Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959)

82 mins | Adventure | October 1959

Director:

Joseph Newman

Writer:

Robert Hill

Producer:

Al Zimbalist

Cinematographer:

Paul C. Vogel

Editor:

Gene Ruggiero

Production Designers:

Hans Peters, Malcolm Brown

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

A Nov 1958 HR news item noted that producer Al Zimbalist intended his production of Tarzan, the Ape Man to be "more or less" a remake of the original 1932 M-G-M film of the same title (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), the first in the studio's long-running “Tarzan” series. The 1959 version incorporated black-and-white footage from several earlier M-G-M productions starring Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, including the crocodile fight from the 1934 production Tarzan and His Mate (See AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Some of the older footage in the 1959 film was in black and white, while other footage was tinted. An audio recording of the famous Tarzan yell attributed to Weissmuller was also used in the 1959 film. Portions of the stampede scene in the film was actually footage shot for M-G-M's 1950 production King Solomon's Mine (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). In the 1959 film, Tarzan is never called by name and is referred to as Tarzan only in the opening credits. Star Denny Miller only played the role of "Tarzan" for the 1959 production.
       According to a 1961 DV article, Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate sued M-G-M following the release of Zimbalist's 1959 Tarzan, the Ape Man , which the estate claimed was an altered version of the original story. According to the article, a Superior Court judge "sustained a demurrer made by M-G-M in a suit brought against [the] studio by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. over the remake of its original ‘Tarzan of the Apes,’ and found in favor ... More Less

A Nov 1958 HR news item noted that producer Al Zimbalist intended his production of Tarzan, the Ape Man to be "more or less" a remake of the original 1932 M-G-M film of the same title (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), the first in the studio's long-running “Tarzan” series. The 1959 version incorporated black-and-white footage from several earlier M-G-M productions starring Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, including the crocodile fight from the 1934 production Tarzan and His Mate (See AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Some of the older footage in the 1959 film was in black and white, while other footage was tinted. An audio recording of the famous Tarzan yell attributed to Weissmuller was also used in the 1959 film. Portions of the stampede scene in the film was actually footage shot for M-G-M's 1950 production King Solomon's Mine (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). In the 1959 film, Tarzan is never called by name and is referred to as Tarzan only in the opening credits. Star Denny Miller only played the role of "Tarzan" for the 1959 production.
       According to a 1961 DV article, Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate sued M-G-M following the release of Zimbalist's 1959 Tarzan, the Ape Man , which the estate claimed was an altered version of the original story. According to the article, a Superior Court judge "sustained a demurrer made by M-G-M in a suit brought against [the] studio by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. over the remake of its original ‘Tarzan of the Apes,’ and found in favor of the studio that it had not breached a 1931 contract." The contract stipulated that the studio could film a remake of this story only if no substantial changes were made. Judge Frank S. Balthis ruled against Burroughs, Inc., stating that the remake was "substantially the same as the original" and that the studio was not in breach of contract.
       The 1959 Tarzan, the Ape Man was related only in original source material to other Tarzan series films, including those produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Solar Film Productions, Ltd. for Paramount release. For more information about the M-G-M and other Tarzan series, see the entries for Tarzan, the Ape Man in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 and Tarzan Triumphs in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 , and consult the Series Index. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Oct 1959.
---
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1959
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1961
p. 1, 4.
Film Daily
21 Oct 59
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1959
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1959
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 59
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Oct 59
p. 460.
Variety
21 Oct 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Women's cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
October 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 October 1959
Production Date:
late March--late April 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 October 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14741
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
82
Length(in feet):
7,371
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19314
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In early twentieth-century Africa, British hunter Col. James Parker welcomes his daughter Jane who is returning from England after many years. Jane arrives on her father’s boat, piloted by Parker’s partner, hunter and guide Harry Holt. Unaware of the heated tribal conflicts in the area, Jane naively supports a lone Watusi, Riano, on the boat and is bitter about Holt’s indifference to the native’s precarious situation. After docking, Jane lets Riano out of his locked quarters, which causes a riot by local natives on the pier. In the ensuing commotion, the boat is accidentally set on fire and sinks. Parker and Holt rescue Jane, while Holt’s native aid guides Riano to safety. Later at Parker’s dilapidated lodging, the colonel admits to Jane that over the years his business has faltered steadily and has been particularly hard hit by the simmering tribal warfare. Jane explains that when her father’s financial support dwindled, her fiancé abandoned her, prompting her return to Africa. Holt recommends that the Parkers depart, as without the safety of the boat, they will be vulnerable to the imminent native uprisings. When Riano tells Holt that he intends to return to his tribe, Parker scoffs about the native’s ability to survive as he travels through dangerous territory. Upon examining the markings on Riano’s bracelet, Holt excitedly realizes the man is from a distant tribe that resides in an uncharted area long rumored to have a vast supply of ivory. Having failed at farming and trading, Holt decides to accompany Riano and, spurred on by the idea of restoring her father’s lost personal fortune, ... +


In early twentieth-century Africa, British hunter Col. James Parker welcomes his daughter Jane who is returning from England after many years. Jane arrives on her father’s boat, piloted by Parker’s partner, hunter and guide Harry Holt. Unaware of the heated tribal conflicts in the area, Jane naively supports a lone Watusi, Riano, on the boat and is bitter about Holt’s indifference to the native’s precarious situation. After docking, Jane lets Riano out of his locked quarters, which causes a riot by local natives on the pier. In the ensuing commotion, the boat is accidentally set on fire and sinks. Parker and Holt rescue Jane, while Holt’s native aid guides Riano to safety. Later at Parker’s dilapidated lodging, the colonel admits to Jane that over the years his business has faltered steadily and has been particularly hard hit by the simmering tribal warfare. Jane explains that when her father’s financial support dwindled, her fiancé abandoned her, prompting her return to Africa. Holt recommends that the Parkers depart, as without the safety of the boat, they will be vulnerable to the imminent native uprisings. When Riano tells Holt that he intends to return to his tribe, Parker scoffs about the native’s ability to survive as he travels through dangerous territory. Upon examining the markings on Riano’s bracelet, Holt excitedly realizes the man is from a distant tribe that resides in an uncharted area long rumored to have a vast supply of ivory. Having failed at farming and trading, Holt decides to accompany Riano and, spurred on by the idea of restoring her father’s lost personal fortune, Jane persuades the colonel to join Holt. After bribing some natives to serve as bearers and gathering supplies in a wagon, the group sets off and over several days struggle through the heat and jungle. Unknown to the group they are observed by Tarzan, a white man who has spent his entire life living among the animals in the jungle. One night while Tarzan watches the camp, a leopard cub accidentally slips inside Jane’s tent and when the mother leopard stalks the tent, Tarzan kills the animal before returning to the jungle unseen. The next day, the group comes upon an elephant herd and when charged by an old bull, Holt kills it, but the native bearers are frightened away. The gunshot starts a charge by another elephant and, hoping to divert it from the wagon, Holt runs toward the trees but is entangled in a native rope-trap. Jane distracts the bull and flees into the jungle, before fainting in fear. Having heard the shots, Tarzan arrives and halts the elephant, then carries Jane away to his treetop lair. Meanwhile Parker rescues Holt and, joined by Riano, search for Jane. When Jane revives later, she is startled by her location, then frightened by Tarzan, who offers her fruit and flowers. Terrified that she is about to be assaulted, Jane prays, then is perplexed when Tarzan uncomprehendingly mouths some of her words. Reassured when Tarzan leaves her alone for the night, Jane ventures down to river the next morning and is awed by Tarzan’s unique and peaceful relationship with the surrounding animals. Later, Jane swims with Tarzan and is touched by his playful gentle nature. That afternoon while Jane naps in the tree house, one of Tarzan’s pet chimpanzees plays with her mirror, and Parker, Holt and Riano spot the reflected light. Seeing Jane and believing her to be in danger, Parker orders Holt to kill the monkey, then the men pull Jane away. Jane explains that Tarzan rescued and cared for her kindly, but Holt dismisses her explanation and insists they resume their expedition immediately. Attracted by the gunshots, a local native tribe pursues the group, but Tarzan, who has followed at a distance, summons animals to stampede, thus driving off the would-be attackers. Afterward, Holt declares he will continue with Riano, despite the loss of the wagon in the stampede and the bearers’ desertion. When Parker and Holt argue about proceeding, Tarzan attacks Holt, believing he intends to harm Parker. Jane stops the fight and, confused, Tarzan returns to the jungle. Jane urges her father to remain with Holt and the expedition continues. Tarzan’s surviving pet chimpanzee accompanies them and after a long difficult journey through the jungle and desert, they arrive at the base of a mountain range behind which Riano informs them lies elephant country and his homeland. While climbing the dangerous peaks, Riano falls to his death, terrifying Jane. Under Holt’s prodding, the Parkers proceed and find their way to a cave where the group is amazed to discover an enormous statue of a part animal and part human creature. Moments later, doors to the cavern entrance close, trapping the group inside. Left outside, the chimpanzee hastens back to the jungle to summon Tarzan, while the trapped explorers realize they are not in a cave but an oversize pit, dug by pygmy natives. The pygmies soon gather and light a fire in the pit, forcing the Parkers and Holt to climb up the enormous statue. The pygmies attempt to force their victims into the flames and to Jane’s horror, her father falls and is burned alive. While crossing a river to reach Jane and Holt, Tarzan becomes embroiled in a fierce battle with a giant crocodile. Upon reaching the pygmy village Tarzan, with assistance from an elephant herd and his chimpanzee, destroys the village and rescues Jane and Holt. Tarzan then takes the pair astride an elephant to the other side of the mountain. The next morning, Jane laments that her recklessness has cost her everything she values. When the elephant, wounded by a poisonous pygmy arrow, wanders away to die, Holt and the others follow and are led through a waterfall to a beautiful jungle and the elephant “cemetery” of legend, filled with the bones of hundreds of dead elephants. Holt is ecstatic by the amount of ivory, but dismayed when Jane declares that she intends to bring Tarzan back to England to share their wealth. After Holt points out that Tarzan is likely to be corrupted by British high society, Jane realizes that Tarzan would be unhappy outside of his jungle paradise. Acknowledging that she would be unhappy apart from Tarzan, Jane receives Holt’s approval to remain with Tarzan in the jungle. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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