Flaming Ed Burroughs After The Divorce

May 21, 2010


Flaming Ed Burroughs After The Divorce


R.E. Prindle

                                                                                                               WILD THING…

                                                                                                                                                …you make my heart sing!

                                                                                                               WILD THING…

                                                                                                                                                …you make everything…


–Chip Taylor


     Somebody once said:  The devil is in the details and so he is.  Too many times we fly right over signficant facts without noticing their import, how they fit into the big picture.

     Such is the case with the little Tarzan Jr story that Burroughs wrote in 1937 in a limited edition of…one.  One copy?  Yup!  It was a special order.  Today the copy is located at the Chicago Museum Of Science And Industry in the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle exhibit.  Who is Colleen Moore and what did she have to do with ERB?  That’s what I asked.  Turns out that she is not an insignificant person in the history of the twenties.  No, no, she was a a somebody, at least to the extent that she earned 12,500 dollars a week in the films.


The Flaming Girl- Colleen Moore

    Yes, she was an actress.  She was the woman who invented the image of the twenties woman- the Flapper.  The Flapper knocked Emma, an example of the Gibson Girl, out of the box just as the Gibson Girl had knocked Tennyson’s Elaine out.  The Flapper knocked Emma right out of ERB’s imagination.  Seems that Colleen was selected for the lead in the movie Flaming Youth.  This was a big one.

      The movie was based on Samuel Hopkins Adams novel of the same name written under the pseudonym of Warner Fabian.  Although apparently epochal no copy of the movie has survived.  Those racy scenes have disappeared forever.  Miss Moore may be compared to Brooke Shields of the The Blue Lagoon of our day for impact.  The tone of Flaming Youth may be learned from this quote from the novel:  ‘They’re all desperadoes, these kids, all of them with any life in their veins; the girls as well as the boys; mayby more than the boys.’  Alright, man!  That’s pretty good pulp style.

      Miss Moore said she chose to play the part as a comedienne.  She bobbed her hair, shortened her skirts and wore unbuckled galoshes that flapped as she walked, hence the term ‘flapper.’  Carefree, and careless and with the image of -easy.  Flaming Youth eager for a roll and tumble.  A thrill seeker at whatever cost.  A role model dropped into the slot from eternity.

     Perhaps Ed Burroughs sat through the 1923 movie two or three times muttering ‘yeah, yeah, that’s a what I want.’  Emma wasn’t quite that way, being a full figured woman with plenty of embonpoint, although reading inferences from pictures she may have tried a bob and weave in an effort to hold on to her man.  There is a photo of Emma which caught my eye because she is so dfferent.  She is leaning over the garden fence of ERB’s latest cottage, one of his umpteenth movies, with bobbed hair and a pleasantly flirtatious look on her face.  ‘Hm, bobbed hair.’  I thought.  ‘That’s different for Emma.’

     By that time ERB had been flirting on the sly with Florence Gilbert, for a little while.  I suspect Emma knew.  She got her hair cut anyway.

     ERB first met Florence in early 1927.  Maybe he was still under the spell of Flaming Youth but something obviously clicked.  A clandestine relationship was begun which would culminate in ERB divorcing Emma in 1934.  He married Florence Gilbert shortly thereafter.  I would have waited a bit myself.  I’m not so impetuous.  More of the cautious type.

     The in 1937 he received a request from the Flaming Girl herself.  Must have made his blood race.  Maybe he and Florence should have waited.  Having  jumped ship once the second time gets easier.  ERB, whether he knew it or not, had now gone Hollywood.  He’d even checked into the Garden Of Allah, a hotel roues favored down on Hollywood Blvd., gone now, in between Emma and Florence.

     If ERB kept all his correspondence as he is said to have done Danton Burroughs should have a Colleen Moore file in the archives.  It would be interesting to open it to see what was up.

     Miss Moore had begun building a Fairy Castle miniature doll house back in the twenties.  She now asked ERB for a miniature book for her miniature library in her miniaturecastle.   ERB complied, composing a suggestive little story which contains enough off color references to make one think he was trying to seduce the exemplar of Flaming Youth.  Born in 1902, Miss Moore was 35 at the time, a most delectable age for a woman.

     A quick review of the pictures of the book can be found on the ERBzine at www.erbzine.com/mag0/0042.html .   I copy the text below.

Edgar Rice Burroughs- Author of Tarzan

Tarzan, Jr.


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Illustrated y J.C.B. & E.R.B.

Chapter 1

     The little princess was walking in the garden when a bad thought sneaked up behind her and whispered in her ear, ‘Go into the forbidden forest.’  Hi! Lee! Hi! Lo!  Oh, No!  Oh, No! yodeled the little princess, my mamma said I mustn’t go into the forbidden forest and papa said she ought to know.’

      ‘But, but’  butted the bad thought, ‘Everything that you shouldn’t do, everything you mustn’t do, are in the forbidden forest, and they include about everything it’s fun doing.  Think what a good time you could have.’

     So the little princess put a nutty hamburger in a shoe box for her lunch, vaulted over the garden wall and went into the forbidden forest.

Chapter 2

     The little princess had not gone far into the dark and gloomy wood when she met Histah the snake.

     ‘Have an apple,’ invited Histah.  ‘What for?’ asked the little princess.  ‘It will keep the doctor away,’ replied Histah, pulling on his long black mustache.  ‘But if I eat it, I may need a doctor’ countered the little princess with her left.  ‘Ah, ha!  Foiled again.’ hissed Histah.  ‘Not so fast,’ cried the little princess.  ‘Gimme that apple,’ for the bad thought had whispered in her ear.

Chapter 3

     The little princess was about to eat the apple when Tantor the elephant barged up and took it away from her.  Beat it!’ he trumpeted at Histah.  Then he ate the apple himself.  ‘What have you in the shoe box?’ he asked.

     ‘A nutty hamburger,’ replied the little princess.  ‘Mercy me!’ swore Tantor.  ‘What’s the matter with it? – Dementia Praecox?’  No, just plain nutty,’  replied the little princess.

     ‘Well, you never can tell when it might develop a homicidal mania,’  said Tantor.  ‘Give it to me.’  So he took the nutty hamburger and ate that too.  Then he went away from there to the land of ptomaine.

Chapter 4

     The little princess was very hungry; so she went deeper into the dark, damp wood looking for another snake with an apple.  But she didn’t see Numa the lion stalking her.  Numa, too, was very hungry; and as there are not many callories (sic) in stalks, he planned on eating the little princess.  With a terriric roar he leaped for her.  The little princess turned, horror stricken; when, to her amazement, she saw a bronzed giant, naked but for a G string, leap from an overhanging branch full upon the tawny back of the carnivore.  It was Tarzan Jr.!

     Once, twice, thrice his gleaming blade sunk deep into the side of the great cat; and as Numa sank lifeless to the mottled sward, the Lord of the Jungle placed a foot upon the carcass of his kill, raised his face to the heavens and voiced the victory cry of the bull ape.

Chapter 5

     The little princess was still hungrey.  ‘Let’s eat the Lion,’  she said, unless you happen to have an apple in your pocket.’

     ‘I haven’t a pocket,’  admitted Tarzan Jr.

     ‘All right then’ said the little princess, ‘Let’s skip it.’

     So Tarzan Jr. uncoiled his rope and they skipped and skipped and skipped and skipped and skipped; and then they got married and lived happily for-ever after- and that is what the little princess got for disobeying her mamma and going into the forbidden forest.


     It’s not hard to see what the sly old ERB was angling at.  the dark damp forest is, of course, the symbol for unbridled desires toward which the princess is prompted by a ‘bad thought.’  She was naughty but nice.  The apple is a symbol for sexual intercourse while the snake with the apple was when Adam and Eve realized they were naked hence discovering la difference.

     It will be remembered that the only exhibit at the Expo of ’93 ERB ever mentioned in his stories was the Concourse of Beauty 40 Beautiful Girls 40.  On his cross country trip of ’16 one of the records athe family wore out was ‘Do What Your Mother Did.’  An early Work With Me Annie.  Here the song lyrics are rendered into:  My mamma siad I mustn’t go into the forbidden forest and papa said she ought to know.

     Which leads to a denouement which comes as no surprise.  ‘Unless you’ve got an apple in your pocket.’  The princess says obviously pointing to the bulge in Junior’s G string.  Reminds you of Mae West’s quip:  Is that a roll of nickels in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

     Junior was glad to see the princess so he reached under his loincloth and uncoiled his rope.  Rope is a symbol for…well, he said coyly, it’s a symbol.  And then the two new sweethearts did a lot skipping up and down which is to say they conjugated that verb.

     I would interpret the nutty hamburger to mean ERB was sensitive about being considered a dumbkopf fantasy wirter so he wanted to display a little learning, thus he jokes his way through nutty>dementia praecox>homicidal mania.  For those who insist that ERB was just a simple writer from the gut I again point out that time after time the Man shows an active interest in psychological matters.  He just didn’t boast about it, that’s all.  When you do you depreciate the entertainment value to nil.

     The little story quite cleary is intended to convey the message:  I’m ready if you’re willing.  Flamin’ Ed Burroughs was ready tgo swing and he didn’t mean through the trees this time.  Was marriage an issue?  Well, Junior and the princess married and lived happily ever after.

     Once again I say there should be some correspondence in the archives that might throw some light on this issue which is probably much more complex than it looks at first glance.

     As 1937 began the titillating star of Flaming Youth who had also starred in Naughty But Nice  and other woo-woo flapper epics was between marriages.  Her last movie The Scarlet Letter-  A for Adultery of 1934 had indeed been her last.  Having no longer a career in Hollywood she had retreated to Chicago.

     Her Fairy Castle which had been nearly ten years in the making was finished in 1935.  At that time she took it on the road to raise money for deprived children which she did successfully.  She later would write a book on investing.

     The Castle was complete with its own miniature library so the request to ERB was either an afterthought or the proverbial request for a cup of sugar and he poured on rather thick.

     Perhaps the marriage of Florence and ERB might have ended right there as ERB ran after the even more attractive Flaming Girl of his dreams.  It would be nice if Danton found that correspondence.

     Whatever Colleen Moore’s intent was or whether ERB ever consummated his burning desire may be forever obscured from our sight.  In any event later in 1937 Miss Moore married a Chicago businessman thus closing the door she had left ajar.  After panting up that flight of steps on his hands ERB was blasted.

     As the little book was intended only for the eyes of Colleen Moore the only two things we can be sure of is that she requested the little volume which she was willing to receivew and that ERB was ready to provide a very seductive one.

     In 1937 ERB had come a long way from the righteousness of 1922’s The Girl From Hollywood.  Now he was Hollywood panting after them.

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