The New Adventures of Tarzan

The New Adventures of Tarzan
The New Adventures of Tarzan
Directed by Edward Kull
Wilbur F. McGaugh
Produced by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Ashton Dearholt
George W. Stout
Written by

Edwin Blum
Bennett Cohen
Basil Dickey
Charles F. Royal
Edgar Rice Burroughs (original

Starring Herman Brix
Ula Holt
Ashton Dearholt
Frank Baker
Lewis Sargent
Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Cinematography Edward A. Kull
Ernest F. Smith
Editing by Harold Minter
Thomas Neff
Edward Schroeder
Walter Thompson
Distributed by Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises Inc.
Release date(s) United States21 May 1935
Finland11 December 1938
GermanyJanuary 1950
Running time 12 chapters (257 min)
Country  United States
Language English

The New Adventures of Tarzan is a 1935 American film serial in 12 chapters. It is a more authentic version of the character than most other adaptations, with Tarzan as a cultured and well educated gentleman as in the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. It was filmed during the same period as the Johnny Weissmuller/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Tarzan films. Episodes 2-12 were edited into the film Tarzan and the Green Goddess.

The serial was partly filmed in Guatemala, and Tarzan was played by Herman Brix (known post-war as Bruce Bennett). The final screenplay was credited to Charles F. Royal, and from Episode 6 onward, also Basil Dickey. It was produced by Ashton Dearholt, Bennett Cohen and George Stout under the corporate name of “Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises, Inc.” (which also distributed) and was directed by Edward Kull and Wilbur F. McGaugh.



Several plot elements bring the characters together in search (and pursuit) of the Guatemalan idol known as The Green Goddess: Tarzan's friend D'Arnot has crash landed in the region and is in the hands of a lost tribe of jungle natives. Major Martling is leading an expedition to find the fabled artefact for a powerful explosives formula hidden within it. Ula Vale's fiancé died in an earlier expedition to rescue the artefact for its archaeological benefit and so she starts one of her own in his honour. Raglan has been sent by Hiram Powers, Ula's lawyer, to steal the valuable idol for himself - in addition to containing the explosives formula, it also holds a fortune in jewels.Tarzan, Ula and Major Martling find the idol and rescue D'Arnot from the natives that worship it in the 70-minute-long first episode. However, Raglan escapes with the Green Goddess and heads through the jungle for the coast. Tarzan and the others pursue him across the jungle, encountering many perils, including recapture by the natives to whom the idol belonged. The adventures end out at sea where, during a hurricane, they are able to permanently secure the idol while Raglan is killed by another of Powers' agents because of his failures. The murderer perishes when the ship sinks. Returning to Greystoke Manor in England with Tarzan, Ula consigns the explosives formula to fire in the final episode, where she and Tarzan also recount several adventures from the first part of the serial to an assembled party of friends and colleagues.


  • Herman Brix as Tarzan, or Lord Greystoke, who travels from Africa to Guatemala to rescue his friend, French Lt. d'Arnot, who bailed out of his plane just before it crashed, following a lightning strike, into the uncharted jungles of Guatemala and he is believed to be held by a tribe of lost natives, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. had suggested Herman Brix to MGM to play Tarzan. However, Brix broke his shoulder filming Touchdown for Paramount and, because his recovery period was uncertain, MGM cast Johnny Weismuller in Tarzan the Ape Man instead.[1][2][3] Sources disagree about Burroughs’ involvement with Brix's casting. Some stated that Brix was hand picked for this serial by Burroughs while others state that it was Dearholt who cast Brix and he only briefly met Burroughs afterwards for a handshake and some photographs.[4][5][6] Brix was never paid for his work on this film.[6]
  • Ula Holt as Ula Vale, on her own expedition to find the Green Goddess in memory of her fiancé, who died in d'Arnot's crashed plane flying to Guatemala to find the Goddess. This was not Holt's only known film role. She was discovered by, and soon married, the director. In the original version, the character was to be revealed as government agent Operator 17, but this was changed during production.
  • Ashton Dearholt as P.B. Raglan, a mercenary villain sent to steal the valuable Green Goddess. Note that Dearholt is also the producer of this serial. According to the pressbook, he had to take the role at the last minute after the original actor, Don Castello, became ill.[7][8] In reality, "Don Costello" was merely a pseudonym chosen by Dearholt, who had previously starred himself in several silent films of his own making, and planned all along to do so here.[5]
  • Frank Baker as Major Francis Martling, archaeologist leader of another expedition to find the Green Goddess, with whom Tarzan and Ula Vale join forces.
  • Lewis Sargent as George, bumbling comic relief; part of Major Martling's expedition.
  • Jiggs as Nkima, Tarzan's chimpanzee. Nkima, rather than Cheeta, is the name of Tarzan's animal companion in Burroughs' books, though in the books he is a monkey rather than a chimp. Jiggs earned $2,000 for this role.
  • Dale Walsh as Alice Martling, The Major's daughter who accompanies him on his expedition.
  • Harry Ernest as Gordon Hamilton, Alice's fiancé and also part of Martling's expedition. The original draft story called for Gordon and Alice to become separated from the expedition and hunted and arrested by Guatemalan authorities as gun runners. However this entangling subplot was dropped, and Gordon and Alice both return to America in the third episode, along with d'Arnot, and are not seen again excepting some incidental shots in the final episode.
  • Merrill McCormick as Bouchart, in the first chapter, who comes to Africa to alert Tarzan to d'Arnot's disappearance; and as "Pedro", a Guatemalan associate of Ula Vale.


Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises

In 1929, a would-be movie entrepreneur, Ashton Dearholt, arranged an introduction to Edgar Rice Burroughs, using his wife's friendship with Burroughs' daughter. Dearholt had held several jobs within the film industry during the 1920s, and had even produced, directed and starred in a brief series of western films. As of 1929, he was familiar with Burroughs' work and wanted to get the rights to one of Burroughs' several singleton novels and film it in conjunction with RKO-Pathé. Burroughs, long dissatisfied with Hollywood's treatment of his Tarzan character, refused but took a liking to Dearholt personally and they became friends.[5]

MGM's contract with Burroughs was for just two pictures and this had run out with Tarzan and His Mate.[2] In the Summer of 1934, Dearholt and two business associates, George W, Stout, Bennett S. Cohen approached Burroughs to make an independent film company, Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises, through which to promote Burroughs' works. Burroughs agreed as he would be allowed to select the actor playing Tarzan and receive a much larger amount of money than in his previous contracts (MGM had made several million with their two Tarzan films despite only paying Burroughs about $75,000).[2] Burroughs quickly outlined a new story, Tarzan and the Green Goddess, based on which Charles Royal and Edwin Blum then wrote the screenplay, renaming it Tarzan in Guatemala in the process.[2][3] Guatemala had been selected based on a suggestion by Dearholt. He had visited the country in 1933 as a trouble-shooter for RKO-Radio Pictures. He felt that he knew enough about the country, had the contacts there including within the government, and could make the film far more economically than in Hollywood. The company had no studio and so decided to film on location instead.[2][5] Therefore, in late 1934, Dearholt "led an expedition" of 29 cast and crew, with several tons of freight, aboard the liner Seattle to begin filming in highland ruins in Guatemala.[2] The expedition almost never got started, however, as Dearholt's personal credit would not support the loan he estimated as needed to make the picture. Burroughs had to reluctantly involve himself as co-signatory and the loan was approved the day before the party was due to sail.[5]

Ashton Dearholt Expedition

Far from being the low-cost, exotically-located, adventurous film-making experience Dearholt anticipated, this decision caused unusual production problems. When the cast and crew arrived in Guatemala there was no harbour so they had to be shuttled ashore by boats across three miles of sea during a storm. Once there, they were held up by customs and security officers of President Ubico, whose assistance Dearholt had counted on and even had him written into the serial's final episode as a character (whether he intended to ask the Presidente to play himself is not known). Once ashore, the party was housed in a hotel with no in-room plumbing, having to use outhouses "stacked" alongside each story of the structure.[5][6][9]

It then took 18 hours to travel the 100 miles to Chichicastenango, on a plateau 6,447 ft above sea level. The production then moved on to Lake Atitlan, Tical, and to Guatemala City.[9] Guatemala had no motion picture industry of its own, so everywhere they went, the company had to carry tons of equipment brought with them from the States, including an enormous sound truck which was not designed for the winding, dirt mountain highways which made up most of the country's transit infrastructure.[5][6] Tropical diseases abounded and apparently every cast member was stricken at least once and laid up, unable to work, for weeks.[5][6] The local wildlife was also a problem. According to an interview with Herman Brix in the Christian Science Monitor (1999), "there was only a single sharpshooter up in the trees to keep the croc away from me."[4] The local climate became another problem when the production was affected by tropical storms and some film was damaged by the humid environment of the very real jungle.[2] The sound quality of the finished film was so poor that an apology was actually included in the credits.[3]

The loan obtained in California was used up before the picture was finished, and the expedition evidently had to waste additional time hiding from local creditors and the police in the jungles before returning to California, where the picture was finished.[6] Nevertheless, the film was finished in four months, with the title changed again to The New Adventures of Tarzan.[2]

Problems and the rivalry with MGM

Whilst in Guatemala in 1933 troubleshooting for RKO, Ashton Dearholt met and fell in love with the young swimmer who would become the serial's lead actress, Ula Holt. He brought her back to Los Angeles with him and installed her in the Dearholt household. Dearholt's wife, Florence Gilbert, left with their two children, and eventually filed for divorce shortly before the expedition's departure. Whilst filming, Edgar Rice Burroughs divorced his wife Emma Hubert and married Florence Gilbert, 30-years his junior, on 4 April 1935, after which they escaped to Hawaii for their honeymoon. He would write in his personal diary that he had fallen in love with Florence when she accompanied Dearholt to his first meeting with Burroughs in 1929.[5][10] Burroughs decided that he needed immediate money and that Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises was not going to make it for him after all. He re-optioned MGM's contract for a third Weissmuller film and approved the sale of three of Sol Lesser's remaining four options to MGM, who agreed to make a large "authorisation payment" to Burroughs. (Sol Lesser had acquired options for five Tarzan productions from a defunct company, the first of which he used to make Tarzan the Fearless in direct competition with MGM's films.) MGM paid Lesser $500,000 for his options and paid Burroughs $25–50,000 per film.[2]

The serial was preparing for release at this time and MGM campaigned to undermine their rival. They threatened that theaters showing the serial would not be allowed to show the third MGM film when it was released. Almost every big theater chose to wait for the MGM film and did not show the New Adventures of Tarzan serial.[2] Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises tried to make its serial more attractive by releasing it in several different formats. The first was as a 75-minute (seven-reel) feature film, the second was as a shorter feature film followed by seven individual serial chapters, and the third option was as a complete twelve-chapter serial. This plan was not successful.[2][3] New Adventures of Tarzan was the last Tarzan serial ever produced.[3]


Herman Brix posing for the Tarzan yell in the opening credits of the serial

This serial features an alternate version of the famous Tarzan yell. This version is variously described as a rising pitch "Man-gan-i" or "Tar-man-gan-i" sound. The "Tar-man-gan-i" version originally comes from the 1932 Tarzan radio serial starring James Pierce[11]. In the ape language used in the Burroughs' Tarzan novels, "Tarmangani" means "Great White Ape". MGM's Johnny Weismuller films, featuring the now standard yell, had been in production for some time when this serial was created, starting with Tarzan the Ape Man (1932).The original version of the plot involved munitions runners and government agents, focussing more on the super-explosive formula hidden in the idol. This was re-written during production but some elements remain, such as the otherwise nonsensical final chapter name "Operator No. 17" (Ula Vale was originally written as a government agent using "Operator No. 17" as her codename but this entire plot line was dropped from the final script).[1]

Stunts & Effects

Brix performed his own stunts in the serial, including swinging from real jungle vines, but this presented further problems. Despite testing a vine for safety beforehand with a 200 lb weight, when Brix tried himself, with a run up, he over shot the pool of water he was meant to land in. "I still have the scars from that fall," he told the Monitor.[4] The scene where Brix bursts the ropes binding him is real.[3]

Critical reception

Reviews in the United States were poor and there were suspicions that this was due to MGM's influence over the trade media. Variety, for example, said that "limpid direction makes it fall way short of even the limited possibilities of an independent production." The Motion Picture Herald, however, described is as "spectacular and authentic."[2] The film was more of a success outside the United States, possibly due to MGM's lack of control in those markets. According to Gabe Essoe, "on the strength of the one picture alone, Brix became twentieth in popularity in France and Britain."[2] Despite its problems, the film was successful enough that a second feature film, Tarzan and the Green Goddess, was released in 1938. It was based on footage from the last ten chapters of the serial, with some minor additions, and follows much the same plot.[2] William C. Cline believes The New Adventures of Tarzan to be the best of the Tarzan serials.[12]

Chapter titles

  1. The New Adventures of Tarzan
  2. Crossed Trails
  3. The Devil's Noose
  4. River Perils
  5. Unseen Hands
  6. Fatal Fangs
  7. Flaming Waters
  8. Angry Gods
  9. Doom's Brink
  10. Secret Signals
  11. Death's Fireworks
  12. Operator No. 17 -- Re-Cap Chapter


See also


  1. ^ a b ERBZine: New Adventures of Tarzan, retrieved 25th June 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Essoe, Gabe. Tarzan of the Movies. Citadel Press. pp. 67, 87–88, 90–91. ISBN 9780806502953. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut. "6. Jungle "Look Out The Elephants Are Coming!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 130–132. ISBN 9780713000979. 
  4. ^ a b c Herman Brix obituary at the Washington Post, retrieved 2nd July 2007
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Porges, Irwin. Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan. Random House, Inc.. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Chapman, Mike. Please Don't Call Me Tarzan. Culture House Press.  Official biography of Herman Brix
  7. ^ BBC: The New Adventures of Tarzan, retrieved 25th June 2007
  8. ^ Allmovie, retrieved 2nd July 2007
  9. ^ a b Pressbook material from ERBZine: New Adventures of Tarzan, retrieved 25th June 2007
  10. ^ Ashton Dearholt biography at the Internet Movie Database, retrieved 25th June 2007
  11. ^ ERBZine: The Tarzan Yell, retrieved 25th June 2007
  12. ^ Cline, William C.. "2.". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 11. ISBN 078640471X. ""Considered by many to be the best of all the Tarzan chapter films"" 
  13. ^ Cline, William C.. "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 214. ISBN 078640471X. 

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