In 1912, ER Burroughs introduced the world to Tarzan.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in
Chicago in 1875. By the time he was thirty-five he had failed
at every profession. He had tried to be a cowboy, a gold
miner, and a soldier to name a few. In 1911 he and his little
family were so poor that they often had to pawn off family items, like
his watch and his wife's jewelry to buy food and coal. His current
profession , a pencil sharpener sales agent, was on the brink of disaster
when fate gave him a helping hand. Everyday while he waited for
his sales people to report in, Burroughs started writing fiction to
amuse himself. He was very surprised when his first novel, Under
the Moons of Mars, was bought by All-Story Magazine for $400.
In 1912 the world was never the same again. The magazine then
bought the rights to Tarzan of the Apes, (Burroughs third novel)
and the legend began.
The first draft of Tarzan of the Apes
was written on backs of old letters and scraps of paper. Burroughs was
often inspired by the adventures of the legendary explorer H.M. Stanley's
tome, In Darkest Africa, and let his imagination do the rest.
E.R. Burroughs went on into an adventurous career in writing, and wrote
23 more novels on Tarzan and 70 on a variety of subjects including missions
to Mars. He also became a savvy business man after his triumph
with Tarzan in pioneering the area of licensing and authorizing products
like bread, bubble gum and bathing suits. In 1919 he moved his
family to California and purchased a 550 acre ranch naming it "Tarzana
Ranch". He then sold a large portion for homesites and in 1930,
a post office was established. The 300 then residents voted to
name the new city Tarzana, which is now home to nearly 50,000 people.
This was only a small part of what his dream of Tarzan had become.
In 1918 Tarzan made the big leap to the
big screen. In just six years his dream of the legendary ape man
reached thousands of fans. With Tarzan's debut in silent films,
it became one of the first movies in Hollywood to gross over $1 million.
Soon to follow were films like MGM's Tarzan the Ape Man (1932),
Tarzan and the Mermaids (1949), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan
(1984), and Tarzan and the Lost City (recent). But
his dreams for Tarzan were overshadowed. Burroughs was never satisfied
with the screen versions of his beloved character, and he often avoided
seeing the movies. Tarzan, to him, was a supremely intelligent
and sensitive man - heroic, handsome, and above all, free. The
movies, however, insisted on portraying him as a monosyllabic Neanderthal.
Burroughs dream of Tarzan reached also into the areas of comic strips
(1932), and television series (1966-1968).
E.R. Burroughs died in 1950, but he left
us his greatest legacy - the legend of Tarzan. According to his
grandson Danton Burroughs, who manages the highly successful family
enterprise, E.R. Burroughs, Inc., Disney's Tarzan would have pleased
his grandfather. "When I saw the Disney film, it was such a thrill
to finally see my grandfather's characters portrayed as he truly wrote
and described them in his books," Danton Burroughs commented.
"The animators also captured my grandfather's ability to have Tarzan
flying through the jungle's upper terraces. He [E.R. Burroughs]
described these wonderful scenes where Tarzan would just leap and fly,
grabbing branches wildly like in a tornado and Glen
Keane has captured that movement in his
scenes. I was just so pleased to see it and I think the world
is going to be in for a wonderful surprise when they see his novel brought
to life in animation through the Disney magic. My grandfather
and my dad would have been thrilled to see this terrific adaptation."
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