Jungles did not have quicksand, but no matter, Tarzan was cool

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Years ago when I was about 12, my buddies and I had a problem while watching the Tarzan movies in the Martin Ray Theater in Evergreen.

How was it that there was quicksand in the middle of the jungle? It did not look like sand in the movie.

It looked like black mud as it sucked up the villains fleeing Tarzan.  Sometimes some of the good guys would fall into the trap, and Tarzan would find a handy vine to use in the rescue.

But in either situation, the “quicksand” was never quick. Sometimes it would take about five agonizing minutes for the victims to sink into the bottomless pit.

And no matter how hokey this business about the quicksand was, or, for that matter, this business about  Tarzan growing up in the jungle as a baby who miraculously survived a plane crash, we still packed into the theater the next time Tarzan came to town.

Tarzan movies were fun. At one time or another, most of us were lucky we didn’t break an arm or a leg trying to swing from one tree to another in the back pasture while yodeling Tarzan’s famous yell: “awooahwoahaaaawww … ooohhhaaa. “ (This spelling has been verified by onomatopoeia experts in Tarzana, Calif.)

Some of you are way ahead of me in coming to the point in the story of Tarzan. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the Tarzan Adventures, discovered he could support his wife and three children quite well by writing stories about Tarzan and the apes, along with Jane, Cheeta, Boyand the rest of the jungle gang.

Burroughs’ biography in Wikipedia gives the specifics: He grew up in Chicago, read a lot of pulp fiction before he realized he could make up stuff that was much more interesting.

Burroughs wrote scores of Tarzan adventures, made good money, moved his family to the West Coast, built a ranch in California named Tarzanna, which was the basis for a city of the same name.

Johnny Weismuller became the Tarzan of our day and played in “our movies.” There were other Tarzan actors, but we favored Weismuller. I will never forget one particular movie in which Cheetah lost a member of his family. Tarzan consoled Cheetah in a most touching scene that I still remember. Seriously.

Burroughs moved to Hawaii, and was there at the outbreak of World War II. He was given “credentials” as a War Correspondent, but I don’t know if he ever wrote anything as a war correspondent.

While making a fortune writing about the jungle, he also sold a lot of stuff about space travels.

In reference to “quicksand” in the jungle, I found out years later while watching “Lawrence of Arabia” that the real quicksand is in the desert.

And for those of you who might chuckle at my generation’s looking at and enjoying movies and stories lacking in authenticity, I would suggest that you consider “Bond … James Bond.”

Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at morgang7@aol.com

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