|Elmo in his third and final outing|
as Tarzan in 1921, aged 32
|Elmo as a young man (left) and toward|
the end of his life
|Gene Pollar in publicity pictures from|
the now lost The Revenge of Tarzan
After retiring from the fire service, Gene became a buyer for a retail store chain in 1944, aged 52, which he did until his full retirement, when he moved to West Hollywood in Florida. However, Gene did hit the headlines one more time when, in 1966, NBC got together several former Apeman actors to help publicise their new Tarzan TV series. In this publicity, James Pierce (who played Tarzan in 1927) claimed he was the oldest living Tarzan. Gene was keen to refute this, so he contacted the media to point out that he was actually eight years older than Pierce. "He's just a kid compared to me", he joked. The mix-up was down to an erroneous report of Gene's death in a New York newspaper several years earlier. Sadly, Gene did not make the reunion, and by the time of the next Tarzan reunion in 1975, he'd passed away.
Gene died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on October 20th, 1971, aged 79.
P Dempsey Tabler (born Percy Dempsey Tabler)
At the age of 44, Percy was older than your average Tarzan, but there was good reason - the 15-part serial The Son of Tarzan, released in May 1920, was based upon Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel of the same name, which told the story of Tarzan and Jane's son Jack and his coming of age. Tarzan and Jane are, at this point, living as a married couple in London, and their pre-teen son dreams of adventures in the jungle like his father. Jack is abducted and whisked away to Africa by Tarzan's old enemy Ivan Paulovich, and his parents set about rescuing him.
|Percy as Tarzan, aged 44|
Percy was balding and so wore a very unconvincing wig to play Tarzan, and he also broke several ribs during the filming of a fight scene with Eugene Burr, who was playing the villain. There were rumours for years that actor Kamuela C Searle (who played Jack Clayton) was actually killed following an incident with a live elephant on set, and filming was completed with a stand-in. But although Searle was injured and the stand-in employed, the actor's brother said he survived the injuries, only to die from cancer in 1924, aged 33.
Percy was also an astute businessman and was a founding member of Paramount Studios, while he also enjoyed great success in the advertising industry in San Francisco, where he died in retirement, aged 79.
James Pierce (born James Hubert Pierce)
It's amazing what professions the various silent era Tarzans actually had other than acting - Elmo Lincoln went into salvage, Gene Pollar was a firefighter, and Percy Tabler was an opera singer. Tarzan number 4 was Big Jim Pierce, who made a name for himself as All-American center of the Indiana Hoosiers football team, and was a sports coach in California (one of his students was John Wayne). He'd also dabbled in acting, debuting in the 1924 adventure serial Leatherstocking.
|Jim and Joan in a publicity picture for|
the RKO radio serials of the 1930s
Although he only played Tarzan once on film, Jim's acting career continued, turning in (often uncredited) minor performances in the biopic Jesse James (1927), sci-fi serial Flash Gordon (1936, as King Thun), Laurel and Hardy's Our Relations (1936) and Hitchcock's Mr and Mrs Smith (1941). His career came to an end in 1951 playing Bad Bill Smith in the romantic B-Western Cattle Queen.
|Tarzan reunion, 1966: Jock Mahoney,|
then 47, Johnny Weissmuller, 62, Ron Ely,
28, and Jim Pierce, 66
In 1966, NBC united several former Apeman actors to help publicise their new Tarzan TV series. Jim was one of them, and in interviews he claimed to be the oldest living Tarzan. His predecessor Gene Pollar - who was still alive and well and eight years older than Jim - was keen to refute this, and contacted the media to set the record straight. "Jim's just a kid compared to me", Gene joked.
|Joan and Jim in 1971, the|
year before Joan died
Jim was so distraught that his doctor advised him not to attend the funeral, but with the aid of sleeping pills and tranquillizers, he was able to go. For the rest of his years Jim mourned the loss of Joan, but still turned out for public events, including a reunion of four Tarzans at the North American Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles in August 1975 to mark Edgar Rice Burroughs' 100th birthday.
When he died in 1983, aged 83, he was cremated and his ashes buried next to Joan in Forest Hill Cemetery, Shelbyville, Indiana, their tombstones reading 'Tarzan' and 'Jane'.
|Tarzan reunion, 1975: Jock Mahoney, then 56,|
Johnny Weissmuller, 71, Buster Crabbe, 67, and Jim Pierce, 75
Frank Merrill (born Otto Pohl)
The final Tarzan of the silent era was also the first Tarzan of the sound era. As is traditional with Apeman actors of this period, Frank was busy doing something completely different to acting when he was chosen to play the Lord of the Jungle. As well as being the US National Gymnastics Champion 1916-18, with more than 100 trophies to his name in everything from Roman rings and rope-climbing, from swimming to shot putting, he was also a mounted policeman and stuntman. Indeed, his earliest brush with Tarzan was standing in for Elmo Lincoln on Tarzan of the Apes (1918) and The Adventures of Tarzan (1921), as well as being credited as an Arab guard in the latter.
|Frank had an impressive|
physique, which put him third
in a World's Most Perfectly
Developed Man contest!
Between 1921-28 Frank had roles in a number of films, from 1924's A Fighting Heart to 1925's Savages of the Sea, from 1926's Hollywood Reporter to 1928's The Little Wild Girl.
Frank was cast as Tarzan for the now-lost 15-part 1928 serial Tarzan the Mighty, but only after actor Joe Bonomo injured his leg and pelvis while filming Perils of the Wild, meaning he had to pull out. Director Jack Nelson remembered Frank from a previous film they'd worked on together, and the 35-year-old got offered the loincloth and started filming the very next day. It was actually Frank who came up with the now traditional vine-swinging technique seen in so many subsequent Tarzan adaptations.
Around 1928, one of Frank's friends sent a photograph of Frank in to a male physique contest. Frank came third in the World's Most Perfectly Developed Man category and the publicity from this helped boost audiences for Tarzan the Mighty (even though Tarzan is quite thoroughly covered up in this serial!).
Tarzan the Mighty was such a success that Frank was asked to reprise the role for 1929's 15-part serial Tarzan the Tiger, which although shot as a silent production, became the first sound Tarzan when a version with music and sound effects was released alongside the silent version. This sound version includes the first Tarzan yell, which is known as the "Nee-yah!" yell as it is distinct from the later, more familiar Johnny Weissmuller version.
|Frank in 1964, at|
the age of 70
Upon retirement in 1963, aged 70, following a serious operation, Frank donated his services to the YMCA as a gym instructor. He died in February 1966, aged 71, and was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery mausoleum.
The next chapter in the Tarzan story, going into the 1930s, can be read here, and the 1949-60 era here.