The Son of Tarzan (1920)

Genres - Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Jungle Film  |   Run Time - 241 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Produced by poverty row company National Film Corp., the sequel to Tarzan of the Apes (1918) and The Return of Tarzan (1920) proved a troubled production throughout. Burgeoning Western star Jack Hoxie (then known as "Hart Hoxie") had been pegged to co-star as the King of the Jungle, but in one of film history's more notorious blunders, Hoxie's wife, Kalem star Marin Sais, convinced him to stick with Westerns and turn the role down. Instead, casting director Jean Temple chose P. Dempsey Tabler, a dignified Englishman who sorely lacked the brawny physique of his predecessor in the role, Elmo Lincoln (or, for that matter, Hoxie), but actually fit "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs' description of the English nobleman. Tabler, however, was not quite up to the strain of serial-making and was seriously injured during filming of a fist-fight with villain Eugene Burr. Lucille Rubey, the untalented wife of National president E.R. Frey, was at first forced forced upon the production as "Meriem," the leading lady, but director Harry J. Revier dismissed her in favor of Kathleen May. For unknown reasons, Miss May also failed to get the part which instead went to Manilla Martans. Little Gordon Griffith played Korak, The Son of Tarzan, as a boy but the real star of the 15 chapter serial proved to be Kamuela C. Searle, a native of Hawaii, as the young adult Korak. The plot followed Rice Burroughs' original story closely enough: Lord Greystoke's young son, Jack, is kidnapped in England by an evil Russian, Ivan Paulovitch (Burr), and carted off to Africa. With the assistance of a clever chimpanzee, Akut, Jack manages to escape into the jungle where he saves a little white girl, Meriem (Mae Giraci), from a gang of vicious Arabs. Jack (now known as Korak and played by Searle) and Meriem (Martans) grow up together in the jungle, love, of course, blossoming along the way. They are soon reunited with Korak's famous father and lady Greystoke (Karla Schramm, recreating the role she had played in Revenge of Tarzan earlier that year), but Meriem proves to be an heiress and the Arabs and Petrovitch soon reappear. The serial continued to be cursed by freak accidents, the most serious of which occurred when Searle was nearly trampled to death by an elephant. The young Hawaiian (known as Sam Searle to his friends) never recovered from his injuries, passing away at the age of 33, February 14, 1924. Tragically, Searle's stunt-double, Ray Thompson, later drowned in Alaska's Copper River during the epic filming of The Trail of '98, (1927). The Son of Tarzan was released between May of 1920 and February of 1921 to generally generous reviews. Songwriters Norman Stuckey and Osborne Tedman composed a ballad, Tarzan, My Jungle King, to be played during the screening of the serial.



Africa, escape, hero, jungle