Part 8 Tarzan And The Lion Man: A Review

May 22, 2008


A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#18 Tarzan And The Lion Man

Part 8 of 10 parts


R.E. Prindle

First published on the ezine, ERBzine

More Stars Than There Are In Heaven


     The last two chapters are titled ‘Goodby Africa; and ‘Hello, Hollywood.’  Burroughs thus complements Ring L1 with Ring R1 completing the circle.  If one reads the book with this structure in mind rather than the linear one leading to a climax at the end the story will make more sense and be much more pleasurable.

     ERB had had a rocky road in Hollywood since his arrival in 1919.  The purchase of the spectacular Otis estate immediately called attention to him, an attention that he would have to fulfill.  ERB obviously failed to live up to the expectations he had created while souring the relationship further by writing the muckraking Girl From Hollywood in 1922.  In Lion Man he once agains ridicules Hollywood and actually the movie colony, as well it should have been.  The first and last chapters are direct attacks.  Comments of this sort are always resented and seldom forgiven.  MGM was not in a forgiving mood.

     Burroughs opens the chapter with a description of Tarzan.  p. 180:

     A year had passed.

     A tall, bronzed man alighted from the Chief (Santa Fe RR passenger train called The Chief) in the railroad station of Los Angeles.  The easy majestic grace of his carriage; his tread, at once silent and bold; his flowing muscles; the dignity of his mien; all suggested the leonine, as though he were, indeed a personification of Numa, the lion.

     Yes indeed, the Lion Man had hit Tinseltown, flowing muscles, whatever flowing muscles may be, and all.  Hollywood had come to Africa and now Africa had come to Hollywood with a silent but bold tread, whatever that is.  MGM would make merry over the Lion Man.

     Just by coincidence Tarzan arrives at the same time as Balza, The Golden Girl, who had already found fame and stardom in the movie capitol is returning.  She now has green hair and has learned to say Mahvelous, in true Hollywood fashion.  After all she had a human brain.  All Hollywood stars said Mahvelous at the time which was a source of some amusement and derision.  ‘That’s mahvelous, darling.’

     The Freeman Lang Burroughs mentions was a real person, the Hollywood greeter.   ERB had obviously listened to or seen several such spectacles- a nice snapshot of a bygone era.

     With the trace of a smile Tarzan continues to downtown Hollywood and the Roosevelt Hotel.  Named after TR obviously.  The Roosevelt was real and so far as I know is still in use, although I haven’t been to Hollywood for twenty years or so now, so I can’t say for sure.  The Hotel was frequented by the movie crowd while having a somewhat seedy reputation according to my sources.

     While checking in, one of the local sharpers watches him sign his name- John Clayton of London.  ERB has been around, he knows what’s happening.  When Tarzan comes down from his room the sharper accosts him in the lobby with a ‘Say, aren’t you John Clayton from London?’

     The sharper claims to have met Tarzan in London, although he doesn’t specify the major island of Africa or the lesser island England.  Obviously he could never have met John Clayton on the lesser Island.  He attaches himself to Tarzan as a guide.

     He guides Tarzan to the then famous Brown Derby, an actual restaurant.  Hollywood and LA are much different today than they were in the thirties,forties and fifties.  All the garish wonder and splendor is gone.  The Brown Derby was actually shaped like a brown Derby hat.  I saw it before they tore it down but I never ate there; I did eat at the one over in Beverly Hills but it wasn’t the same.  Burroughs makes some very unflattering remarks about the movie folk eating lunch there, which probably didn’t help him socially during the rest of the decade.

     ERB then offers another slice of Hollywood life portraying the premier of Balza’s new film at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which I am sure everyone is familiar with.  Freeman Lang again officiates at the mike.  I’m sure everyone has seen such a depiction in either newsreels or movies.  The Day Of The Locust would be a good example.

     After the movies Reece, the sharper, suggests that he, a friend, and Tarzan attend a party.  He fails to mention that they’ll be crashing it as they have no invitations, indeed, don’t even know the hosts. 

     Here ERB is giving an excellent portrayal of a Hollywood type who persists today, although much rougher now that cocaine and other drugs have been introduced.  Formerly merely audacious and crooked, now they are vicious and criminal, using drugs as an entree.

     Tarzan is not aware of what’s going on as Reece brushes past the doorman.  While Tarzan makes himself amenable in small talk Reece and friend set about to rob the hostess of her jewels.

     Tarzan is appraised by some studio types as a suitable condidate to play a jungle god.  One of the men may be meant to represent Louis B. Mayer although if so, ERB is too cautious to mention his real name.

     We also learn that Rhonda has been married to Orman and is now in the South Seas making another movie.  If La and Rhonda did represent ERB’s Anima figure, then he has abandoned her which means that as Tarzan is now one undivided person he has no Anima and no woman.  Strange situation.

     About this time the screams of the hostess announce that Reece and his friend are doing violence to the lady.  Tarzan rescues her then jumps through a window into a conveniently placed tree as the cops arrive.

     Surprisingly he runs into Reece the next day.  Asked why he isn’t in jail Reece casually says that his friend has a contact who fixed it.  He feels no remorse or shame secure in the knowledge that nearly any crime can be fixed.

     The party and the fixing are realistic portrayals of Hollywood.  ERB must have attended such parties, while as a man about town he was familiar with the various Hollywood types.

     BO Studios call asking him to come in for an audition.  ERB does some flim flam about an adagio dancer playing the Lion Man, gives Tarzan a minor role because he isn’t the type to play the Lion Man, then Tarzan muffs his chance by killing a trained lion.  Rather weak from my point of view.  Tarzan then turns his back on Hollywood asking for directions back to Africa.

     So the novel Tarzan And The Lion Man ends ‘not with a bang but a whimper.’  The duel with MGM has already begun.

Go To Part 9:  Conclusions and Prospectus

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