Tarzan the Ape Man is a 1932 pre-Code, American action adventure film featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous jungle hero Tarzan and starring Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith and Maureen O'Sullivan. It was Weissmuller's first of 12 Tarzan films. The film is loosely based on Burroughs' novel Tarzan of the Apes from approximately two decades earlier, with the dialogue written by Ivor Novello. The film was directed by W. S. Van Dyke. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released two remakes of Tarzan, the Ape Man in 1959 and in 1981, but each was a different adaptation of Rice Burroughs' novel.


James Parker (C. Aubrey Smith) and Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) travel in Africa, Algeria on a quest for the legendary elephant burial grounds and their ivory. They are joined by Parker's daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan). Holt is attracted to Jane, and tries somewhat ineffectively to protect her from the jungle's dangers. He notably fails to prevent her abduction by the jungle's guardian, the mysterious Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and his ape allies.

The experience is terrifying to Jane at first, but as their relationship develops, she finds herself happy: "Not a bit afraid, not a bit sorry." As she returns to her father, her feelings are brought to a test. She wants Tarzan to come with her to London, and to be part of her world. But Tarzan turns his back on her and returns to the jungle. Her father tells her that is where Tarzan belongs, she cries, "No dad, he belongs to me."

The expedition is captured by a tribe of aggressive dwarfs. Jane sends Tarzan's ape friend Cheeta (Jiggs) for help, bringing Tarzan to their rescue. During the rescue, Tarzan summons elephants and they escape from the dwarf's stronghold, although Jane's father dies from wounds just as they reach the elephant graveyard. Jane decides to stay in the jungle with Tarzan and in the final scene, to the music of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, the happy couple appear on a rock, Jane holding Cheeta like a baby.




The movie was filmed at the Botanical Garden of Hamma in Algiers, Algeria. As with most Weissmuller Tarzan films, the elephants were Indian, which have smaller ears, rather than African, so large fake ears, and fake tusks, were fitted onto the animals in an attempt to make them look authentic.[1] Similarly, the tribe of African dwarfs, made to look like pygmies (all males), portrayed in the film was actually a cast of several white midgets wearing blackface.[1]

The stock footage was added to location work shot in the then-undeveloped Toluca Lake region north of Los Angeles.[2]

Pre-Code era scenes

Tarzan the Ape Man shows scenes of Maureen O'Sullivan, scantily clad, in a leather loincloth and halter top, [1] [2] before the censorship, of the Hollywood Motion Picture Production Code.


Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 100%, based on 13 reviews, with a rating average of 7.8/10.[3]


  1. ^ a b Ethington, Phillip J. (2008). "Global Spaces of Los Angeles". In Prakash, Gyan; Kruse, Kevin Michael. The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life. Princeton University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-691-13343-0. 
  2. ^ Miller, Frank, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932), tcm.com
  3. ^ "Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  • DVD commentary for the Tarzan Collection DVD set released in 2005.

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