tarzan film, or even the fifth or the eighth. But this effort from MGM, with its somewhat detailed sets, scanty costuming, and numerous animal co-stars, was the first that was a big hit. The shooting took place in various locations around Southern California and Florida, although there is some legit African stock footage used in spots, and, according to some sources, some second unit stuff from Mexico. For the era it must have been pretty convincing, rubber hippos and all. Needless to say, this flick is not flattering to Africans, African Americans, or African anyones. As for what the little person community thinks about fifty of their number covered in shoe polish, you'd have to ask a little person. We don't know any. But we seriously doubt they like it.
As we are all part of the same human family, we all should feel empathy as we would if a brother or beloved cousin were insulted. Seems to us we've made halting progress on that front. What hasn't progressed at all is agreement about how to deal with literally trillions of dollars of stolen labor, goods, economic potential, and lives. If no recompense is to be offered, then at least we should be able to talk honestly about what happened. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently admitted that his country's possession of some of the priceless Benin Bronzes amounted to harboring stolen goods. The U.S. and Britain, meanwhile, refuse even to entertain conversations about their share of these looted pieces. It's the same with people: some admit to crimes of the past, while others say there were no crimes, and even if there were, they don't matter anymore.
Tarzan the Ape Man presents a fictionalized version of the real-world history of capitalists strip-mining Africa. Without an iota of reflection, the characters here plan to steal local wealth, described by head bwana C. Aubrey Smith as, “Enough ivory for the entire world.” But what he really means is, “Enough ivory for the entire world to buy from me.” Of course, colonials didn't think they were looters. But then, colonials wrote the rules. So Tarzan the Ape Man scratches the surface of a contentious history, but here's the thing: it's still just a movie, and it's possible to watch it, be aware of what it portrays, yet have a laugh. It's a 100-minute over-the-top burlesque of historical wrongs, from colonialism to segregation in moviemaking. To enshrine so many bad practices in one film is a hell of a feat. Yet within its narrative universe it's still very entertaining. Is that a paradox? Maybe. But that's art for you. Tarzan the Ape Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1932.
Pick man up. Put man down. Pick man up. Let man sit on my head. I'm about to stomp this fool. Tarzan invent shaving armpits. Tarzan smooth like eel. Great pose, Johnny! Just great. And your nuts didn't fall out this time. Excellent! Jane feet funky. Also, Jane need pedicure. OooOOOoo... what's this here, Johnny? Is that a rock hard chest? I think it is. Who's got a rock hard chest? Johnny's got a rock hard chest... AHHHH-AHAHAHAH-AHAHAHAHA! Can Maureen and I get some goddamned lunch over here!
All dressed up and ready to conquer the world.
Canadian actress Alexandra Stewart has had a long and varied show business career with too many movie roles to count—at a glance, more than one hundred. She was born in Montreal and spoke French, so her first parts were in French language films such as L'eau à la bouche and Le bel. Most of her English speaking roles were in b-movies such as Emmanuelle 3, The Bride Wore Black, and Tarzan the Magnificent. But there were a few high profile movies too, such as In Praise of Older Women. The above photo didn't come with a date, but 1970 is a good bet.
It's taken weeks to get here, but it will be worth it—in that fabled place I am told are stores that have shoes, boxer-briefs, bug repellant, and more.
We shared a Robert Stanley cover for Edgar Rice Burroughs' wild adventure Tarzan and the Lost Kingdom a while back. We'd be doing a disservice if we didn't also share the brilliant Frank Frazetta art used for Ace Books on its 1962 re-issue. Frazetta is an artist about whom there is no debate. He was a genius.
Tarzan destroyed on social media after posting photo of himself with lion he killed for sport.
Tarzan and the Lost Empire, originally serialized in 1928 and ’29 in Blue Book Magazine, was entry twelve in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series, and some would say the concept had jumped the shark—and the lion—at this point. Basically, Tarzan stumbles upon a remnant of the Roman Empire hidden deep in the mountains somewhere in Africa and—as this 1951 cover by Robert Stanley depicts—is dragged into their coliseum bloodsports. In later books he'd venture to a subterranean world, find a city of talking gorillas, and fly a fighter plane for the RAF (maybe that one isn't so strange, since he had the civilian identity of John Clayton).
Burroughs was never mistaken for a great writer, but his Tarzan books sold millions of copies and the character remains one of the best known in pulp literature. As tough as he was, we doubt even the King of the Jungle could have survived social media. But Tarzan was not one with whom to trifle. We can totally picture an adventure where he goes to Silicon Valley to battle the forces of shame. It ends when he learns the evil mastermind is Mark Zuckerberg, swings on a DSL cable into Facebook, and lays waste to the place. “Shame me, Zuckerberg? Me Tarzan! You lame!”
I enjoy staring evilly, ignoring people, occasionally rubbing my ass on the furniture. The usual cat stuff.
She was born in Copenhagen, Denmark as Kirsten Svanholm but when she hit Hollywood she called herself Kitty Swan. Under her Americanized moniker she appeared in such films as Tarzan in the Golden Grotto, House of 1,000 Dolls, and Virgin of the Jungle, all of which sound like pure cinematic awesomeness. We're going to watch all those movies. We promise. But we're going to start with Gungala, the Black Panther Girl. That one sounds like the best of all. We can't wait. Seriously. This photo is from 1971.
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.
One good swing deserves another, and since we screened Tarzana, sesso selvaggio, we thought we'd check out another Italian female Tarzan movie, 1968's Luana la figlia della foresta vergine. Basically, a man who disappeared into the African jungle many years ago is sought by the daughter he left back in civilization. The father had taken a second wife who bore him a second daughter. Unbeknownst to the first daughter, her father and his new wife died, and the second daughter grew up in the jungle alone, befriended by birds, primates, and an assortment of big cats. So the first daughter leads a jungle expedition and ends up stumbling upon a half sister that spends her time swinging on vines from water hole to water hole.
Describing the premise of this movie was probably more trouble than it was worth. All we really needed to say is that it's a film that features hot French actress actress Evi Mirandi and hot Vietnamese actress Mey Chen, aka Mei Chen Chalais, who has no lines at all but looks great running around in a loincloth. She also knows the jungle well enough to avoid the carnivorous flowers, something that—crucially—can't be said of others. The rest is unimportant. The poster art above is interesting, we think. It's signed, illegibly, and nobody has yet determined who the artist was. Someone in Italy needs to work that out. We'll just wait here trying to decide whether Luana la figlia della foresta vergine was actually any good. It premiered today in 1968.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
1916—Rockefeller Breaks the Billion Barrier
American industrialist John D. Rockefeller becomes America's first billionaire. His Standard Oil Company had gained near total control of the U.S. petroleum market until being broken up by anti-trust legislators in 1911. Afterward, Rockefeller used his fortune mainly for philanthropy, and had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
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