Tag Archives: tarzan

Lá Breithe Sona Duit, Maureen

(Today’s post was written by the most beautiful guest blogger in the world – my wife Kimi.)

Held in the highest regard by Hollywood and regularly compared to Susan Hayward, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, and Vivien Leigh, Irish-born actress Maureen O’Sullivan was born on this date in 1911, exactly 100 years ago today.

As a young girl, O’Sullivan attended a convent school in London, where she and Vivien Leigh were classmates.

O’Sullivan was only 18 when she was spotted by 20th Century Fox director Frank Borzage, who was on location directing Song o’ My Heart. Borzage suggested she take a screen test, which quickly won her a part in the movie. 

It was this film that brought O’Sullivan to the United States, where she ended up doing six movies for Fox and was signed for three more at other movie studios.  In 1932, she signed with MGM where producer Irving Thalberg cast her in the role of Jane Parker in Tarzan the Ape Man opposite Johnny Weissmuller, with whom she had a brief affair in the early 1930’s.

The film made her a star and added the phrase “Me Tarzan, You Jane” to the world’s lexicon, even though it appears nowhere in the film. (Legend has it that the line was jokingly uttered by Weissmuller to O’Sullivan in the studio parking lot when he rushed to help her lift a heavy suitcase into the trunk of her car.)

O’Sullivan didn’t mind doing the first two “jungle movies” but feared being typecast and grew tired of the roles.

She needn’t have worried.

O’Sullivan went on to enjoy a very successful film career, appearing with such luminaries as William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934), the Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races (1937), and Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice (1940).

She was married to Australian-born writer and director John Farrow. They had seven children, the most famous of which was Maria de Lourdes (known to Hollywood as Mia Farrow). After Mia became romantically and professionally involved with director Woody Allen, O’Sullivan appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters, playing Farrow’s mother.

In 1942, O’Sullivan briefly retired from show business to care for her husband, who had left the Navy after contracting typhoid. During this period, she devoted her life to being a wife and mother before returning to Hollywood a few years later. She continued to star in her husband’s movies until his death in 1963.

O’Sullivan continued acting until 1994, appearing in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and sci-fi flick Stranded (1987) starring Nicolas Cage along the way.  One of her final appearances was with Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner in Hart to Hart: Home is Where the Hart Is, a made-for-TV movie based on the popular Hart to Hart television series.

Maureen O’Sullivan died in 1998 after suffering a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona. A star was placed for her on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It faces the star of Johnny Weissmuller.

The Tarzan Tree

If you ever happen to “move west down Ventura Boulevard,” like the vampires in Tom Petty’s song Free Fallin’, there’s a good chance that you’ll pass a tree in Tarzana that’s more than just a tree.

“Which came first, Tarzan or Tarzana?” is a question that’s a lot easier to answer than the chicken-egg conundrum.

“Tarzana” was taken from the name of the ranch owned by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Burroughs, one of the most successful fantasy novelists of the 20th century, was born in 1875 in Chicago. As a young man, his parents sent him to Idaho to live with his brothers on a ranch, to protect him from a flu epidemic that was sweeping through the Midwest at the time. In Idaho he learned to ride and shoot, which later earned him a spot in the US 7th Cavalry in Arizona Territory.

He left the army after it was discovered that he had a heart murmur which prevented him from becoming an officer. For the next several years he drifted between Idaho and Chicago, settling for long enough to marry his first wife Emma on New Year’s Day, 1900.

Burroughs spent several years employed in menial jobs and eventually found himself working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler. His job required him to monitor the effectiveness of the advertisements that his company placed in “pulp” magazines. After studying the ads he began reading the stories and became convinced that he could write as good as the authors featured inside.

Despite having never written, Burroughs submitted a story to one of the pulps entitled Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess. He feared that the public would think it insane for a pencil sharpener salesman to write science fiction, so he published the story under the joke pseudonym Normal Bean – his way of saying he wasn’t crazy.

The story, re-titled Under the Moons of Mars, proved very successful, and Burroughs was paid more money for it than he ever earned before. Success out of the gate prompted his decision to quit selling pencil sharpeners and to become a full-time writer.

In 1912, Burroughs created one of the world’s most enduring characters in fiction when he published Tarzan of the Apes.

Tarzan, the man raised in the jungles of Africa by apes, was such a popular character that soon he could be found in 26 more Burroughs novels, as well as in theaters and comics. Burroughs created several other series, but none were as popular as Tarzan.

In 1919, Burroughs used some of his newfound wealth to purchase a large ranch in the desolate western end of the San Fernando Valley, which he named “Tarzana.” In 1928 the residents around the ranch chose the same name for their new town. That same year, Burroughs’ daughter Joan married actor Jim Pierce who had earlier starred as Tarzan in a Hollywood movie.

By 1934, Burroughs had created his own company to oversee his numerous publications, and had divorced his wife. A year later he remarried an actress and resettled in Hawaii. He was playing tennis there with his son on the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Although he was 66 at the time with a weak heart, he became America’s oldest war correspondent.

By the end of the war he had again divorced, and returned to Tarzana to live out the remainder of his life, suffering a fatal heart attack during this week in 1950 while reading Tarzan in the comics.

In accordance with his wishes, the creator of Tarzan and dozens of other fictional characters, was buried under a tree in front of his office at 18354 Ventura Boulevard in (where else?) … Tarzana.