When Johnny first played the Apeman he was 28 years old, but by his last appearance he was clocking in at 44. There's a fuller, stand-alone entry on this blog for Johnny Weissmuller here.
Buster's one outing as Tarzan came about when producer Sol Lesser obtained the rights to make Tarzan films from an independent company which had gone bust. Although MGM had the current rights to Tarzan (the Weissmuller films), Lesser's independent contract was still valid, so he set about casting a new Apeman for Tarzan the Fearless. MGM paid Lesser to delay release of his film until their Tarzan the Ape Man had been released. MGM debuted Weissmuller in March 1932, while Tarzan the Fearless was released as both a 12-part serial and a 71-minute feature film in August 1933.
|Buster as Flash Gordon in 1936,|
After several years in uncredited bit parts, often as sportsmen, Buster's big breakthrough was the role of Tarzan (which he'd briefly screen tested for in 1931 with MGM). Although he was only to play Tarzan once, he became known for his heroic parts, going on to play Flash Gordon in three very successful serials between 1936-40, Buck Rogers in a 1939 serial, and Billy the Kid/ Billy Carson in 36 serials between 1941-46.
|Buster as Buck Rogers in 1939, aged 31,|
and in the 1979 TV series as Brigadier
Gordon, aged 71, alongside Gil Gerrard
|Buster as Billy the Kid in|
Buster also appeared in TV commercials for Continental Airlines, Hormel chili sauce, muscular heat rubs and male body girdles. Buster also continued to swim well into his sixties, and in 1971 - at the age of 63 - set a new world record in the 400m freestyle for his age group. In August 1975 he took part in a Tarzan reunion in Los Angeles to mark the 100th anniversary of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs' birth (this can be seen in the James Pierce section of the first part of this Tarzan series).
His final few roles included the 1979 comedy Swim Team, a cameo in a 1979 episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (as the cleverly named Brigadier Gordon), the low budget sci-fi horror The Alien Dead (1980), and a 1981 episode of BJ and the Bear.
|Buster on February 2nd, 1983, days|
before his 75th (and last) birthday
On April 23rd, 1983, at the age of 75, Buster tripped over a waste bin at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, and suffered a fatal heart attack. He was interred at the Green Acres Memorial Park in Scottsdale.
Herman was yet another Tarzan whose main career was in athletics - he played football in the 1926 Rose Bowl and won an Olympic silver medal in 1928 in the shot put (he threw it just over 51ft). In 1929 Herman moved from Washington to Los Angeles and made friends with Douglas Fairbanks Jr, who helped him get into acting.
|Herman was an Olympic|
medal winner in the shot put
In 1938 a second serial, Tarzan and the Green Goddess, was edited together from footage and rushes from the 1935 shoot, which helped keep Herman in the spotlight but damaged his career as he was typecast in the public's minds as Tarzan, when he really wanted to branch out into better work. As a result, Herman changed his professional name for 1939's My Son is Guilty and became Bruce Bennett, appearing in many Columbia Pictures productions and acting under the assumed name for the next 40 years, in such titles as Atlantic Convoy (1942), Sahara (1943) with Humphrey Bogart, Mildred Pierce (1945) with Joan Crawford, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), again with Bogart, and Angels in the Outfield (1951), with Janet Leigh. He even found time to serve in the US Navy during World War Two.
|After changing his name to Bruce, Herman's|
career took off, although 1961's The Fiend
of Dope Island was no classic
In 1970 he secured the role of Bert Daniels in the TV movie Lassie: Well of Love, which took him into the sequel TV series in 1970-71. His last regular part was as a lowly lab assistant in August 1973 sci-fi B-movie The Clones, after which he disappeared for seven years.
|Bruce in 1993, aged 87,|
with his 1928 shot
Herman stayed active in retirement, but shied away from personal publicity. He worked as a master salesman on the West Coast for a Los Angeles vending machine business and a real state investor. In 2002, at the age of 96, he went skydiving, at an altitude of 10,000ft, over Lake Tahoe, and also had a book about his life published, entitled Please Don't Call Me Tarzan. He was the first Tarzan to reach the grand old age of 100 on May 19th, 2006, but passed away eight months later at UCLA Medical Center, California, with complications arising from a broken hip.
|Bruce pictured signing autographs in|
October 2001, aged 95
Glenn was yet another Tarzan with an athletic background. He first started setting records when he was in high school (his record in the 220m hurdles stood for 40 years), and qualified to compete in the decathlon at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he scored a record breaking 7,900 points, winning gold. It is said Adolf Hitler was a great fan of his, and offered 6ft 2in Glenn $50,000 to stay in Germany and appear in sports films, which he declined. During these Games, however, Glenn did have an affair with German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, but he ditched her when he flew back to the US after the Games. In her 1987 memoir, Leni wrote: "We couldn't control our feelings. I imagined that he was the man I could marry. I had lost my head completely. I forgot almost everything, even my work. Never before had I experienced such passion."
|Glenn, aged 24, with German|
filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl
at the 1936 Olympics
Tarzan's Revenge was released in January 1938, and Glenn had just one more turn before the cameras before he ditched Hollywood for good. In September 1938 he played Spencer in the comedy Hold That Co-Ed, but that was it - after that he went into insurance, and in 1940 played a handful of games for the Detroit Lions football team and the Columbus Bullies, before injury cut short his athletic career.
|Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs|
with Glenn in 1937
|Glenn and his gold medal on |
September 12th, 1936, known
in Colorado as Glenn Morris Day
Glenn died of congestive heart failure "and other complications" at the veterans' hospital in Palo Alto, California, in January 1974, aged 61, and was buried in the Garden of Inspiration at the Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo, California.
In 2012 a novel called Olympic Affair was published by Terry Frei depicting Glenn's life and focusing on his love affair with Leni Riefsenstahl.
To read the previous chapter about the silent era Tarzans, click here. The next chapter in the Tarzan story, looking to the 1950s, is here.